Results of 2021 for Ukrainian oligarchs. Part 2

In the second part, we analyse the results of 2021 for the oligarchs Petro Poroshenko, Viktor Pinchuk, Serhii Liovochkin, Kostiantyn Zhevaho and Dmytro Firtash. 

 

Petro Poroshenko

 

2021 was indeed extremely difficult for Petro Poroshenko, as the oligarch Kolomoiskyi, with the political support of President Zelenskyi, created intolerable conditions for political and economic life for the leader of the “European Solidarity” Party. The oligarch Poroshenko had to constantly defend himself from attacks of the President’s Office, and thus, he was forced to concentrate resources on defence, rather than on reducing his political anti-rating and preparing for elections.

The “Novoe Vremia” magazine and Dragon Capital of Czech oligarch Tomas Fiala estimated Petro Poroshenko’s assets in 2021 at USD 1.5 billion.

On the one hand, Kolomoiskyi wants to nullify Poroshenko’s assets politically and economically and avenge the nationalization of “Privatbank”. On the other hand, Zelenskyi has a plan to weaken Poroshenko through the law on oligarchs, Poroshenko has a high anti-rating, and it will be unrealistic for him to win over Zelenskyi while having the status of an oligarch. The President’s Office understands that Poroshenko is an advantageous sparring partner for Zelenskyi for the next presidential election, although he is very disgusting ideologically.

In addition to a large number of criminal cases, the President’s Office uses economic instruments to influence Poroshenko’s business, including antitrust penalties and fines. At the end of December 2021, the Antimonopoly Committee fined a confectionery group of companies from the “Roshen” orbit associated with Petro Poroshenko for a total of UAH 283.63 million. The fine was imposed for two violations of the law on protection of economic competition in the form of abuse of monopoly position in the national market of primary sale of molasses of starch corn and glucose syrups. In addition, large fines were imposed directly on the “Roshen” confectionery plants in Kyiv and Vinnytsia (due to violations of fire and sanitary safety provisions); the regulatory bodies conduct regular inspections of the “Roshen” retail stores across the country.

Poroshenko’s corporation also has problems in the agricultural sector (in Vinnytsia region, law enforcement agencies are investigating tax evasion by the agrarian business of the former President); there are also problems in Poroshenko’s bank – profits of the International Investment Bank are falling sharply, and bank analysts consider it a bad bank, which may be nationalized after the arrest (it will also be a kind of mini-revenge from Kolomoiskyi).

During 2021, Petro Poroshenko was forced to spend his time and resources on lawyers and was constantly distracted to fight the President’s Office. At the end of December 2021, Poroshenko entered in the declaration that he had spent almost UAH 11 million on legal services. According to Petro Poroshenko’s lawyer Illia Novikov, as of early January 2021, almost 60 criminal cases have been opened against Petro Poroshenko, in which the former President appeared as a witness, suspect or “unidentified person”. More than 40 cases were in the State Bureau of Investigation, 8 cases in the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, 3 cases in the National Police and 2 cases in the Security Service of Ukraine. According to Poroshenko’s lawyer, when defence closes some cases that are duplicated, the courts reopen them upon appeals of the Prosecutor’s Office and so on.

However, the most serious case for Poroshenko is the case on treason over the coal trade with the SADLR, under which his partner – Viktor Medvedchuk – was placed under house arrest.

On December 20, 2021, the State Bureau of Investigation informed Petro Poroshenko of suspicion of treason and aiding and abetting the “DPR-LPR” terrorist organizations. This is the second suspicion of Poroshenko; the first one was announced in the case on the illegal appointment of Serhii Semochko as the first deputy head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, but no precautionary measures were imposed on Poroshenko in that case.

On January 6, 2022, the Pechersk District Court seized all the property of the fifth President of Ukraine and head of the “European Solidarity” Party Petro Poroshenko, which was declared in his electronic declaration (including multimillion cash). On the same day, Poroshenko announced that he would return to Ukraine on January 17.

