Kolomoisky rails against Ukraine and Poroshenko
On Nov. 23, the High Court of London will hold another hearing in the case of Ukraine’s largest bank, the state-owned PrivatBank, against its former owners, billionaire oligarchs Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholyubov. The judge will deliver a decision on jurisdiction in the case, a source close to the matter told the Kyiv Post..
It is possible that the court might decide that it cannot rule on the case since neither of the oligarchs is a resident of England. On Nov. 22, lawmaker Serhii Leshchenko said — citing his own sources — that the decision had already been made.
If the information is true, Kolomoisky and Boholyubov can celebrate: The case will be closed, their assets will be unfrozen, and the bank will not retrieve billions of dollars that the former owners drained, costing taxpayers at least $5 billion.
The London court’s decision mirrors a similar verdict in another case against Boholyubov, who was sued by his former business partner Vadim Shulman. Shulman claimed that the oligarch had stolen over $500 million from him.
In February, a London court decided it didn’t have jurisdiction over the case because Boholyubov was not a resident of England at the time Shulman filed the lawsuit. In the court, the oligarch said he had moved to Geneva circa end of 2016 where his long-time business partner Kolomoisky had been living.
Similarly, Boholyubov and Kolomoisky’s defense argued that the two had not been residents in England before the asset freeze order of last December.
But oligarchs' legal battles with Ukrainian state don’t end there.
Kolomoisky is currently litigating against state oil and gas company Naftogaz over rights on oil-extracting company Ukrnafta.
Three Cyprus-registered firms,, which belong to the oligarch and own a minority stake in Ukranfta, filed a lawsuit to the Stockholm court against Naftogaz, the majority stakeholder, claiming $5.5 billion in damages for lost profits.
Naftogaz chairman Andriy Kobolyev said that they were in talks with Kolomoisky over a possible division of Ukrnafta's assets.
Despite losing one of their largest assets, PrivatBank, to nationalization and uncertainty over the future of Ukrnafta, Kolomoisky and Boholyubov are still rich: The two were ranked No. 4 and No. 5 in the list of the wealthiest Ukrainians, with an estimated $1.6 billion each. They control a large number of assets across industries: from media (1+1 television channel) and aviation (Ukraine International Airlines, Wind Rose, Interavia) to metallurgy and ferroalloy plants in Dnipropetrovsk oblast.
On upcoming elections
The two oligarchs rarely talk to journalists. But Kolomoisky recently sat down for an interview with Ukrainian journalist Sonya Koshkina, co-founder of the Levyi Bereg website. The interview was filmed in Herzliya, a city on the central coast of Israel, where the oligarch lives now, and posted on Koshkina’s YouTube channel on Nov. 20.
In the video, Kolomoisky said that the last time he was in Ukraine was in June 2017, and he wouldn’t return until a new president is elected in March 2019. “Only five months left,” he said. When Koshkina suggested that Poroshenko might be re-elected for a second term next year, he exclaimed: “This can’t be possible!”
“If it happens I will say that I don’t understand anything at all and will retire. Poroshenko has a thousand and one reason not to become the president again,” he said. “He likes to make a storm in a glass of water out of nowhere. Why do we need these stresses? If he is elected for another five years, we’ll need to change the strategy.”
Kolomoisky called the leader of Batkivshchyna political party, Yulia Tymoshenko, the favorite for the presidential race. The question is who will face her in the runoff election. The oligarch bets on comedy actor Volodymyr Zelensky, who has not declared his presidential ambitions yet, but has successfully played the Ukrainian president on television.
Ukrainian media have suggested that Kolomoisky backs Zelensky’s candidacy for president, and that the comedian's official announcement will come any day. Zelensky’s hit comedy show, Servant of the People, airs on 1+1 television channel, which belongs to the oligarch.
Kolomoisky predicts former Defende Minister Anatoliy Grytsenko will finish in third place in the elections.
“If (Okean Elzy frontman Svyatoslav) Vakarchuk runs for president, he will reshuffle the deck,” he said. “I have a very positive attitude towards him.”
Kolomoisky doesn’t mince his words when he talks about Poroshenko’s presidency and why it should end.
“I don’t want to judge his personal qualities but I would describe his presidency with two words: Total amorality. He tries to take advantage of any event to turn it in favour of his political career. When his rating began to decline, he suddenly decided to go after Tomos.”
Tomos is the official document that confirms the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Russian Orthodox Church. In October, the Ecumentical Patriarchate of Constantinople granted the decision to create a united independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Tomos that cements the historic event is expected to be issued in December.
“I like that Ukraine gets Tomos,” said Kolomoisky, who considers himself an observant Jew and says he doesn’t take business calls on Saturdays.
“But I don’t like when religion is used for political gains because then we are not different from our eastern neighbor where you can’t tell the president from the patriarch,” he said, referring to Russia where the Orthodox Patriarch Kirill is viewed as extremely close to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
On PrivatBank and IMF
Kolomoisky called the nationalization of PrivatBank in December 2016 “an illegal seizure of property without court order and compensation.”
“It wasn’t some plant that we had privatized. It was a wonderful audited bank that we established ourselves. The rest is insinuations.”
He believes it was a collusion between Poroshenko, former head of the National Bank Valeriya Gontareva, and the International Monetary Fund. The international lender pressured the Ukrainian government to nationalize PrivatBank, the largest in the country, because it was marred by insider loans and fraudulent transactions of $5.5 billion over the course of many years, as forensic auditor Kroll uncovered.
Kolomoisky hates the IMF calling it “a therapy for drug addicts that keeps them alive but doesn’t revive or heal them.”
“The country has been robbed under the patronage of the IMF and foreign embassies. Default hasn’t hurt anyone. You speak about default as if it means losing the state. Default would refresh us. Look at Greece!”
A year after the nationalization, in December 2017, the High Court in London ordered to freeze more than $2.5 billion in assets belonging to Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov.
The court left the two former PrivatBank owners with a weekly allowance of 20,000 British pounds.
“I’m okay with it (the freezing order),” said Kolomoisky in an interview published on Nov. 20. “There’s nothing terrible about it. We’ll survive.”
Ukrainian billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky is filmed during a press conference in Dnipro on Sept. 27, 2014, during his tenure as the governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. Kolomoisky says he hasn't been to Ukraine since 2017. He says that if he comes to Ukraine, authorities might not let him leave again. (UNIAN)