One of Ukraine’s most powerful oligarchs has been arrested in a fraud investigation, state media in the country are reporting.
A Kyiv court on Saturday ordered Ihor Kolomoisky, a key supporter of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s 2019 presidential campaign, to 60 days in pre-trial detention while authorities investigate fraud charges against him, reported Ukrinform.
Kolomoisky’s media and banking businesses have made him one of the richest men in Ukraine.
However, the US State Department has previously accused him of using his “political influence and power for personal benefit.”
The State Department sanctioned Kolomoisky in March 2021 for his alleged involvement in “corrupt acts that undermined rule of law and the Ukrainian public’s faith in their government’s democratic institutions and public processes.”
On Saturday, the Shevchenkivskyi District Court ordered Kolomoisky be held until October 31, Ukrinform said, and he was given the option of posting bail in excess of 500 million Ukrainian hryvnia ($14 million).
“If the businessman posts bail, he must fulfill a number of conditions – not leave the locality where he will be staying, appear for interrogations, and notify the relevant authorities of any change of residence, if any,” the Ukrinform report added.
“He is also prohibited from communicating with witnesses and other suspects in this criminal proceeding… and must also surrender his passports for traveling abroad.”
Kolomoisky is being investigated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) as well as Ukraine’s Bureau of Economic Security under Articles 190 and 209 – for fraud and laundering of a property criminally obtained.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office is supervising the pre-trial investigation which will focus on Kolomoisky’s alleged role in laundering over half a billion Ukrainian hryvnia ($130.5 million) by transferring funds abroad between 2013 and 2020, allegedly using banks under his control.
Video and photos showed Kolomoisky being led away from the district court in Kyiv.
Corruption crackdown amid the war
According to a 2021 Transparency International report, Ukraine is the second most corrupt country in Europe after Russia and ranks 122nd globally among 180 countries.
The case against Kolomoisky is the latest in Ukraine’s anti corruption drive amid Russia’s invasion, which has targeted several high profile figures and uncovered luxury watches, cars and thousands of dollars in cash.
“Every criminal who has the audacity to harm Ukraine, especially in times of war, must clearly understand that we will handcuff his hands,” said Vasyl Maliuk, head of the SBU, in a statement issued in February.
Earlier this year Zelensky fired a slew of senior Ukrainian officials over a corruption scandal linked to the procurement of war-time supplies. It was the biggest shakeup of his government since Russia’s invasion began.
Among those caught up in corruption investigations are the acting head of the Kyiv tax authority, who was allegedly part of a scheme to overlook 45 billion Ukrainian hryvnia ($1.2 billion) in unpaid taxes, and former interior minister Arsen Avakov, who was tied to an investigation into the January 18 helicopter crash that killed 14 people. Avakov has denied any wrongdoing.
On August 11, Zelensky dismissed all officials in charge of regional military recruitment centers, citing the “iIllicit enrichment, legalization of illegally obtained funds, unlawful benefit and illegal transportation of persons liable for military service across the border.”
“Every ‘military commissioner’ against whom there is a criminal investigation will be held accountable,” he said.
“Officials who confused their shoulder straps with profit will definitely be brought to justice.”