Zelenskiy’s oligarch friend accused by US of stealing, laundering billions

File photo. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attend a joint press conference with Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga (not pictured) at the Mariinskiy Palace in Kiev, Ukraine, 21 July 2020. [Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA/EFE]

The Justice Department of the United States accused on Tuesday (6 August) Ihor Kolomoysky, an oligarch considered close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, of stealing billions from a bank he owned, and of laundering this money over the world.

Zelenskiy, a former comedian, is known to have longstanding business ties to Igor Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine’s most powerful oligarchs.  Civil cases in the US allege that Kolomoisky helped siphon $5 billion from PrivatBank, a Ukrainian bank that he and Gennadiy Boholiubov opened in 1992.

Ukrainian oligarch linked to Zelenskiy suffers blow in London court

Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hardly expected to become a protagonist in a possible impeachment of his US colleague Donald Trump. On top of that, his name has now also appeared in the press in relation to a London court case of possible financial malpractice involving billions of dollars. 

They fleeced the bank out of loans from about 2008 to 2016, repaid the loans with other loans and then funneled some of the money they received into US real estate, according to the documents filed Thursday.

Under Ukraine’s last president, Petro Poroshenko, the government nationalized Privatbank, alleging that Kolomoisky and one of his business partners had defrauded the bank of billions of dollars. Kolomoisky denied those charges but decamped from Kyiv to Israel, where he also holds citizenship.

Reportedly, under the new President, the oligarch has returned from his self-imposed exile in Tel Aviv and is again based in Kyiv, where he maintains connections to members of the presidential administration.

Among Kolomoisky’s and Boholiubov’s purchases were more than 5 million square feet of commercial real estate in Ohio; steel plants in Kentucky, West Virginia and Michigan; a cellphone manufacturing plant in Illinois; and commercial real estate in Texas, the Justice Department alleged. The forfeiture complaints sought to seize a roughly 19.5-acre office park in Dallas and the PNC Plaza building in Louisville.

Just days after federal agents raided a Cleveland office building linked to a Ukrainian oligarch, prosecutors on Thursday sought to seize $70 million in property in Texas and Kentucky tied to the oligarch and his associates.

In the US, Kolomoisky has gained attention for other reasons than his role in the money-laundering investigation.

Last year, The New York Times reported that Kolomoisky refused to set up a meeting with President Trump’s ally, Rudy Giuliani, and President Zelenskiy in an attempt to find political dirt against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

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