With money looted from the state and stashed in tax havens abroad, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych bought the largest log cabin in the world — a $2 billion “monument to corruption,” according to an investigation by Al Jazeera.
Through dozens of contracts and court filings, Al Jazeera reporters mapped the circuitous route Yanukovych took to funnel $1.5 billion worth of assets to offshore businesses. A sprawling 95-page secret court document revealed that Investment Capital Ukraine (ICU), a Kiev-based financial group, facilitated the purchase of stolen government bonds on behalf of eight Cypriot shell companies — all tied to Yanukovych.
Three Ukrainian oligarchs traded $160 million worth of assets held in one of these corporations, Quickpace Limited. According to an unsigned contract, oil tycoon Alexander Onischenko and real estate mogul Pavel Fuchs — who has had dealings with President Donald Trump — bought the company for just $30 million. A Ukrainian judge suspected the assets were proceeds from criminal activities and froze them before the pair could make a staggering profit.
The seller, billionaire Serhiy Kurchenko, is known among Ukrainian investigators as Yanukovych’s “family wallet.”
Before he was toppled in the course of the Ukrainian revolution in 2014, Yanukovych and his cronies pumped illicit assets into Ukraine-based companies and then transferred them to offshore accounts. From there, the funds were redirected to a slew of shell companies in Cyprus, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, the UK and other countries.
Elaborate money laundering schemes have been a main focus of WhoWhatWhy’s reporting. One of our most-read stories of 2017 was an expose of Trump’s business dealings with developer Felix Sater and the Bayrock Group, a real estate firm with ties to the Russian mob. More recently we took a close look at Deutsche Bank, a banking colossus tainted by charges of money laundering.
Watch the videos below to learn more about the staggering corruption that bedevils impoverished Ukraine — and often benefits Western partners.
Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from room (US Department of State / Wikimedia), coat of arms (Alex Khristov / Wikimedia), Onischenko (Wes Andrews / Twitter), Fuchs (Wes Andrews / Twitter), Yanukovych (Alexis Tsipras Prime Minister / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0) and Kurchenko (Pavel Markelov / Wikimedia).