In general, according to our sources from the President’s Office, the authorities want to put Petro Poroshenko under house arrest, as was done with Viktor Medvedchuk, and present it as a real de-oligarchization to stop the decline in Zelenskyi’s ratings. A large financial bail is also being prepared for Petro Poroshenko upon his return to Ukraine, under the same scenario as in respect of Medvedchuk.

On the other hand, our sources from Petro Poroshenko’s team say that Poroshenko would refuse to pay bail, and he would be quite ready to go to pre-trial detention centre. The closed poll conducted at the end of the year for Poroshenko by Ihor Hryniv showed that Petro Poroshenko’s imprisonment would raise his political ratings up to 25 percent. Therefore, Petro Poroshenko is ready to play Zelenskyi’s game for the political perspective of the 2024 presidential election. The main disadvantage of this strategy is the state of health of Poroshenko. His diabetes is progressing, as well as his need in constant medical supervision. According to our information, in case of great stress, Poroshenko immediately gains a risk of diabetic coma.

In any way, the political finale over the “Poroshenko-Kolomoiskyi-Zelenskyi” confrontation approaches. In all likelihood, at the end of January 2022, Poroshenko will be sent at least under house arrest; and as a maximum – Poroshenko will be placed in a pre-trial detention centre. Of course, Poroshenko will play on the image of a political sufferer who suffers from the regime of Zelenskyi, and this will affect the sociological results. Each side will mobilize its electorate, and thus split the country in the face of Russia’s threat of invasion.

In May 2022, Petro Poroshenko will definitely be included in the list of oligarchs, even though he formally registered his TV channels “Channel 5” and “Priamyi” to affiliated people and journalists. If Poroshenko is placed under house arrest or actual arrest, the functions of coordinator and leader of the “European Solidarity” Party will be transferred to Oleksandr Turchynov who will be involved in the party’s work and preparations for the 2023 parliamentary elections. At the same time, the President’s Office fears that Poroshenko will manage to mobilize people to protest in Kyiv, either alone or with Akhmetov – it will depend on the political situation and Zelenskyi’s decisions around the Minsk agreements and the energy crisis.

 

Viktor Pinchuk

 

Thanks to his traditional policy of “oligarchic neutrality” in relations with the authorities, Viktor Pinchuk had a very good and calm 2021 year. Oligarch Pinchuk’s metallurgical, energy and gas business developed predictably, stably and was well-measured; assets were bought and sold; Pinchuk’s oligarchic buttons in Parliament regularly supported all initiatives of the President’s Office; and Pinchuk’s TV channels provided a warm bath for the authorities and Zelenskyi on constant terms.

The “NV” magazine and the investment company Dragon Capital of the Czech oligarch Tomas Fiala estimated the assets of Viktor Pinchuk in 2021 at USD 2.6 billion.

As for business, Pinchuk continued earning well on state contracts. Oligarch Pinchuk did not suffer from the so-called anti-oligarchic law 5600, which increased rents for some metallurgical oligarchs (except Kolomoiskyi, as the new rental rates do not apply to the extraction of manganese and magnesium ore).

In particular, in December 2021, Pinchuk’s “Inter Pipe Niko Tube” won one of the largest tenders from “Ukrgasvydobuvannya” for the supply of pipes worth almost UAH 2 billion.

Pinchuk also regularly sold wheels and other equipment for cars to “Ukrzaliznytsia” on favourable terms, earning about UAH 1 billion. In addition, Pinchuk’s structures made good money in 2021 on green energy, like other producers (official financial results for 2021 will be published only in February 2022).

In 2021, oligarch Pinchuk’s gas company “Geo Alliance” extracted about 150 million cubic meters of gas, selling it at market prices and partially supplying it for the needs of its green metallurgy.

In June 2021, Pinchuk abandoned two unprofitable oil and gas fields in Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions. Authorities then reported that as a result of de-oligarchization and the NSDC decisions, oligarch Pinchuk has given the state two licenses to extract oil and gas. In fact, these two deposits were deeply unprofitable, and “Geo Alliance” got rid of those illiquid assets without any problems.

