Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a certain group of individuals in Ukraine made the most of the upheaval to make money. A lot of it. Since then, those same individuals have pretty much ruled the roost, exerting their power and influence (which, in some cases, has been enforced by regional militia) to exercise control over the political landscape of Ukraine. Of these, perhaps none are as infamous as Ihor Kolomoyskyi, the founder of Privatbank who recently made headlines when a Ukrainian court ruled that the government’s decision to nationalize Privatbank in 2016 was illegal. The decision to nationalize was made after investigations into the bank revealed a capital shortfall of more than $5 billion. The decision sent shockwaves through the financial community of the country and led to further allegations that Kolomoyskyi was trying to control the economy. Kolomoyskyi has retaliated by stating he has no desire to regain control over the bank and is instead seeking $2bn in compensation for the losses incurred during the nationalization. To find out more, read on.
1. He’s the 1941st richest person in the world
Each year, Forbes ranks the wealthiest individuals in the world. Regardless of whether they were born to wealth or made their own, if their bank account has a certain balance, they’ll make the grade. In Ihor Kolomoyskyi’s case, he made the grade and then some. The Ukrainian billionaire is currently sitting on a very healthy net worth of $1.1 billion USD, making him the #1941 richest person in the world.
2. He’s received several honors
Over the course of his life, Kolomoyskyi has been honored with several awards. Of these, one of the most distinguished is the Knight of the Order "For Merits" III degree he received in 2006. The title, which was established by Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma on September 22, 1996, is awarded by the Ukrainian government to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in economics, science, culture, military or political fields. Another honor of which Kolomoyskyi can feel justifiably proud is the “For sacrifice and love for Ukraine" awarded to him in 2015 by the UOC-KP and Patriarch Filaret.
3. He has a triple citizenship
In Ukrainian law, dual citizenship isn’t a “thing”. At least, it’s not an officially recognized “thing”. If a person applies for Ukrainian citizenship, they’re legally obliged to renounce their non-Ukrainian citizenship within 2 years of the Ukrainian equivalent being granted. Of course, for every law, there’s an exception, and the exception in this particular instance is Ihor Kolomoyskyi. Kolomoyskyi currently holds triple Ukraine-Israel-Cyprus citizenship, a feat he’s explained with "The constitution prohibits double citizenship but triple citizenship is not forbidden.".
4. He founded PrivatBank in the early 1990s
In 1992, Kolomoyskyi and fellow Ukrainian billionaire Henadiy Boholyubov founded PrivatBank. What started out as one office and a handful of computers quickly grew into the key bank in Ukraine; by 2016, it had a 51% market share in plastic cards, a 64% market share in settlements by individuals, 54% market share in deposits from individuals, and a52% market share in term deposits from individuals. All in all, it claimed to provide services to 48.6% of Ukrainians.
5. He owned over 48% of PrivatBank shares before privatization
Before PrivatBank was nationalized in 2016, over 98% of its shares were owned by the original founding members; Ihor Kolomoyskyi and Hennadiy Boholyubov. Hennadiy Boholubov claimed 23 773,384 shares or 49.027% of the total number, while Kolomoyskyi claimed 23 834,849 shares or 49.154%. Thanks to the bank’s numerous “business” activities, the massive scale of Kolomoyskyi’s wealth (which has declined significantly in recent years) exceeded the $3 billion mark, making him the third richest person in Ukraine (surpassed only by fellow oligarchs Rinat Akhmetov and Viktor Pinchuk.
6. He tried to take over the European Council of Jewish Communities
Kolomoyskyi, who was born in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukrainian SSR, USSR, to a Jewish family of engineers, has been an active supporter of Ukraine’s Jewish community and has served in several leadership positions in the Jewish community. In October 2010, he made a controversial bid to become the president of the European Council of Jewish Communities (an organization formed over 40 years to support and promote Jewish culture, heritage, and community). After his pledge to donate $14 million to the group over 5 years resulted in several prominent members of the council resigning in protest at the perceived putsch, he withdrew his bid.
7. He founded the European Jewish Union with Vadim Rabinovitch
After his attempt to take over the European Council of Jewish Communities failed, Kolomoyskyi teamed up with fellow oligarch Vadim Rabinovitch to found the European Jewish Union, an organization that purports to be "a uniting structure for all Jewish communities and organizations throughout Western, Eastern and Central Europe". The union’s attempt to establish a 120-member Parliament met with mockery after it announced the likes of Sasha Baron Cohen, Roman Polanski, and Diane von Furstenberg would be standing for election… despite very few, if any, of them have heard of the group. “Let’s be honest, it does not look serious,” said Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary-general of the Brussels-based EJC. “How can you bypass organized European Jewry and through the Internet call for people to elect or appoint whomever they have selected on whatever ground, on what basis God knows? It will only create tension in a time when it is necessary to be strong and united.”
8. He placed a 1 million bounty on Oleg Tsarev
In 2014, Voltaire reported that Kolomoisky had placed a bounty of $1 million on the head of Oleg Tsarev. According to the reports, Kolomoisky held Tsarev (the South-East pro-federalist leader) directly responsible for the death of a Jewish Kiev-coup supporter on May 9 in Mariupol. In a phone call to Tsarev, Kolomoisky advised that the Ukrainian Jewish community had offered to pay $ 1 million to whoever assassinated him; something the community itself denied, claiming that Kolomoisky was not representative of the wider opinion.
