DOJ issued a press release late on Thursday announcing two asset forfeiture complaints involving commercial real estate properties in Louisville and Dallas, with a combined market value estimated to be $70 million.
But everything about the announcement leaves you with a “WTF” question.
Rarely does DOJ announce the filing of civil forfeiture complaints.
These are civil complaints just like an ordinary civil lawsuit. The properties are named at the “Defendants”, and the relief sought is the transfer of ownership from the current title holders to the United States, after which the properties would be sold on the open market.
From the Press Release we learn the following:
The complaints allege that Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov, who owned PrivatBank, one of the largest banks in Ukraine, embezzled and defrauded the bank of billions of dollars. The two obtained fraudulent loans and lines of credit from approximately 2008 through 2016, when the scheme was uncovered, and the bank was nationalized by the National Bank of Ukraine. The complaints allege that they laundered a portion of the criminal proceeds using an array of shell companies’ bank accounts, primarily at PrivatBank’s Cyprus branch, before they transferred the funds to the United States. As alleged in the complaint, the loans were rarely repaid except with more fraudulently obtained loan proceeds.
As alleged in the Complaints, in the United States, associates of Kolomoisky and Bogoliubov, Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber, operating out of offices in Miami, created a web of entities, usually under some variation of the name “Optima,” to further launder the misappropriated funds and invest them. They purchased hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate and businesses across the country, including the properties subject to forfeiture: the Louisville office tower known as PNC Plaza, and the Dallas office park known as the former CompuCom Headquarters. The buildings have a combined value of approximately $70 million.
There were press reports over the last two days of locations connected to Optima and PrivatBank being searched by federal law enforcement agents. That means they obtained search warrants establishing probable cause that crimes had been committed, and evidence of those crimes was at the locations searched.
What the press release describes is criminal activity as well, with the forfeiture action being based on alleged violations of federal money laundering statutes.
So why no indictments and why is no one under arrest?
Did I mention that the primary suspects are billionaires from Ukraine?
The easiest way to avoid being charged when the feds start taking all your illegally owned property is to be talking at the same time. This is not a case that came together overnight.
The first two named individuals are described as Ukrainian “oligarchs” who jointly owned several businesses in Ukraine under the name PrivatGroup, including shared ownership of PrivatBank.
The second two individuals named are co-owners of a Miami business that managed the investment portfolio of US properties — businesses and real estate — of the Ukrainian oligarchs.
There is NO WAY this case goes down in this fashion if all four are not cooperating — although there is no information right now as to the whereabouts of the two Ukrainian oligarchs.
This is something to be kept track of in the weeks/months ahead.