World News

Russian and Turkish leaders meet to revive grain deal

Credit…Sergei Chuzavkov/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

The arrest of Ihor Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine’s richest men, over the weekend was taken as a sign of the Ukrainian authorities’ efforts to stamp out corruption and curb the influence of oligarchs.

A court in Kiev on Saturday ordered Mr Kolomoisky to be held in pre-trial detention for two months while authorities investigate allegations of fraud and money laundering against him. Mr. Kolomoisky’s bail has been set at nearly $14 million. His lawyers said he would not pay them, adding that they would appeal the verdict Ukrainian news media.

Mr Kolomoisky’s arrest came a day before President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he would replace his Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov as the Defense Ministry faces investigations into abuses of military contracts. Mr. Reznikov was not personally involved in the investigation.

Ukraine has stepped up efforts to fight corruption and sought to allay concerns among Western allies that war aid could be siphoned off for personal gain. Anti-corruption efforts are also part of Ukraine’s push for closer integration – and eventual membership – in the European Union.

With a fortune of $1.67 billion, Mr. Kolomoisky was recently ranked as Ukraine’s fifth richest person report from the Kiev-based Center for Economic Strategy. His business interests included oil and banking, and he was once considered a patron of Mr. Zelenskyj, a former comedian whose popular shows aired on Mr. Kolomoisky’s television network before he successfully ran for the presidency.

The suspicion of corruption and embezzlement has occupied Mr. Kolomoisky for years. In 2017, he left Ukraine for Switzerland and Israel after the government of then-President Petro O. Poroshenko seized a bank he co-owned and accused him of a large-scale fraud that threatened to destabilize Ukraine’s economy.

He returned in 2019 after Mr Zelenskyi defeated Mr Poroshenko, raising fears that his ties to the new president would help him regain his economic and political clout.

But government efforts – including Mr Zelenskyy, who worked to fight corruption and the oligarchs’ malign influence – have prevented Mr Kolomoisky from gaining acceptance. In 2020, Ukraine’s parliament passed an anti-corruption law banning the state from returning nationalized banks to their former owners, which appears to have been aimed squarely at Mr Kolomoisky.

A year later, the United States imposed sanctions on Mr. Kolomoisky. saying He used his position as regional governor for personal gain and “continued to seek to undermine Ukraine’s democratic processes and institutions.”

Last year’s full-scale invasion of Russia further hurt Mr. Kolomoisky’s interests. Shortly after the war began, Russian forces destroyed an oil refinery in Kremenchuk controlled by one of his companies. This year, the Ukrainian government nationalized this oil company and another company related to it, citing the need to secure essential supplies.

On Sunday, after Mr. Kolomoisky was taken into custody, the State Security Service of Ukraine said in a statement opinion that Mr. Kolomoisky laundered more than half a billion Ukrainian hryvnia, or about $14 million, between 2013 and 2020 by transferring funds abroad through banks he controlled.

Despite efforts to crack down on corruption, scandals continue to plague Mr Zelenskyi’s government, including over procurement of food for the military. Just last month, Mr. Zelenskyy ordered the dismissal of directors of the country’s regional recruitment centers, citing allegations that officials were enriching themselves through evasion schemes.

In an apparent nod to Mr. Kolomoisky’s case, Mr. Zelensky said in his evening speech on Saturday thanked the police “for their determination to bring every decade-stalled case to a just conclusion.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button