Credit: Edin Pasovic/OCCRP

The Kolomoisky Family’s Hidden Swiss Assets

Larisa Chertok owns or has owned a lot of extremely nice things in Switzerland and France, from villas on the shores of Lake Geneva to mega-yachts moored on the Cote d’Azur.

Perhaps that’s because she’s the sister of Ihor Kolomoisky, a Ukrainian oligarch infamous, along with his fellow shareholder Hennadiy Boholiubov, for allegedly absconding with over US$5 billion of Ukrainians’ savings from PrivatBank, a lender the two businessmen controlled.

Neither Chertok nor her husband had any independent business career that could have created such assets independently, according to Ukraine’s corporate register and a forensic audit of Kolomoisky’s finances by Kroll, a U.S.-based corporate investigation and risk consulting firm.

Through her lawyer, Chertok declined to discuss her business relationship with her brother. But her portfolio of possessions and investments indicates it is extensive, from her role running a family-connected concierge service for the ultra-wealthy to her links to an art gallery serving the rich in Geneva’s Old Town.

For example, she is the chief executive officer of Cad Cool, a niche company dedicated to helping wealthy people spend their money. According to an English lawyer involved in a suit against Boholyubov, Cad Cool “is really [Ihor] Kolomoisky’s family business office, whose services are also made available to family and friends.”

A visit to the Kolomoisky family’s luxurious penthouse apartment on the Geneva waterfront reveals that, in fact, Cad Cool and another Chertok-directed firm have mailboxes there.

“It’s your luxurius world” is the company’s slightly misspelled slogan. “For your convenience and to save time you can hire a plane or a helicopter to take you from the city to the ski slopes,” the company’s archived website reads.

“This means you avoid traffic and the loss of your precious time, while our VIP flights include a vast range of dishes and elite services,” the promotional material continues. “Our fleet of cars comprises Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Porsche and Ferrari … and if you want to sail on Lac Leman, you can hire a yacht with a captain for a day, a weekend or an entire week.”

Chertok is well-placed to advise on matters aquatic — her own home is a villa on the shores of Lac Leman (also known as Lake Geneva) in the exclusive village of Aniéres. Residents can enjoy views across the lake of the Cret de la Neige, the highest peak of France’s Jura mountain range marking the border between France and Switzerland. The wealth of Aniéres residents is indicated by the name of the village’s thoroughfare: the Road of the Golden Coast.

Chertok’s 1,200-square-meter home was custom built between 2008 and 2010. The sleek minimalist design includes modern art installations. It has indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a self-contained spa suite, and basement accommodation for domestic staff. Satellite images show three motor yachts moored by the villa.

According to the Kroll report, Chertok bought the house for $32 million. She also owns a $6 million apartment in Geneva.

According to the Kroll report and French company records, Chertok is registered at another valuable property — a French country villa — that is owned by SCI Medal, a Kolomoisky company. She is also the director of the company, which owns the home on the French side of Lake Geneva in the village of Anthy-sur-Leman. The company also holds a 16 million euro ski chalet.

Other records indicate Chertok has acted on behalf of Kolomoisky since at least 2004. In some cases, she simply facilitated his business dealings, as in 2007, when she signed as witness for his purchase of a $110 million stake in Central European Media Enterprises Ltd., paving the way for his later ownership of the 1+1 TV channel in Ukraine.

In others, she played a more substantive role. In 2004, she founded a Swiss firm called Gehold SA, which privatized a stake in Sukha Balka, a major Ukrainian iron ore mine, together with one other firm.

By 2008, ownership of Sukha Balka had been consolidated under one offshore company, Palmrose Ltd., which was controlled by Kolomoisky and Boholyubov. Palmrose was then sold for more than $1 billion to Russia’s Evraz group, part-owned by oligarch Roman Abramovich.

In a lawsuit filed in 2013 against Kolomoisky and Boholyubov by Viktor Pinchuk, yet another Ukrainian oligarch, the parties eventually agreed that, in fact, Kolomoisky and Boholyubov had privatized Sukha Balka, implying Chertok had acted on their behalf.

In 2015, Kolomoisky told a parliamentary committee probing the privatization of the metals industry that he had bribed Pinchuk, son-in-law of then-president Leonid Kuchma, to gain control of state assets, indicating he, not his sister, was the real owner of the Gehold SA stake.

Chertok’s empire extends to the seas.

Until 2016, she was the 51-percent owner of the Cyprus firm Titan Fleet Holdings Ltd., which in turn owns the French yachting firm Titan Fleet Management Sarl, headquartered in the French resort Golfe-Juan on the Cote d’Azur. Titan Fleet’s website describes it as a “yacht management company”. It is also listed as a partner of Cad Cool on that company’s site.

In 2016, Chertok was replaced in the Titan Fleet Holdings property structure by Cypriot lawyers with close links to Kolomoisky’s business. Then ownership was transferred to the company managers, two yachting captains, Nicholas Sevier and Charlies Bettell. The website claims that the two captains founded the company “in response to the specific needs of a group of superyacht owners who felt their requirements were being overlooked.” Titan Fleet is currently selling three superyachts for a total price of just over €40 million euros, while operating a further six.

An Interest in the Arts

Reporters also discovered that the Kolomoisky family owns Artera’s, a high-end art dealership in the heart of Geneva’s old town.

“Larisa Chertok is one of the owners,” director Sofia Komarova told OCCRP, a claim confirmed by internal correspondence reviewed by reporters. The art gallery, which is listed on the Cad Cool website, seems to serve the Kolomoisky family and partners. Komarova acknowledged Kolomoisky has a private art collection, which she said is separate from the gallery itself.

Ukrainian prosecutors say Kolomoisky owns several works by Pablo Picasso. In 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that Chertok sold Edvard Munch’s “Girls on the Bridge” at Sotheby’s for around $54.5 million, after buying it for $30.8 million in 2008.

Artvera’s played a key role in uncovering one of the largest frauds in the history of modern art: the forging by Wolfgang Beltracchi and his wife of scores of paintings sold as authentic to art dealers.

While the Beltracchi affair has been the subject of two books, a documentary film, and countless written features, this is the first time the Kolomoisky family’s role in exposing the forger has been revealed.

Komarova raised the alarm in 2007 over a German Impressionist painting, ostensibly by Heinrich Campendonk, that was brought to her for appraisal by Vadim Shulman, at the time a business partner of Kolomoisky’s. Kolomoisky and Shulman, who began working together in 1999, later had a bitter falling-out.

Shulman, who since 2013 has filed lawsuits claiming fraud against Kolomoisky in U.S. and U.K. courts, declined to comment for this story.

Beltracchi and his wife, Helene, eventually served time for the fraud, and are now nearly penniless due to damages they continue to pay to their victims. Helene Beltracchi told OCCRP that Chertok had made “huge purchases” of art as early as 2005-2006.

(Return to main story.)

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