One of Ukraine’s most famous oligarchs is under investigation in Kyiv’s latest anti-corruption crackdown.
Law enforcement raided the house of Ihor Kolomoisky on February 1. A former ally of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the influential billionaire is suspected of embezzling oil products worth UAH40bn ($1.08bn) and evading customs payments, Ukrainian Pravda reported. He has always denied any wrongdoing.
In addition, searches were also conducted at the properties of the former interior minister Arsen Avako, pro-Kremlin lawmaker Vadym Stolar and Oksana Datiy, acting head of the State Tax Service's branch in Kyiv.
Investigations into the oligarch have been ongoing for months, concerning his close relationship with the oil companies Ukrtatnafta and Ukrnafta, in which Kolomoisky’s companies have significant shares. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) searched one of Kolomoisky’s homes in mid-September, 2022, seizing documents and downloading contents from a gadget. He was then questioned by NABU in October.
Despite funding Zelenskiy’s presidential campaign, the pressure for Kyiv to crack down on corruption led to the president stripping his former friend of his Ukrainian citizenship in July. Moreover, the government seized Ukrtatnafta and Ukrnafta in November under provisions put in place by martial law.
This is not the first time the billionaire has found himself in hot water, with the US sanctioning Kolomoisky in 2021 due to alleged corruption. Back in 2016, the government also seized Kolomoisky’s PrivatBank following near bankruptcy, accusing him and his business partner, Hennadiy Boholyubov, of "large-scale and co-ordinated fraud" relating to $5.5bn missing from the bank’s accounts.
Ukraine is ardently trying to prove to its Western allies that it is taking corruption seriously in a bid to ensure further funding as well as EU and possible Nato membership. The last month has seen the largest government reshuffles since the full-scale invasion, with numerous officials fired over scandals.
In addition to Kolomoisky, the latest crackdown targeted Avakov as part of an investigation into the tragic helicopter crash last month in Brovary that killed his successor Denys Monastyrsky. According to the Kyiv Independent, investigators looked into Avakov’s six-year-old-contracts with Airbus, the French company that manufactured the helicopter that crashed. Avakov claims that the investigation found “nothing”.
Ukraine’s Security Service searched pro-Kremlin politician Vadym Stolar, a member of the Opposition Platform – For Life Party, who fled Ukraine hours before Russia launched its invasion. He returned to maintain his post until the end of his term, but was blocked from leaving the country again in late January.
Meanwhile, the State Investigation Bureau raided the head of Kyiv’s State Tax Service's branch, Oksana Datiy, over suspicions that her opulent lifestyle didn’t match her official income, as well as for allegedly organising a $800mn corruption scheme at the tax office. Daity’s assets amounted to $1.4mn, including three apartments in Kyiv worth $1mn and a $200,000 house near Kyiv.
However, some critics are wary that Zelenskiy isn’t being even handed in the way he is targeting officials, and is turning a blind eye to some of his closest colleagues. His Deputy Chief of Staff Oleh Tatarov, accused of bribery in 2020, has avoided the crackdown and has since seen his case dropped by law enforcement.