01.Feb .2023 20:00

Ukraine Raids Home Of Kolomoyskiy, Former Minister, In Fraud Case

Ukraine Raids Home Of Kolomoyskiy, Former Minister, In Fraud Case
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Agents from Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) and the Bureau of Economic Security have carried out searches on the homes of billionaire tycoon Ihor Kolomoyskiy and ex-Interior Minister Arsen Avakov in an alleged embezzlement case worth over $1 billion in what appears to be part of an effort to root out corruption amid the battle to repel invading Russian forces.

The SBU said in a post on Telegram that the searches on February 1 were carried out as part of an investigation into possible financial crimes involving two oil companies -- Ukrnafta and Ukrtatnafta -- which until late last year were partly owned by Kolomoyskiy, one of Ukraine's richest men.

"It was established that illegal mechanisms were combined with tax evasion and the legalization of funds obtained through criminal means," the SBU said.

Neither Kolomoyskiy nor Avakov have commented on the developments.

The raids, first reported by the Ukrainian media, come after Zelenskiy last month pledged to eradicate corruption amid a high-profile graft scandal.

David Arakhamia, the leader of the Servant of the People faction in parliament, confirmed on Telegram that raids were carried out on the two men, as well as at the premises of the Tax Office, .

He added that the management team of the Customs Service would be dismissed and that Ukraine, which was plagued by deep-seated corruption before Russian troops invaded almost a year ago, would undergo a change.

"The country will change during the war. If someone is not ready for change, then the state itself will come and help them change," Arakhamia wrote on Telegram.

Kolomoyskiy, one of Ukraine's richest men, is a former ally of Zelenskiy and owner of one of the country's most influential television channels. He backed Zelenskiy's election campaign in 2019.

Kolomoyskiy was indicted in the United States in 2020 on charges related to large-scale bank fraud. U.S. authorities have also alleged that Kolomoyskiy and a business partner laundered stolen funds through the United States.

The billionaire has denied any wrongdoing. Last year he was deprived of Ukrainian citizenship by Zelenskiy.

Avakov said his home was searched by security officials on February 1 in an investigation connected to a purchase of French-made Airbus helicopters, local media reported.

On January 18, an Airbus helicopter crashed, killing 14 people including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy and other top ministry officials.

Avakov, one of Ukraine's most influential officials, resigned in July 2021 after serving as interior minister for more than seven years.

Zelenskiy on January 23 said he would make personnel changes at senior and lower levels, following the most high-profile corruption allegations since Russia's invasion in February 2022.

"There are already personnel decisions -- some today, some tomorrow -- regarding officials at various levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in the regions and in law enforcement," Zelenskiy said.

Zelenskiy's announcement came after the deputy infrastructure minister was detained by anti-graft authorities on suspicion of receiving a $400,000 bribe over the import of generators in September, an allegation the minister denies.

Separately, the Defense Ministry was accused by an investigative newspaper of overpaying suppliers for troops' food. The supplier has said a technical mistake was to blame and no extra money had been paid.

Following Zelenskiy's pledge to clean out corruption, the deputy head of the presidential administration, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, announced on January 24 that he had tendered his resignation to the head of state.

"I thank the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the trust and the opportunity to do good deeds every day and every minute," Tymoshenko wrote on Telegram.

On January 25, prosecutors in five regions -- Zaporizhzhya, Kirovohrad, Poltava, Sumy, and Chernihiv --were removed from their posts.

Ukraine has long been marred by widespread corruption that has weakened the effectiveness of state institutions, even as the country faced an increasingly aggressive Russia since 2014, culminating with Moscow's full-scale invasion.

"The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was a stark reminder of the threat that corruption and the absence of government accountability pose for global peace and security," Transparency International said in its annual report on graft published earlier this week, RFE/RL reports.