Police say Kiev mayor’s daughter robbed of euro4 million ($5.5 million) in jewels in France

By Angela Charlton, AP
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Police: Kiev mayor’s daughter robbed in France

PARIS — The daughter of Kiev’s mayor told police she was robbed of euro4 million ($5.5 million) worth of jewelry as she traveled by car from Charles de Gaulle airport to the French capital, Paris police said Tuesday.

A spokesman for her wealthy father, however, immediately denied the report, which could be embarrassing considering that his daughter heads a charity organization funded by his own city government and many Ukrainians are struggling amid a widespread recession.

A Paris police official said Kristina Chernovetska reported that a man broke into her luxury car Monday as it stopped on a highway north of Paris, then stole her purse.

Chernovetska reported the incident to authorities and said the purse contained the valuable rings and earrings, the official said. The official was not authorized to be named according to police policy and gave no further description of the jewelry.

A spokesman for Kiev Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, however, denied that there was a robbery.

“This is somebody’s bad joke. We completely deny these reports about a robbery. There was no robbery,” spokeswoman Marta Hrymska said.

Chernovetsky was one of the first banking magnates in Ukraine after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union and sold his Pravex Bank for euro493 million to Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo in June 2008.

His term as mayor since 2006 has been marked by persistent corruption scandals, and he has often boasted of his daughter’s charity work to bolster his scarred public image. This would be the first public flap involving Kristina.

French police said they contacted the Ukrainian Embassy about the incident, but the embassy would not comment on it Tuesday to The Associated Press.

Hrymska insisted that Chernovetska was in Kiev on Tuesday, but her whereabouts remained unknown.

A receptionist at the luxury George V hotel just off the Champs Elysees confirmed that a “Christina” Chernovetska was registered, but it was not clear if that was the same person.

At the George V, the least expensive room is euro750 ($1,025) a night. Luxury limousines lined up in front of the hotel for guests in furs and designer sunglasses, while diners inside lunched beneath crystal chandeliers. Among goods on sale at the George V are euro100,000 ($136,700) pearl necklaces.

Chernovetska, 30, has degrees in law and economics, and heads the charity organization “Luchshy Dom” (”Best House”), a home for poor older people funded by the city of Kiev. She has also previously worked on her father’s political campaigns.

The report of the jewel theft led to a political backlash Tuesday, as Volodymyr Bondarenko of the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, her group of lawmakers in parliament, poked fun at both daughter and father.

“Chernovetsky needs to immediately call up his favorite grandmas and grandpas so that they could sacrifice part of their pensions to buy Kristina back her jewels,” Bondarenko said in a statement.

AP reporters Simon Shuster and Yuras Karmanau in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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