9. He agreed with the nationalization of Privatbank
In 2016, a two-year investigation into the bank concluded in its nationalization, given the government of Ukraine 100% control of the bank. Among the revelations that followed was the discovery that 97% of the bank's corporate loans had gone to companies linked to its shareholders. Shortly after the bank auditors the Ukraine subsidiary of PricewaterhouseCoopers, had its license removed after allegedly misrepresenting financial information, resulting in a balance sheet hole of $5.5 billion.
10. He didn’t come off well from a forensic audit
Following the nationalization of Privatbank, The National Bank of Ukraine completed a forensic audit into the bank’s former activities by corporate investigations specialists Kroll Inc. The end result was the finding that "PrivatBank was subjected to a large scale and coordinated fraud over at least a ten-year period ending December 2016, which resulted in the Bank suffering a loss of at least USD 5.5 billion." In addition, it was revealed that 95% of the bank’s lending had been to "parties related to former shareholders and their affiliates".
11. He was sued by Victor Pinchuk
In 2013, Kolomoisky was hit with a lawsuit from Victor Pinchuk, the founder of the pipe and wheel producer Interpipe and the investment vehicle EastOne. Pinchuk alleged that Kolomoisky (along with his cofounder of Privitbank, Bogolyubov) were holding Pinchuk’s property illegally. Pinchuk’s suit was based on the allegation that Bogolyubov and Kolomoisky sold him a shell company, Alcross Commercial Ltd., for $143 million in 2005. When Alcross turned out to be worthless, Kolomoisky promised to transfer the assets of Alcross owned Krivorozhskiy Zhelezorudnyy Kombinat (KZhRK), but subsequently sold 50% of the assets to a third party (thereby selling a portion of a company he didn’t own). The matter eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
12. He used hostile tactics to takeover companies
While Kolomoisky may have close relationships with certain politicians, it’s clear from some of his activities that he has no problem on living outside the law. According to Forbes Kolomoisky reportedly used "quasi-military forces" to aggressively takeover companies, even sending a team of "hired rowdies armed with baseball bats, iron bars, gas and rubber bullet pistols and chainsaws" on one notable occasion.
13. He’s has friends in high places
Given the extent of his influence over the years, it’ll probably come as little surprise to learn that Kolomoisky has routinely courted some of Ukraine’s key politicians. Yulia Tymoshenko and her Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko have been noted as allies of Kolomoisky (although according to RIA Novosti, the relationship took an ugly turn when Kolomoisky refused to finance Tymoshenko's election campaign in 2010). Other allies over the years has included Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko.
14. He owns 70% of the 1+1 Media Group
In addition to his influence in the sphere of politics, ferroalloys, finance, oil products, metal and petroleum industries, Kolomoisky also exerts considerable influence over mass media, thanks largely to his 70% ownership of 1+1 Media Group, which operates eight Ukrainian TV channels. Coincidently, one of its channels, aired a comedy series entitled "Servant of the People", which saw Volodymyr Zelensky play the role of president of Ukraine… a short time later, he went on to win the presidential race for real.
15. He was appointed Governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast in 2014
In March 2014, Kolomoisky was appointed Governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast by the then acting President Oleksandr Turchynovl. The appointment drew ire from high places, with President Vladamir Putin describing Kolomoyskyi as a "unique crook,” largely down to his alleged fraud against Roman Abramovich. ‘He [Kolomoyskyi] even managed to cheat our Roman Abramovich two or three years ago,” Putin went on to say. Scammed him, as our intellectuals like to say. They signed some deal, Abramovich transferred several billion dollars, while this guy never delivered and pocketed the money. When I asked him [Abramovich]: "Why did you do it?" he said: "I never thought this was possible." "
16. Russia requested he be added to Interpol’s wanted list
If Kolomoisky has influence, it certainly doesn’t extend to Russia. In July 2014, Russia called for the tycoon to be placed on Interpol’s wanted list after a Russian District Court authorized his arrest in absentia for "organizing the killing of civilians". In the face of overwhelming pressure, the Ukrainian government eventually bowed to pressure by dismissing Kolomoyskyi from the post of Dnipropetrovsk RSA Head. He was shortly replaced by Valentyn Reznichenko.
17. He fought against separatism
During his tenure as the Governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Kolomoisky fought against the idea of separatism. In what we now recognize as typical, he fought his position with some storing armed tactics, offering to pay $10,000 for each transferred Russian saboteur. It was later revealed he paid $10000 for the arrest of 8 Russian saboteurs.
18. He took on the might of Russia in court
In January 2016, Kolomoisky bought a case against Russia in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, arguing that Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 had resulted in him in being unable to operate a passenger airport in Crimea. Russia retailed in 2016 with the much more serious allegation of instructing murders and using illegal methods of warfare.
19. He was elected into the leadership of UKROP
In 2016, Kolomoyskyi was elected into the party leadership of Ukrainian Association of Patriots (UKOP), despite the fact that by the point he was no longer a party member. The party has alternatively been described as “center-left’ and ‘right wing nationalist”. While its politics may be unclear, what isn’t is that like Kolomoisky, there’s no love lost between it and Russia, which it’s described as a Fascist regime comparable to Hitler's Germany.
20. He was accused of defrauding PrivatBank of billions of dollars
In 2016, Kolomoyskyi and his business partner Gennadiy Bogolyubov were accused of defrauding PrivatBank of billions of dollars. The ensuing lawsuit resulted in $2.6 billion of the billionaire’s assets being frozen. However, at the High court in London, it was decided that PrivatBank had "fabricated" the case to bring about a claim in London and that no further action would be taken.
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Written by Allen Lee
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