Yanukovych Ally Opens Romanian Business

R_IBy Matt Sarnecki

As Kiev burned last month, the upheaval didn’t stop a prominent Ukrainian businessman close to now-deposed President Victor Yanukovych from establishing a new business in Romania.

The Rise Project and bivol.bg, two Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) partners, investigated firms connected to Yanukovych’s former regime, and discovered that Rinat Ahmetov, a prominent billionaire and supporter of Yanukovych, recently opened a company in Bucharest.

Ahmetov owns numerous companies and one of Ukraine’s main football clubs, Shakhtar Donetsk. He was a major backer of the Yanukovich regime and has been seen numerous times in the company of the former president who treated him as a close friend.

The ownership structure of the newly established Romanian business is connected to companies owned by the fugitive president’s son, Oleksander Yanukovych.

AHMETOVOn Jan. 27, Ahmetov established Metinvest Carpathia SRL in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. What the company does is unknown. Ahmetov owns the Romanian company via two of the main companies in his business conglomerate: Metinvest BV Netherlands and Metinvest International SA Switzerland.

Metinvest Switzerland was run for a while by Swiss citizen Felix Blitshteyn. According to company records obtained by OCCRP, Blitshtein is now the manager of Mako Trading, a Swiss company belonging to Oleksander Yanukovich that was raided on Feb. 28 by Swiss law enforcement as part of a money-laundering investigation.

Blitshteyn's place in Ahmetov's Metinvest was taken by a Swiss consultant, Joseph Eric Riedweg, who is also currently associated with Blitshteyn in another Geneva-based company, Partifina SA. Partifina shares offices with Mako Trading, which is part of a business holding dealing primarily with trading coal from east Ukraine.

The Kyiv Post, an OCCRP partner, reported that Oleksandr Yanukovych is a majority shareholder of Mako, a business holding made of 16 enterprises in Ukraine, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Employing four people, the Swiss branch, Mako Trading, had $5.4 million in operating revenues in 2012.

Authorities in Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria announced several days ago that they would freeze assets owned by Victor Yanukovych and his family.