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Ukraine: Pro-Zelenskyy business tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky arrested for fraud, money laundering

The ongoing probe against Kolomoisky will also focus on his alleged role in laundering half a billion Ukrainian hryvnia ($130.5 million) between 2013 and 2020.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee Kyiv Published on: September 03, 2023 18:21 IST
Ukraine has intensified the anti-corruption drive as war
Image Source : AP Ukraine has intensified the anti-corruption drive as war with Russia continues

Ihor Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine's most powerful business tycoons and a staunch supporter of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has been arrested on charges of fraud and money laundering, as per state media reports. Kolomoisky is one of the richest men in Ukraine and was a key supporter of Zelenskyy's 2019 presidential campaign.

A court in Kyiv ordered Kolomoisky to 60 days in pre-trial detention while authorities continue to probe charges of fraud against him. He is being investigated by the Security Service of Ukraine and also stands accused of laundering a criminally-obtained property, CNN reported.

He will be jailed till October 31, but was given the option to post bail in excess of 500 million Ukrainian hryvnia ($14 million). According to state media, if the businessman posts bail, he must fulfill certain conditions, including not leave the locality where he is staying, appear for interrogations and notify relevant authorities of any change of residence.

Kolomoisky's pre-trial investigation is being supervised by the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office that will focus in his alleged role in laundering half a billion Ukrainian hryvnia ($130.5 million) by transferring funds abroad between 2013 and 2020, by allegedly using banks under his control. His trial is said to be a part of Ukraine's new 'anti-corruption' drive.

Allegations against Kolomoisky

Kolomoisky has several media and banking businesses under his control in Ukraine, which have no doubt propelled his wealth and power in the country. However, the US Department of State has accused him of using his influence and power for "personal benefit".

The Ukrainian business tycoon attracted sanctions from America in 2021 for allegedly being involved in "corrupt acts" that have undermined rule of law and the "Ukrainian public's faith in their government's democratic institutions and public processes".

"While this designation is based on acts during his time in office, I also want to express concern about Kolomoyskyy’s current and ongoing efforts to undermine Ukraine’s democratic processes and institutions, which pose a serious threat to its future," said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement in 2021.

Kolomoisky, his wife Iryna, daughter and son were deemed ineligible for entry in the US, saying the decision was reaffirming America's commitment to support political, economic, and justice sector reforms that are key to Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic path.

Corruption in Ukraine

The investigation is a part of Ukraine's anti-corruption as its ongoing war with Russia has spanned over 18 months with no signs of simmering down. Russia's invasion has targeted several high profile figures in Ukraine and uncovered luxury watches, cars and thousands of dollars in cash in their possession.

This is further complicated with Ukraine's position as the second-most corrupt country in Europe after Russia, ranking 122nd among 180 countries across the world, as per the data in the 2021 Transparency International report.

Zelenskyy also fired several senior Ukrainian officials earlier this year over a corruption scandal linked to the procurement of war-time supplies, marking one of the biggest re-jigging since the war began. This included the acting head of the Kyiv tax authority for his allegedly involvement in a scheme to overlook over a billion dollars in unpaid taxes.

Former interior minister Arsen Avakov, who was linked to a probe into the a helicopter crash on January 18 that killed 14 people, was also fired. He has denied any wrongdoing. 

Zelensky dismissed all officials in charge of regional military recruitment centers on August 11, citing the “iIllicit enrichment, legalization of illegally obtained funds, unlawful benefit and illegal transportation of persons liable for military service across the border.”

ALSO READ | 2 killed in Kyiv in retaliatory strikes after Ukraine launches largest-ever drone strike towards Russia

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