Ukrainian Oligarch and Zelensky Benefactor Ihor Kolomoisky Arrested for Fraud in Kyiv

(AP Photo/Mikhail Palinchak, Presidential Press Service)

The crackdown on Ukrainian corruption continues as oligarch (and former supporter of President Volodymyr Zelensky) Ihor Kolomoisky was detained in Kyiv on Saturday pursuant to a fraud investigation. 


A Ukrainian court ordered tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky to be held in custody for two months on suspicion of fraud and money laundering on Saturday, a striking move against one of the country's most powerful businessmen.

The detention of Kolomoisky, who is under U.S. sanctions and is a one-time supporter of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy whose election he backed in 2019, comes as Kyiv is trying to signal progress during a wartime crackdown on corruption.

Astute readers may recall that Kolomoisky's home was raided and searched by Ukrainian police in February in connection with an embezzlement investigation. I took a bit of a closer look into Kolomoisky's background at the time:

So…who exactly is Ihor (or Igor) Kolomoisky (or Kolomoyskyi) and why are Ukrainian officials cracking down on him now? The BBC provides a little more background:

Ukraine has come under increasing pressure from its Western partners, notably the EU, to tackle corruption. When Mr Zelensky came to power in 2019 he cited the fight against corruption as one of his main priorities.

Kyiv is due to host a summit with leading EU officials this week, seen by Ukraine as highly important in its push for membership of the 27-member union. Kyiv was granted EU candidate status four months after Russia’s invasion, but it was urged to do more to tackle corruption.

Ten leading Ukrainian figures resigned last week, as part of the purge, including Mr Zelensky’s deputy head of office Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

And how does Kolomoisky fit into all this?

Mr Kolomoisky is one of Ukraine’s best-known individuals and Ukrainian websites published pictures of detectives searching his home in the south-eastern city of Dnipro as he looked on.

The tycoon took on the role of governor of the wider Dnipropetrovsk region in 2014 and played a key role in funding volunteer battalions in response to Russia’s initial landgrab in eastern Ukraine.

However, the US placed him under sanctions for alleged “significant corruption” during his time as governor. He has denied any wrongdoing.


So, what is the reason for Kolomoisky's arrest on Saturday?  

The Security Service of Ukraine announced the case against Kolomoisky on Saturday morning, publishing photographs on Telegram Messenger showing him being served documents by security officers and signing them.

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

The interesting twist to the boom being lowered on Kolomoisky is that he has (or, at least, had) close ties to Zelsensky

Zelenskiy — a young comedian who rose to fame playing a humble schoolteacher who becomes president of Ukraine in the hit television show, “Servant of the People” — appeals to Ukrainians frustrated with the country’s oligarchic elite, and the failure to drain the swamp after the country’s 2014 revolution.

Ukrainians hope that Zelenskiy will fight for the common man instead. It’s a powerful narrative that has catapulted this political unknown within spitting distance of the presidency.

There’s just one major problem with it: the oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, whose television station 1+1 hosts Zelenskiy’s hit show.

Kolomoisky’s media outlet also provides security and logistical backup for the comedian’s campaign, and it has recently emerged that Zelenskiy’s legal counsel, Andrii Bohdan, was the oligarch’s personal lawyer. Investigative journalists have also reported that Zelenskiy traveled 14 times in the past two years to Geneva and Tel Aviv, where Kolomoisky is based in exile. Neither man could be reached for comment.


(That and, of course, his ties to Burisma.)

Now, Zelensky is singing a different tune regarding his former benefactor: 

After the ruling, Zelenskiy appeared to allude obliquely to the case in his evening address, thanking law enforcement agencies for showing resolve in bringing long-running cases to justice.

"Without a doubt, there will be no more decades-long 'business as usual' for those who plundered Ukraine and put themselves above the law and any rules... The law must work," he said.

Kolomoisky was ordered held until October 31 unless he can post a substantial bail of roughly $14 million. 

“If the businessman posts bail, he must fulfill a number of conditions – not leave the locality where he will be staying, appear for interrogations, and notify the relevant authorities of any change of residence, if any,” the Ukrinform report added.

“He is also prohibited from communicating with witnesses and other suspects in this criminal proceeding… and must also surrender his passports for traveling abroad.”


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