Ukraine Arrests Oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky

Published: 05 September 2023

Kolomoisky Arrest UkraineUkraine's law enforcement arrests oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky. (Photo: Security Service of Ukraine, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

Ukraine's authorities arrested Ihor Kolomoisky, one of the country's most powerful oligarchs, on Saturday, accusing him of fraud and money laundering in his oil and gas businesses.

"It was found that between 2013 and 2020, Ihor Kolomoisky legalized more than half a billion Ukrainian Hryvnia (US$13.6 million) by transferring them abroad through the infrastructure of banking institutions under his control," the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said in a statement on Saturday.

Kolomoisky owned Ukrtatnfta, Ukraine's largest oil refining company, until the government seized it in 2022 after the company failed to pay over $80 million in taxes. He also owned several Ukrainian media outlets.

Together with Gennadiy Boholiubov, Kolomoisky also co-owned one of the largest banks in Ukraine, PrivatBank, which was nationalized following a scandal in which the two allegedly managed to clear $5.5 billion from the bank's coffers. The former chairwoman of Ukraine's central bank, Valeria Hontareva, described it as one of the biggest financial scandals of the 21st century.

"Large-scale coordinated fraudulent actions of the bank shareholders and management caused a loss to the state of at least $5.5 billion, which is 33 percent of the population's deposits … [and] 40 percent of our country's monetary base," Hontareva said in March 2018, as cited in a 2019 OCCRP investigation.

In August 2020, U.S. authorities targeted Kolomoisky and Boholiubov's real estate and businesses in the U.S., assuming it to be part of "hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate and businesses" purchased across the country in an effort to launder a portion of the billions siphoned from PrivatBank between 2008 and 2016.

Less than a year later, in March 2021, the U.S. State Department banned Kolomoisky from entering the country because of his involvement in "significant corruption."

The designation, authorized by U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, included Kolomoisky's wife Iryna, daughter Angelika, and son Israel Zvi.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has pledged a full-scale anti-corruption campaign regardless of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, has not commented directly on Kolomoisky's arrest.

However, finishing his regular evening address, he stressed on Saturday that "there will be no more decades-long 'business as usual' for those who plundered Ukraine and put themselves above the law and any rules."

Zelenskyy also thanked Ukrainian law enforcement for "their determination to bring every case stalled for decades to a just conclusion."

"The law must work. It is so. It will be so," he concluded.