Zelensky’s billionaire backer jailed, now facing $13.5 million in fraud and money laundering charges
09/11/2023 // Belle Carter // Views

One of Ukraine's top five richest citizens, who is behind President Volodymyr Zelensky's rise to fame and power was arrested recently by the nation's authorities on an array of fraud and money laundering charges, a statement from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) indicated.

Amid Zelensky's drive to take down deeply rooted corruption in his government, his top supporter Ihor Kolomoyskyi referred to as the "de facto owner of a large financial and industrial group," has been slapped with allegations of siphoning off over 500 million Ukrainian hryvnias ($13.5 million) by "transferring it abroad while using the infrastructure of banking institutions controlled by him." Kolomoyskyi was ordered by a Kyiv court to undergo pretrial detention for two months amid an ongoing investigation, with bail having been set at $14 million.

The New York Times, which covered Kolomoyskyi's September 5 arrest, pointed out that the investor was an early major backer of the Ukrainian president. He had a hand in bringing him to power and was widely believed to have funded extremist private militia armies at various times.

"His business interests have included oil and banking, and he was once considered a patron of Mr. Zelensky, a former comedian whose popular shows were broadcast on Mr. Kolomoyskyi's television channel before he successfully ran for the presidency," the news outlet wrote, further revealing that there have been suspicions of corruption and embezzlement dogging Kolomoyskyi for several years now.

Reports detailed that in 2017, he left Ukraine for Switzerland and Israel after then-President Petro O. Poroshenko seized a bank Kolomoyskyi co-owned, accusing the billionaire of a large-scale fraud that threatened to destabilize the nation's economy.

"Kolomoyskyi burst onto the political scene in 2014 when he was appointed governor of the southeastern Dnepropetrovsk Region following a Western-backed coup in Kyiv. A year later, however, he was dismissed from his post over a conflict with then-Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko amid a struggle for control of Ukrnafta and state-owned oil pipeline operator Ukrtransnafta," an article on RT read. He eventually returned in 2019 when Zelensky took over the government, bringing in speculations of his close ties to the new president that would help him regain his economic and political clout.

Furthermore, Kolomoyskyi is also widely considered to have played a major role in the rise to power of Zelensky. Before launching his political campaign, Zelensky was a comedian, whose show was hosted by a Kolomoyskyi-controlled media holding. The magnate himself said he "wanted" Zelensky to become president, but denied close contacts with him. (Related: George Soros helped Zelensky become president of Ukraine through massive propaganda campaign; now he backs puppet regime he installed.)

In 2021, the U.S. State Department sanctioned both Kolomoyskyi and his family members, citing his involvement "in corrupt acts that undermined the rule of law and the Ukrainian public's faith in their government's democratic institutions." In July 2022, media in Ukraine reported that he was stripped of his Ukrainian passport. However, while the news was confirmed by several officials in Kyiv, the relevant presidential decree is classified while the oligarch himself dismissed the reports as "nonsense."

A report, meanwhile, disclosed that U.S. presidential son Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of the Burisma energy giant, also did business with Kolomoyskyi's bank.

Ukraine's government is drenched in corrupt bureaucratic practices

What is more interesting is this came in at the time when Zelensky just fired his own defense minister, an announcement which came the same weekend as billionaire Kolomoyskyi's arrest. "This week, parliament will be asked to make a personnel decision … I have decided to replace the minister of defense of Ukraine. Oleksii Reznikov has gone through more than 550 days of full-scale war," Zelensky announced earlier in September. Reznikov was at the center of an anti-graft probe into the military's paying inflated prices for imported items, the profits of which are believed to have been pocketed by top military officials.

Moreover, the Zelensky administration is also facing a recruiting scandal, where top military recruiters were given large bribes to allow individuals to avoid conscription.

According to analysts, Ukraine is among the most corrupt societies in Europe and will continue to overcome the major hurdle in its application to join the European Union in the years to come.

Meanwhile, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) said it had frozen more than three billion hryvnia in assets in addition to nearly 1,000 properties and more than 1,600 vehicles and vessels from the former owner of lender PrivatBank. The NABU statement did not name Kolomoysky, however, it is a fact that he was a former owner of PrivatBank, which was nationalized in late 2016 as part of a clean-up of the Ukrainian banking system.

Visit UkraineWitness.com for more updates on happenings in Ukraine.

Sources for this article include:





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