The arrest over the weekend of Ihor Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine’s richest men, is seen as a sign of the Ukrainian authorities’ drive to root out corruption and curb the influence of the oligarchs.
On Saturday, a Kiev court ordered Mr Kolomoisky held in pre-trial detention for two months while authorities investigate charges of fraud and money laundering against him. Mr. Kolomoisky’s bail was set at around $14 million, and his lawyers said he would not pay it, adding that they would appeal the verdict, according to the British Daily Mail. Ukrainian media.
Mr. Kolomoisky’s arrest came a day before President Volodymyr Zelensky announced he would replace his defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, as the Defense Ministry faces investigations into mishandling of military contracts. Mr. Reznikov was not personally involved in the investigations.
Ukraine is stepping up its anti-corruption efforts as it tries to assuage its Western allies’ fears that wartime aid could be diverted for personal gain. Anti-graft efforts are also part of Ukraine’s case for closer integration with the EU – and eventually membership in it.
With a fortune of $1.67 billion, Mr. Kolomoiskyi has been ranked the fifth richest person in Ukraine recently. a report By the Kiev-based Center for Economic Strategy. His business interests included oil and banking, and he was once considered a protégé of Mr. Zelensky, a former comedian whose popular shows aired on Mr. Kolomoisky’s TV channel before he successfully ran for the presidency.
Suspicions of corruption and embezzlement have haunted Mr. Kolomoisky for years. In 2017, he left Ukraine for Switzerland and Israel after the government of then President Petro Poroshenko seized a bank he owned and accused him of widespread fraud that threatened to destabilize the Ukrainian economy.
He returned in 2019 after Zelensky’s defeat of Poroshenko, sparking fears that his ties to the new president would help him regain his economic and political influence.
But efforts by the government — including Mr. Zelensky, who campaigned against corruption and malign oligarchic influence — hampered Mr. Kolomoisky’s ability to assert himself. In 2020, the Ukrainian Parliament passed an anti-corruption bill that would prohibit the state from returning nationalized banks to their former owners, which appears to be aimed squarely at Mr. Kolomoisky.
A year later, the United States imposed sanctions on Mr. Kolomoisky. saying He has used his position as regional governor for his own personal advantage and has engaged in “ongoing efforts to undermine Ukraine’s democratic processes and institutions”.
The large-scale Russian invasion last year further affected Mr. Kolomoisky’s interests. Shortly after the war began, Russian forces destroyed an oil refinery in Kremenchug that was controlled by one of his companies. This year, the Ukrainian government nationalized that oil company and another associated company, citing what it described as the need to secure key supplies.
On Sunday, after Mr. Kolomoisky was placed in pretrial detention, the State Security Service of Ukraine said in a statement statement and that Mr. Kolomoisky laundered more than half a billion Ukrainian hryvnias, about $14 million, by transferring money abroad between 2013 and 2020 through banks under his control.
Despite efforts to root out corruption, Mr. Zelensky’s administration continued to be embroiled in scandals, including buying food for the army. And just last month, Mr. Zelensky ordered the dismissal of the directors of the country’s regional conscription centers, citing accusations that the officers were enriching themselves through draft-dodging schemes.
In an apparent reference to Mr. Kolomoisky’s case, Mr. Zelensky said in his case night address On Saturday, he thanked the police “for their determination to bring every case stalled for decades to a just end.”
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