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KYIV — Ihor Kolomoisky as soon as owned Ukraine’s richest financial institution, a TV station that carried a well-liked present starring a comic named Volodymyr Zelensky, and fielded a personal militia to defend his dwelling metropolis of Dnipro when it was beneath risk from Russian-backed separatists in 2014.
Immediately, he sits behind bars, awaiting the end result of two investigations and prone to dropping all the things.
Ukrainian anti-corruption authorities have opened a sequence of instances in opposition to Kolomoisky within the final two weeks — the latest on Friday, because the Safety Service of Ukraine, or SBU, stated it was investigating him for allegedly embezzling some $160 million.
The information got here to Kolomoisky as he sat in a pretrial detention middle in Kyiv. Final week, the SBU stated in an announcement that it was investigating him for fraud and laundering greater than $14 million between 2013 and 2020. Although he has not but been indicted, the Ukrainian authorized system permits a suspect to be detained whereas an investigation proceeds.
Kolomoisky, who’s believed to carry Israeli and Cypriot passports, has declined to publish a $14 million bail, protesting that the case in opposition to him is against the law.
Since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, Ukraine’s oligarchs have seen their affect vastly curtailed, as officers have launched legal guidelines aimed toward diminishing their political and financial attain. In Russian-occupied territory, their belongings have been expropriated or utterly destroyed throughout the combating.
However arguably nobody has fallen so far as Kolomoisky, an oil, banking and media mogul who was as soon as valued at $2 billion, and who was thought-about an in depth supporter with main affect on Zelensky, the comedian-turned-president. Zelensky starred in various reveals on Kolomoisky’s tv channel, together with as an unlikely president in “Servant of the Individuals.”
In 2019, Kolomoisky helped Zelensky win the true job, thwarting Petro Poroshenko’s bid for a second time period. Kolomoisky and Poroshenko, additionally an oligarch, had clashed fiercely.
Kolomoisky has been beneath authorized strain since 2016 when officers found some $5.5 billion lacking from PrivatBank’s stability sheet, which they accused Kolomoisky, his enterprise companion, Hennadiy Boholiubov, and different high deputies of embezzling.
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The obvious asset stripping on the nation’s largest retail financial institution left some 20 million odd residents prone to dropping their life’s financial savings. The federal government seized the financial institution and nationalized it, then launched authorized instances to claw again the allegedly stolen cash.
Zelensky’s election has not helped Kolomoisky and the notion that he’s near the president might have raised strain on authorities authorities to carry the oligarch to account. In July 2022, officers in Kyiv advised Ukrainian media that Kolomoisky had been stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship for violating a regulation prohibiting twin nationality. Kolomoisky denied this occurred.
Final week, officers on the nation’s Nationwide Anti-Corruption Bureau, or NABU, stated that they have been additionally opening an official investigation of a “former final useful proprietor” at PrivatBank and 5 associates on suspicion of embezzling some $250 million. Ukrainian media recognized the previous proprietor as Kolomoisky.
Kolomoisky was as soon as extensively regarded to be untouchable legally, given his connections and immense wealth. He was additionally one of many extra flamboyant tycoons to emerge from Ukraine’s first cutthroat many years of independence: a big man, with a shock of curly hair and bushy beard, who earlier saved a shark aquarium in his places of work.
However his days as a larger-than-life billionaire working above the regulation might now be drawing to an in depth.
“I think about this the top of his period,” stated Borys Filatov, the mayor of Dnipro, a former enterprise companion and political ally of Kolomoisky, who has since fallen out with him.
Final week, when the primary case in opposition to Kolomoisky for fraud and cash laundering was introduced, the SBU posted pictures on its Telegram channel exhibiting him surrounded by brokers at his dwelling, signing paperwork.
Later that day, Kolomoisky appeared in a Kyiv courtroom for his arraignment and was jailed for 2 months. Ukrainian media confirmed him in a blue monitor jacket and darkish pants, being pushed away to a pretrial detention middle.
