Senator Anna Shareiko released as parliamentary election campaign kicked off in Belarus

July 25, 2016 23:50

The high-profile case against one of the most popular state top manager and senator Anna Shareiko has finished with her release from custody in the courtroom. Most likely, the Belarusian authorities wanted to close the case before the parliamentary campaign in order to ensure the unity in the state apparatus. Apparently, amid economic recession in Belarus, tension inside the nomenclature and related business is growing.

Senator Anna Shareiko and six factory employees and representatives of supplier companies were charged with corruption back in 2014. In August 2014, the senator was stripped of parliamentary immunity and arrested.

It should be noted that, as a rule, the president pardons and releases prominent businessmen from jail in exchange for a compensation of large scale losses to the state.

Over the past few years, Anna Shareiko was the third MP to face corruption charges by the authorities. However, unlike other MPs she refused to plead guilty and spent almost two years in jail. For instance, in October 2015, a Council of the Republic deputy Andrei Pavlovsky was arrested by the KGB and was under arrest for a month. The businessman was released after he paid a USD 20 million compensation to the state. In 2014, MP and businessman Vitaly Kostogorov from Mogilev was stripped of parliamentary immunity and arrested right at the meeting of the upper house of the parliament. He spent several months in custody and was pardoned by President Lukashenka after repaying EUR 340,000.

The factory under Shareiko’s management was successful; it implemented a large investment project and was profitable. For example, in late 2014 the factory was in the top twenty most profitable joint stock companies in the country with BYR 150 billion net profit. The factory’s CEO and member of the Upper House of Parliament, Anna Shareiko was respected by her colleagues and employees. That said, after Shareiko’s arrest, the factory became unprofitable and the investment project was put on hold.

According to some analysts, the case against Shareiko could be linked to the fight for the market with other competitors who had ties in the State Control Committee. For example, one of the most influential Belarusian businessmen Evgeny Baskin owns the Servolux Group and is her major competitor with 25% share of the Belarusian broiler meat production market. In the past, CEO Anna Shareiko refused to buy animal feed from the Belarusian producer JSC Ekomol, subsidiary of the Servolux Group.

Interestingly, shortly after Shareiko’s arrest, the president dismissed the Head of the State Control Committee, Aleksandr Yakobson. However, the president publicly thanked him for his service and appointed him as Assistant to the President - Chief Inspector for Minsk.

Former MP Shareiko was found guilty and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison, but was released after the hearing due to the amnesty. The prosecution admitted the absence of material damage to the state in this case, although, initially this was the ground for her arrest.

Amid deepening of economic recession, conflicts inside the nomenclature have increased, leading to a wave of corruption cases against directors of large state enterprises.

Image: Dzmitry Brushko, TUT.BY

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.