Pinchuk hides acquisition of pricey London landmark
Grand Buildings, a landmark historical building on Trafalgar Square in London, is secretly owned by Victor Pinchuk, the billionaire Ukrainian oligarch, through a chain of offshore firms.
This fact was revealed by the Paradise Papers — 13.4 million leaked documents obtained in 2016 by the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. They were shared with an international team of investigative reporters, including the Washington, D.C.-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a Kyiv Post partner.
The investigation of the leaks was published by Slidstvo.info, an investigative show and OCCRP partner, on Nov. 8.
The records also mentioned other Ukrainian top officials, including President Petro Poroshenko; Sergiy Oleksiyenko, a board member of Ukrtransgaz, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the state oil and gas company Naftogaz; and Serhiy Kivalov, a member of the Opposition Bloc faction in parliament.
Pinchuk obtained the office building, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and a smaller building nearby as part of a settlement in his lawsuit against fellow Ukrainian billionaire oligarchs Ihor Kolomoisky and Hennadiy Bogolyubov in 2013.
Neither Pinchuk nor Kolomoisky agreed to comment on the leak, citing a confidentiality clause in their agreement.
Pinchuk and the two partners clashed in the High Court in London over the Kryviy Rih Iron Ore Enrichment Plant, a major ore mining company in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, which was privatized in 2004 for $40 million.
Pinchuk, now Ukraine’s fourth richest man, with a fortune was estimated at $1.3 billion by Focus magazine in 2016, claimed that his partners breached a contract and trust by failing to place the major asset under his ownership.
He insisted that Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov served as proxies for himself. As the son-in-law of thenUkrainian President Leonid Kuchma, an autocrat who ruled from 1994– 2005, Pinchuk couldn’t privatize the plant himself. Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov were supposed to privatize the plant and secretly pass it to him, but didn’t do so.
He sued the pair for $2 billion in compensation for his stake in the plant and the profit he would have received had the plant in his possession. Pinchuk claimed that he had paid $143 million for shares he never received, according to the court papers.
However, in 2016 the trio settled their dispute days before the hearings were to start. The details of the settlement were confidential, and no one knew what Pinchuk received to drop the case. But it’s not a secret anymore. According to leaked emails from Appleby, an offshore international law firm based on the Isle of Man, and Pinchuk’s lawyers from the British law firm Hogan Lovells, the lawyers in early 2016 — days before the settlement — requested the opening of a series of bank accounts so that Boholyubov and Kolomoisky could transfer money to Pinchuk. The exact sums are unknown.
A few days after the dispute between the oligarchs was settled, Appleby received another email from Hogan Lovells. They claimed that the parties had agreed to give Pinchuk two valuable London properties in addition to the money. In the leaked data, they explained that the properties had been registered by offshore companies on the Isle of Man, but would have to be re-registered to a new owner, and so they needed to set up a trust on the Island of Jersey that would take over ownership of the buildings.
One of the two properties was a multimillion-dollar office block overlooking Hyde Park at 27 Knightsbridge in London’s Belgrave Square. It was worth more than 75 million pounds as of the end of 2015.
The other building is the luxurious Grand Buildings on Trafalgar Square, overlooking Nelson’s Column and serving as the headquarters for several companies. It also houses a number of restaurants and boutiques. The Independent reported in 2013 that Bogolyubov originally paid 173 million pounds for the building in August 2010, buying it from Dubai-based investment firm Istithmar.
According to Slidstvo.info, both buildings are owned by a chain of offshore companies that leads to a trust on the Island of Jersey.
BY OLENA GONCHAROVA GONCHAROVA@KYIVPOST.COM
Grand Buildings, formerly the Grand Hotel, a landmark historical building on Trafalgar Square in central London is secretly owned by Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk. (AFP)
Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk. (Volodymyr Petrov)