Ukraine: Mayor Arrested in US$7m Embezzlement Probe

Published: 14 February 2018

By Mattha Busby

The mayor of Odessa and his deputy were arrested on Wednesday morning at the Boryspil international airport near Kyiv on suspicion of embezzling state property, the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine, NABU, announced.

The bureau had been investigating four officials of the city hall of Odessa, including mayor Hennadiy Trukhanov, on suspicion of “Acquisition of property by abuse of office,” the statement said.

Border guards detained Trukhanov as he landed from Warsaw after a seven-week vacation in Greece, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Poland.

Ukrainian media reported that the director of the communal property department and the head of the standing commission on communal property of the Odessa City Council were also under investigation.

According to NABU, Odessa City Hall bought a building from a fictitious private company for 185 million UAH (US$6,92 million) in September 2016.

That company had allegedly bought the building months earlier for just for 11.5 million UAH ($430,000) at an auction organized by a state liquidator.

In other words, the city sold it cheaply to a private company and then bought it back again for 16 times more.

“Pure "profit" of UAH 170 million (US $6.35 million) from a corrupt scheme,” a Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, Mustafa Nayyem, wrote on his Facebook wall.

Anti-corruption detectives and state prosecutors subsequently blocked the accounts of the “company-seller of the mentioned building.”

They claim the beneficiary is a sitting member of the Odessa Regional Council and that he and another person had offered a NABU employee US $500,000 to unblock the account. That charge has been added to the litany of offences they are supposed to have committed.

It is unlikely state officials will be able to locate the owner of the company since they are apparently in the ATO zone where a low level war continues to be waged.

According to Radio Free Europe, Trukhanov’s press office said that he cut his business trip to the Czech Republic short so that he could "return to Ukraine to take part in the ongoing investigation."

However, RFE also reported that neither the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade, nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were aware of Trukhanov's trip to Prague.