In early January 2022, it became known that Pinchuk’s “Geo Alliance” had bought a 50% stake in “Geo-Alliance Oil-Gas Public limited” from the Dutch company “Arawak Energy Ukraine BV” (part of the “Vitol” group of companies). Thus, Pinchuk became the owner of 100% of the shares of this company. The media write that Pinchuk bought the shares of “Geo-Alliance Oil-Gas Public limited” because of the risk of falling into the list of oligarchs, and therefore Western investors decided not to take risks and sold the asset. According to another version, Pinchuk was consolidating all his oil and gas assets, as this was a very lucrative topic on which he could earn extra profits in conditions of energy crisis.

During 2021, there were rumours that Pinchuk was looking for a buyer to partially sell his TV channels, primarily entertainment “STB” and “Novyi” Channels. However, there were no buyers, as the oligarch set a high price for media assets.

At the end of 2021, it became known that Pinchuk had sold his “M1” and “M2” music channels and licenses to broadcast them to a close partner of Zelenskyi and Kolomoiskyi, Tymur Mindich. The assets were registered on the company of Tymur Mindich “Solutions media”. At the same time, the media spread information that Serhii Shefir was the one who initiated the purchase of these TV channels. In this way, Pinchuk was helping the authorities of Zelenskyi build their media empire to loyally cover President Zelenskyi’s activities. According to available information, in 2022, “M1” and “M2” music channels will be transformed into news TV channels with shadow funding laundered on the big construction.

During 2021, oligarch Pinchuk tried unsuccessfully to sell his 46-meter yacht Siren for almost USD 13 million. The yacht was bought in 2010.

As for political projects, oligarch Pinchuk will support the political project of showman Serhii Prytula who hosts entertainment shows on the oligarch’s channels. The project of Prytula can have an electoral success in Western Ukraine, creating competition for Petro Poroshenko’s party. There is also information spread in political circles that Pinchuk will be one of the beneficiaries and sponsors of the future political project that will be created by Artem Sytnyk after his dismissal from the National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Future anti-corruption party of Artem Sytnyk will be built at expense of human and financial resources of oligarch Pinchuk who has one of the largest personnel reserves in Ukraine. Of course, Pinchuk will continue laying eggs in various baskets in old political projects, such as “Batkivshchyna” of Yuliia Tymoshenko, “Servant of the People” of Zelenskyi, and so on.

 

Kostiantyn Zhevaho

 

Kostiantyn Zhevaho is one of the richest Ukrainian metallurgical oligarchs who is forced to hide abroad due to problems with Ukrainian justice and conflict with Kolomoiskyi. According to available information, Zhevaho is currently in the United Arab Emirates, where he is trying to protect and moderate his business.

The “NV” magazine and the investment company Dragon Capital of the Czech oligarch Tomas Fiala estimated the assets of Kostiantyn Zhevaho’s Ferrexpo at almost USD 1.5 billion (top 5 richest people in Ukraine).

Thanks to record prices for iron ore, Zhevaho was able to earn a lot of money, which, however, did not help him solve problems in Ukraine and normalize relations with the authorities of Zelenskyi. Total revenue of Ferrexpo from iron ore mining and sales in 2021 is estimated at about USD 3 billion (these are dirty profits, including taxes and ore mining costs).

