Kyiv, May 6, 2014. Nearly USD 100 billion of Ukraine’s state budget was embezzled in the three years that Viktor Yanukovych was president, according to Ukraine’s interim attorney general Oleh Makhnitskyi, who released this information at the Ukraine Forum on Asset Recovery held in London. Currently, a special commission of Ukrainian and foreign experts is investigating 50 enterprises, banks and separate individuals indicted for money laundering.
“The whole state machine worked only to help specific officials and managers to manipulate state-funded projects and launder budget money. Officials with the access to public property, were stealing it [money – UCMC], while the whole system of law enforcement agencies did not notice these manipulations and crimes,” said Mykola Holomsha, deputy attorney general of Ukraine.
According to the first findings of the investigation, a major portion of the stolen assets were found in European banks, primarily in Austria and Switzerland. These bank assets have now been frozen and the commission is working on enforcing legal mechanisms to return the laundered funds to the state budget. Many of the assets were registered in foreign banks under different people’s names, including Yanukovych family members and the former president’s closest partners. Reportedly, at least USD 32 billion was physically transported out on February 18-20, when President Yanukovych was forced to flee the country after violent clashes in downtown Kyiv.
Asset freezes have also been applied to Viktor Yanukovych’s son Oleksandr – former director of MAKO holding, Andryi Klyuev – former First Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Serhyi Klyuev – former member of Ukrainian parliament, Mykola Prysyazhnyuk – former Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine, Viktor Pshonka – former prosecutor general, and Eduard Stavytskyi – former Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine, as well as others. In total, asset freezes have been applied to nearly 20 Ukrainian officials who were involved in money laundering under the Yanukovych regime.
Holomsha recognizes that till the last moment no one realized the scale of corruption, which was in the past four years.
Interestingly, the investigative commission found 42 kilograms of gold and USD 4.8 million in cash when inspecting the office of the former Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine after he was forced to resign and fled the country.
Additionally, the commission uncovered 14 Ukrainian banks that had laundered USD 13,5 billion over the past four years.
According to Ukraine’s attorney general, former President Viktor Yanukovych had been at the helm of an unimaginably corrupt network which was created with the aim of enriching himself and his closest counterparts. After Ukrainians ousted him in February, the mechanism collapsed and all who were involved in money laundering schemes will be investigated. To date, the government of Ukraine has opened 264 criminal cases on local businessmen and former high-ranking officials.