Jour­nal­ists un­cover lux­ury houses, Rus­sian cit­i­zen­ship of top in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer’s fam­ily

Kyiv Post - - Front Page - BY YULIANA ROMANYSHYN ROMANYSHYN@KYIVPOST.COM

The fam­ily of a top of­fi­cer of the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice have Rus­sian pass­ports and have ac­quired ex­pen­sive real es­tate in the past four years, ac­cord­ing to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Ukrainian jour­nal­ists.

Jour­nal­ists from the Bi­hus.info web­site found that rel­a­tives of Ser­hiy Se­mochko, first deputy head of the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice, also visit Rus­sian-oc­cu­pied Crimea reg­u­larly. His fam­ily owns $7 mil­lion in real es­tate near Kyiv, ob­tained af­ter the Krem­lin launched its war on Ukraine in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the jour­nal­ists.

The Na­tional Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bureau of Ukraine an­nounced on Oct. 3 that it had opened a crim­i­nal case against Se­mochko, based on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the jour­nal­ists. Se­mochko is sus­pected of il­le­gal en­rich­ment, the bureau said.

Be­fore get­ting a job with the for­eign in­tel­li­gence, Se­mochko had a long ca­reer with the Se­cu­rity Ser­vice of Ukraine, or SBU, the pow­er­ful law en­force­ment agency with 40,000 em­ploy­ees and far-rang­ing pow­ers.

The Crimea-born Se­mochko

served as the head of the eco­nomic coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence de­part­ment and later the head of the SBU’s Kyiv of­fice.

Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko ap­pointed him as the first deputy head of the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice on July 31. The in­tel­li­gence agency is an in­de­pen­dent state body, con­trolled di­rectly by the pres­i­dent.

No re­ac­tion

A video de­tail­ing the re­sults of the jour­nal­ists’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion was posted on­line on Oct. 1. Nei­ther the SBU, FIS or any other top of­fi­cials have so far com­mented on the al­le­ga­tions made by the jour­nal­ists.

The For­eign In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice re­fused to com­ment on Se­mochko to Kyiv Post, say­ing “it’s not within our com­pe­tence.” The SBU re­fused re­quests from the Kyiv Post for com­ment on the ba­sis that Se­mochko no longer works with the se­cu­rity ser­vice.

“The si­lence of Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, the si­lence of other of­fi­cials and politi­cians about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the jour­nal­ists of prop­erty and rel­a­tives in Rus­sia, Ser­hiy Se­mochko, looks ir­re­spon­si­ble and help­less,” Cen­sor.net news web­site chief ed­i­tor Yuri Bu­tusov wrote on Face­book.

Ye­hor Soboliev, a law­maker from the 26-mem­ber Samopomich Party, asked in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s par­lia­ment, for SBU Head Yaroslav Hryt­sak to come to par­lia­ment on Oct. 3 and ex­plain to law­mak­ers how Se­mochko had come by his for­tune.

“The jour­nal­ists found out that Se­mochko only ob­tained real es­tate worth mil­lions of dol­lars in the last few years, the years of war,” Soboliev said.

As it is not easy for in­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple to move from Crimea and set­tle some­where new, there is “no chance to get prop­erty in such amounts with­out sell­ing the na­tional in­ter­ests of Ukraine in wartime,” Soboliev said.

“This is deadly dan­ger to hun­dreds of real in­ves­ti­ga­tors and a threat to all of us,” he later added in a post on Face­book.

This is not the first scan­dal in­volv­ing de­fense and se­cu­rity of­fi­cers and other of­fi­cials hav­ing links to Rus­sia, but all cases against them have stalled. For in­stance, Deputy De­fense Min­is­ter Ihor Pavlovsky and the head of the min­istry’s pro­cure­ment de­part­ment Volodymyr Hu­lyevych are sus­pected of em­bez­zling Hr 149 mil­lion ($5.3 mil­lion) through the pur­chase of fuel at in­flated prices. Pavlovsky was placed un­der house ar­rest in Oc­to­ber 2017 but was re­leased af­ter a month.

Poroshenko on Aug. 30 ap­pointed Va­len­tyna Si­mo­nenko as a jus­tice of the Supreme Court, though checks by the Kyiv Post show she was reg­is­tered as a Rus­sian tax­payer in Rus­sian-an­nexed Crimea in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial reg­is­ter of Rus­sia’s Fed­eral Tax Ser­vice.

Find­ings

Un­like other state of­fi­cials, the elec­tronic as­set dec­la­ra­tions of in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers, de­tail­ing their in­come, real es­tate, and fam­ily for­tunes, are not pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble.

The jour­nal­ists be­came in­ter­ested with Se­mochko a year ago, when me­dia re­ported the halt­ing of the pro­cure­ment of medicines for kid­ney fail­ure, in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist and the au­thor of the Bi­hus.info story Le­sia Ivanova said. They first found very lit­tle in­for­ma­tion on Se­mochko — for in­stance, there were no pic­tures of him.