If convicted, Kolomoisky faces as much as 12 years in jail, NABU stated.
Filatov, the Dnipro mayor, stated that NABU investigators “labored very, very fruitfully for a number of years” on Kolomoisky’s case. “And that’s why I consider that, now after the accusations from NABU have been introduced, he has gone to jail for a really very long time,” he stated.
Kolomoisky has flatly denied the entire allegations.
In 2017, a London courtroom ordered a worldwide freeze of some $2.5 billion of his and his companion Boholiubov’s belongings in reference to the PrivatBank case.
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And beginning in 2020, the U.S. Justice Division filed civil forfeiture instances in opposition to the 2 males over properties they owned in Florida, Texas and Ohio, which it stated had been “acquired utilizing funds misappropriated from PrivatBank.”
Then in 2021, the US imposed sanctions in opposition to Kolomoisky and members of his household beneath a U.S. regulation that enables penalizing international officers concerned in human rights violations and corruption. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated Kolomoisky was “concerned in corrupt acts that undermined rule of regulation and the Ukrainian public’s religion of their authorities’s democratic establishments and public processes” whereas serving as governor of Dnipropetrovsk area.
After Russia initially invaded Ukraine in 2014, performing president Oleksandr Turchynov appointed Kolomoisky as governor of his native Dnipropetrovsk area. It was then that Kolomoisky financed a personal military to struggle Russian-backed separatists and known as Russian President Vladimir Putin a “schizophrenic of brief stature.”
Poroshenko dismissed him from the governor’s publish in 2015, after Kolomoisky clashed with Kyiv over Ukrnafta, a state-owned oil firm during which Kolomoisky held a minority stake.
Following the nationalization of PrivatBank, Kolomoisky fled the nation for his houses in Switzerland and Israel.
Kolomoisky denies that the financial institution’s cash was stolen and has filed dozens of lawsuits to win again management. Nonetheless, in 2020, Ukraine’s parliament handed a regulation forbidding the federal government from reversing nationalizations. And in July 2022, Ukraine’s Supreme Courtroom upheld the seizure of the financial institution.
Kolomoisky returned to Ukraine from Israel following Zelensky’s election, solely to see extra of his companies come beneath strain. In November final 12 months, Ukraine’s authorities nationalized the belongings of Ukrnafta and Ukrtatnafta, an oil refinery during which Kolomoisky and Boholiubov held controlling stakes, saying the businesses have been wanted for the warfare effort.
In February, SBU brokers searched Kolomoisky’s dwelling over accusations of tax evasion and that some $1 billion had been embezzled from the 2 firms.
Forbes Ukraine estimates his wealth has dropped to lower than $900 million since Russia’s February 2022 invasion. Though he has misplaced a big share of his belongings, he nonetheless controls the 1+1 tv channel. At one level, it was Ukraine’s hottest, however its affect has vastly decreased as the federal government has severely restricted wartime broadcasts.
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The instances in opposition to Kolomoisky have accelerated as Ukrainian officers pursue a high-profile anti-corruption marketing campaign — and Zelensky appears to be like to sign to Western companions offering billions in navy and financial assist that he has zero tolerance for graft.
In current months, authorities have cracked down on alleged corruption within the nation’s tax authority and navy recruiting system, whereas the nation’s protection minister, Oleksii Reznikov, resigned final week amid allegations that his ministry overpaid for provides, although Reznikov was indirectly implicated.
In his common night handle, following Kolomoisky’s jailing, Zelensky didn’t converse instantly concerning the case, however he thanked Ukrainian regulation enforcement officers “for his or her willpower to carry each case stalled for many years to a simply conclusion.”
“There shall be no extra decades-long ‘enterprise as regular’ for individuals who plundered Ukraine and put themselves above the regulation and any guidelines,” Zelensky stated. “The regulation should work. It’s so. It is going to be so.”
Kamila Hrabchuk contributed to this report.
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