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TORONTO — The former chief executive of Centerra Gold Inc. is lashing out at Canadian authorities after his arrest last month in Bulgaria on corruption allegations he says are unfounded and simply an attempt to sway current negotiations around a gold mine.
“My situation here is, in my opinion, pretty dire,” Len Homeniuk said in a phone interview.
Homeniuk, 68, was on a cruise on the Danube River with his family when Bulgarian authorities detained him in late July. He spent 11 days in prison, and was then transferred to house arrest. He is confined to a small apartment in Sofia, and is facing a potential extradition to Kyrgyzstan.
Homeniuk was arrested because the Kyrgyz government put him on Interpol’s wanted persons list due to alleged involvement in corruption. This comes as Centerra and the Kyrgyz government try to negotiate a new ownership agreement over the Kumtor gold mine.
“In my opinion, the only reason for this action is to put pressure on Centerra in the ongoing negotiations,” he said. He appealed the Interpol notice months ago, but the case has not yet been reviewed.
Homeniuk is upset and surprised by Bulgaria’s decision to detain him. Bulgaria does not have an extradition treaty with Kyrgyzstan or close diplomatic ties with the Central Asian country.
But he is equally upset with the Canadian government, which he thinks is doing next to nothing to help him. He hoped for much more assistance, especially given that Centerra — a Canadian company — has created hundreds of jobs in Kyrgyzstan and has also faced dubious corruption allegations.
“I’m kind of shocked by the lack of action on the Canadian side,” said Homeniuk, who was CEO from 2004 to 2008. He is a joint Canadian-U.S. citizen, and said the American embassy seems far more concerned about his case than the Canadian one.
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