To un­cover Se­mochko’s for­tune, Ivanova fol­lowed the car he used, an­a­lyzed so­cial me­dia ac­counts be­long­ing to his rel­a­tives, and used a drone to ob­serve his prop­erty from the air.

Ivanova found that he trav­eled in a Toy­ota Land Cruiser to a house in the wealthy neigh­bor­hood of Kon­cha-Zaspa. The house is owned by Te­tiana Ly­senko, whose daugh­ter owns two other pieces of real es­tate worth mil­lions of dol­lars, all of which was bought in 2017.

The jour­nal­ists found ev­i­dence that Se­mochko and Ly­senko are a cou­ple, and have a child to­gether. One of the links dates to 2013, when they both pri­va­tized two land plots next to each other in Yalta, in Rus­sian-oc­cu­pied Crimea.

Ac­cord­ing to the jour­nal­ists, Se­mochko, Ly­senko and her chil­dren do not of­fi­cially earn enough money to buy real es­tate worth a to­tal of Hr 200 mil­lion ($7.1 mil­lion).

The jour­nal­ists al­leged that to make the for­tune, Se­mochko and his de­part­ment had blocked the in­ter­na­tional pro­cure­ment of medicines to treat kid­ney dis­ease.

While serv­ing as head of the eco­nomic coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence de­part­ment, Se­mochko signed doc­u­ments to pre­vent the pro­cure­ment of drugs needed for dial­y­sis, the pro­ce­dure re­quired by pa­tients suf­fer­ing from kid­ney fail­ure. Th­ese drugs are pro­vided by the state un­der the state med­i­cal in­sur­ance pro­gram. Once pa­tients start us­ing th­ese par­tic­u­lar medicines — pro­duced by Amer­i­can com­pany Bax­ter — they can­not for med­i­cal rea­sons switch to us­ing al­ter­na­tive med­i­ca­tions.

Jour­nal­ists al­lege that pro­cure­ment of th­ese drugs was blocked on Se­mochko’s or­ders, ad­vis­ing that al­ter­na­tive med­i­ca­tions be pro­cured in­stead.

Ser­hiy Hrystynchenko, the head of a de­part­ment of the Di­avita med­i­cal equip­ment com­pany, claimed that Se­mochko’s eco­nomic coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence de­part­ment at the SBU had de­manded a bribe to re­store the sup­ply of med­i­ca­tions.

Around 200 peo­ple died be­cause they were un­able to get their med­i­ca­tions in time, Hrystynchenko said.

Rus­sian pass­ports

Se­mochko’s fam­ily also ap­pear to have ob­tained Rus­sian cit­i­zen­ship.

Pic­tures of the data pages of the pass­ports of three of Se­mochko’s rel­a­tives – Ly­senko, her daugh­ter Anas­ta­sia Ko­ton, and son-in-law Volodymyr Ko­ton – were leaked on Face­book in Au­gust. Bi­hus.info jour­nal­ists were able to con­firm the au­then­tic­ity of two of the three pass­ports through the Rus­sia’s Fed­eral Tax Ser­vice web­site. They also found that other rel­a­tives of Se­mochko had ap­par­ently ob­tained Rus­sian pass­ports.

In to­tal, eight Se­mochko’s rel­a­tives al­legedly have Rus­sian cit­i­zen­ship, the jour­nal­ists claim.

While NABU has started in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Se­mochko’s ex­pen­sive real es­tate pur­chases, law en­force­ment hasn’t re­acted to his fam­ily al­leged dual cit­i­zen­ship. Hav­ing more than one cit­i­zen­ship is not al­lowed in most cases in Ukraine, ac­cord­ing to the leg­is­la­tion.

“On this part, I don’t see an of­fi­cial re­ac­tion or of­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion (start­ing),” Ivanova said.

“How­ever, log­i­cally, this should be the first thing to be checked,” she said.

Se­mochko’s fam­ily of­ten ap­pears to va­ca­tion in Crimea, tak­ing pic­tures on the Black Sea coast, of­ten in front of the same blue he­li­copter.

Lawyer from the Rean­i­ma­tion Pack­age of Re­forms think tank Olek­sandr Le­menov said he has doubts Se­mochko gained his for­tune legally.

A col­lage shows three houses worth $7 mil­lion owned by fam­ily mem­bers of Ser­hiy Se­mochko, one of Ukraine's top for­eign in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers. The houses are lo­cated in the elite Kyiv sub­urb of Kon­cha-Zaspa and nearby vil­lage of Kozyn, ac­cord­ing to the jour­nal­ists of Bi­hus.info in­ves­tiga­tive re­port­ing project. (Bi­hus.info)

Ser­hiy Se­mochko, first deputy head of the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice and an ap­pointee of Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, is tied to mil­lions of dol­lars in real es­tate hold­ings, ac­cord­ing to jour­nal­ists from Bi­hus.info.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ukraine

© PressReader. All rights reserved.