Ukrainian billionaire held in anti-corruption drive

Ukrainian billionaire held in anti-corruption drive

03 Sep 2023 ( BBC )

Ihor Kolomoisky is alleged to have transferred $14m (£11.1m) abroad over seven years, using banks he controlled.

His lawyers say he will not post bail and will appeal against the court order.

It marks the latest move in Ukraine’s anti-corruption drive, which has targeted several high-profile figures.

Local TV footage showed Mr Kolomoisky being led away from a district court in Kyiv dressed in a blue FC Dnipro tracksuit jacket on Saturday. His defence team say he is now being held at Ukraine’s security service (SBU) headquarters in the city.

“It was established that during 2013-2020, Ihor Kolomoisky legalized more than half a billion hryvnias ($14m) by withdrawing them abroad and using the infrastructure of banks under [his] control,” the agency said in a statement.

In his regular evening video address on Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared to allude to the case and said there would be no return to “business as usual for those who plundered Ukraine and put themselves above the law”.

“Each of us feels that this will be a Ukraine with different rules,” he said.

Mr Zelensky cited the fight against corruption as one of his main priorities when he came to power in 2019.

Since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, his administration has been eager to highlight Ukraine’s crackdown on corruption – seen as one of the key tests the country would have to pass to join Western institutions like the European Union.

Saturday’s court ruling against Mr Kolomoisky is not the first move against him.

The tycoon’s home in the south-eastern city of Dnipro was raided in February this year as part of a separate investigation into embezzlement and tax evasion at the country’s two largest oil companies partially owned by him.

In 2021, the US placed him under sanctions for alleged “significant corruption” during his time as governor of the wider Dnipropetrovsk region. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Kolomoisky is a wealthy businessman involved in Ukrainian media, oil and banking. His TV channel gave Mr Zelensky his break with the comedy series Servant of the People, before he backed the former actor’s bid for the presidency.

The president faced accusations of acting as Mr Kolomoisky’s puppet during the election campaign, including from rival and former president Petro Poroshenko.

But the Ukrainian leader has repeatedly denied that Mr Kolomoisky has had any influence over the government.