Ukraine: Kyiv Court Seizes Billionaire Kurchenko's 14 Offshore Accounts

A court in Kyiv has ruled to freeze 14 offshore bank accounts linked to Ukraine’s fugitive businessman and youngest self-declared billionaire, Serhiy Kurchenko, it was revealed this week.

kurchenko 3 smallSerhiy KurchenkoKurchenko, 30, has been funneling cash into two Latvia-based banks, the ABLV Bank and Regionala Investiciju Banka, according to court papers. 

He is alleged to have bought cheap gas through a number of Ukrainian companies, including Zaporozhgaz, Ukrharkovrgazpostachannya, Luganskpropangaz, GazUkraina-2020.

He then made huge profits by selling gas at market prices, claims prosecutors in Kyiv. He stands accused of enriching himself illegally and evading millions of dollars’ worth of tax.

Kurchenko’s alleged scheme is said to have cost the state about a billion Ukrainian hryvnia (about US$ 43 million).

Officials didn’t say exactly how much cash Kurchenko held in the Latvian accounts, which were frozen earlier this month. Many of the companies affected by the seizure were exposed in the OCCRP investigation How Kurchenko's Offshores Worked.

Authorities have been investigating both Kurchenko and disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych since 2014.

Kurchenko was also targeted by EU sanctions in March 2014 on the basis that he is suspected of corruption during Yanukovych's years of power.

This year Ukrainian investigators, together with Latvian colleagues, uncovered and froze more than US$ 80 million of funds held in Latvian bank accounts.

Although Kurchenko's accounts in Latvia have been frozen, Pechersk District Court last week ruled to lift a freeze on petroleum products at the Odessa Oil Refinery, which is allegedly managed by Kurchenko.

In 2014, the court ordered the seizure of the assets because of a police investigation into fraud schemes linked to the import and trade of oil and gasoline allegedly run by Kurchenko’s group of companies. 

Pechersk District Court unfroze the assets because “oil and petroleum products … which were stocked at the refinery are no longer held on its territory, as they were transferred to the state-owned Ukrtransnaftoproduct company,” reads the ruling, published last week.

State firm Ukrtransnaftoproduct has sold some 30 percent of its petroleum during the period between October 2014 and March 2015 and has paid some 120 million hryvnia (about US$ 5.14 million) in taxes to the state.

Odessa Oil Refinery is one of the biggest in Ukraine, with the capacity to refine 2.8 million tonnes of oil per year. It was bought by Kurchenko's Vetek group from Russia's Lukoil in July 2013.

Police claimed Kurchenko's schemes gave his companies an illegal turnover of 36 million Ukrainian hryvnia (US$ 1.57 million) between 2011 and 2013.

By Olena Goncharova in Kyiv