How Three European Oligarchs Looted 100s Of Millions From Ukraine
Three Ukrainian oligarchs traded part of around $1.5bn in illicit assets traced to cronies of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, an exclusive investigation by Al Jazeera revealed on Sunday.
They did so as the war-torn country struggled to return suspected misappropriated funds to its coffers.
An unsigned contract obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit identifies Alexander Onyschenko – the gas tycoon, former member of parliament and currently one of Ukraine’s most-wanted men – and Pavel Fuchs, a real estate tycoon who made his fortune in Moscow, as the buyers in the illegal deal.
Other documents suggest the seller was Serhiy Kurchenko – a fugitive Ukrainian gas tycoon based in Moscow who was known as Yanukovich’s “family wallet”.
The contract obtained by Al Jazeera, revealed in The Oligarchs investigation, said Onyschenko and Fuchs paid $30m, including cash and a private jet, for the Cyprus-based company, Quickpace Limited.
That company held $160m-worth of bonds and cash, which was frozen by a Ukrainian judge as they were suspected of being proceeds of crime.
The findings were “unbelievable”, said Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre (ANTAC).
“It sounds like an agreement between criminal bosses, you know? You can sign it with your blood.”
It is illegal in Ukraine and abroad to trade with frozen assets.
“The whole idea is I’ve frozen the asset because I think it’s the proceeds of crime,” said Jon Benton, former director of the International Corruption Unit at Britain’s National Crime Agency.
“It’s like trading in stolen goods that have been taken by the police. You’re putting the cash in the getaway car,” he told Al Jazeera.
The buyers aim to make a $130m profit by persuading a judge to unfreeze the assets.
Article 4.4 of the contract said that the buyers would cooperate in “taking action to remove the arrest from the accounts” held by Quickpace Limited.