US television anchor Larry King allegedly obtained $225,000 in cash payments from Ukraine's Party of Regions, headed by ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko, of President Petro Poroshenko's parliamentary faction, told journalists during a briefing in Kyiv on August 19.
"Money from the Regions Party's shadow assets was paid, for instance, to Larry King, a well-known American journalist who had been a CNN host for decades," Interfax news agency quoted Leshchenko as saying. "He got $225,000 from the Regions Party's shadow coffer."
King, who now works as an anchor for Russia Today, has not yet commented on the allegations.
The lawmaker unveiled the information days after a scandal erupted over Paul Manafort, once the campaign chief of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, but who has since resigned, Trump announced on August 19. According to the Party of Region's 'bribe books', up to $12.7mn in undisclosed cash payments were allegedly designated for Manafort between 2007 and 2012.
In May, 22 pages from the so-called 'bribe books' of the Party of Regions were published in Kyiv. The documents, which were leaked from an unknown source, cover the period from July to September 2012, and include surnames, US-dollar denominated amounts, subjects of payment, and signatures of those who apparently obtained funding from the party. A total of $66mn was mentioned in the 22 pages of documents, a small part of what allegedly totals $2bn of graft detailed in the complete set of records.
Three days earlier, ex-deputy head of the SBU security service Viktor Trepak said he obtained the Party of Regions documents from an undisclosed source, and the contents showed that $2bn in cash was used to bribe both former and incumbent top officials. Trepak refused to specify names and later submitted these documents to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).
On August 19, Leshchenko published a detailed piece on the Party of Regions' payments to Manaford and King in the Kyiv-based Ukrainska Pravda website. According to the publication, there are documents proving that the Regions Party's former lawmaker Yevhen Heller was responsible for 'shadow' financial operations in the party.
At the same time, Leshchenko, who is one of the leaders of the Democratic Alliance political party, didn't disclose the source of information, fuelling suspicions over possible use of the 'bribe books' leaks as compromising material by different political camps in Ukraine.
In June, President Poroshenko stressed that disclosing the documents to the public would not help the investigation of Yanukovych-era corruption. Poroshenko was disappointed that "instead of investigating these documents for two years, we are using them as [bombshell] suitcases full of compromising material".
On August 19, Ukrainska Pravda's editor-in-chief, Sevgil Musaieva-Borovyk, said during a briefing in Kyiv that King had allegedly received those funds for an interview with former Ukrainian prime minister Mykola Azarov, who fled the country after Yanukovych was ousted in February 2014 following the Euromaidan protests.
The NABU posted on its web site copies of 19 pages from the Regions Party's 'bribe books', where Manafort was mentioned. However, the law enforcement agency underlined that, "mentioning Manafort's name on the list does not mean that he actually got the money because the signatures that appear in the column of the recipients could belong to other people".