First, Zhevaho has always had a strong corporate conflict with Ihor Kolomoiskyi over influence in the Poltava region, as well as over control of metallurgical assets. At the end of December 2021, Zhevaho accused Kolomoiskyi of using the support of Zelenskyi’s authorities to take away the Poltava Mining and Processing Plant (MPP) through the courts to re-privatize the asset later under a new tender (and this is the 3rd largest MPP in Ukraine). Later, Zhevaho said that Kolomoiskyi, together with his partners – Russian businessmen – Eugene Giner and Alexander Babakov wanted to cancel the agreement on the sale of Poltava MPP dated 2002 through the courts. Zhevaho is actively defending himself, positioning Ferrexpo as a Swiss company with international capital. In recent years, Zhevaho has even tried to enlist the support of the Swiss government for protecting Swiss business in Ukraine, obtaining visa protection, and so on, albeit unsuccessfully (In general, it is a common scheme for Ukrainian oligarchs to use Swiss jurisdiction to launder money or to register formal business companies that use a Swiss sign for their business in Ukraine. This is what Zhevaho, Akhmetov, Pinchuk, Kolomoiskyi, Poroshenko do, and even Medvedchuk did with his “Glusko” company). Zhevaho is currently campaigning in the media against Kolomoiskyi and the Russians, talking about a threat of the raider capture of his business.

Secondly, Zhevaho’s position in Ukraine has significantly weakened due to the resignation of Arsen Avakov from the post of Minister of Internal Affairs. Avakov, as the Minister of Internal Affairs, helped Zhevaho a lot by blocking criminal cases at the level of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as cases of alienation of the oligarch’s property in the framework of the banking case on “Finance and Credit”. We shall remind that Zhevaho is suspected of embezzling and laundering more than UAH 1.5 billion from his “Finance and Credit” Bank from 2007 to 2014. In October 2021, Zhevaho was put on the Ukrainian wanted list.

In 2021, the Individual Deposit Guarantee Fund filed a lawsuit in the High Court of London to seize the global assets of the oligarch Zhevaho in connection with the theft of funds from the “Finance and Credit” Bank. The Deposit Guarantee Fund has demanded USD 600 million in compensation from Zhevaho for Ukrainian depositors. The High Court of London has considered the lawsuit, as 3 British companies and citizens of the United Kingdom were involved in the laundering of funds from the Ukrainian bank by Zhevaho. However, the High Court of London refused to impose a global seizure of Zhevaho’s assets, as this decision required the application of Ukrainian legislation and the previous verdicts of Ukrainian courts. Therefore, the banking case of financial fraud of the oligarch Zhevaho, as well as Kolomoiskyi’s banking fraud – are blocked in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian authorities see the case of Zhevaho as an opportunity to take away his business and share it with Kolomoiskyi, instead of bringing both oligarchs-fraudsters to justice.

At the same time, Kostiantyn Zhevaho is trying to block tenders for the sale of his property through the “Setam” electronic bidding system. His lawyers and attorneys are actively suing the National Bank, challenging property seizures, and so on.

At the end of 2021, Zhevaho has managed save from bankruptcy his “AvtoKraz” company, which produces military trucks and chassis for trucks. General Director of “Avtokraz” Roman Cherniak said in late December that the company received a large portfolio of orders of 1,000 trucks for 2022. Most orders shall cover the needs of the Ministry of Defence. In turn, according to local Kremenchug mass media, the “KRAZ” conveyors are stopped, and work is not carried out there.

Kostiantyn Zhevaho continues being one of the co-owners of the “Espresso” news channel. As for political projects, this oligarch traditionally provides financial support to Yuliia Tymoshenko and Volodymyr Hroisman.

Currently, Zhevaho is trying to organize a new business in Ukraine – the production of alcohol and spirits. During 2021, Zhevaho-related individuals and companies bought 5 distilleries in Ukraine at auctions for a ridiculous amount of UAH 300 million (about EUR 1 million). However, the modernization of these plants is not underway, as Zhevaho is waiting for better political times.

 

 

Serhii Liovochkin and Dmytro Firtash

 

During 2021, the “Liovochkin-Firtash” group remained in the political shadow and did not have much influence on the processes of political competition.

Serhii Liovochkin was busy strengthening his apparatus positions in the structure of the OP “For Life”, as Medvedchuk fell under the sanctions of the NSDC and house arrest.

In turn, Dmytro Firtash was actively looking for buyers for the leftovers of his business. In particular, at the end of 2021, the media reported that Dmytro Firtash sold his titanium business in the occupied Crimea to the Russian company “Russian Titan”. According to the media, the company “Russian Titan” was established in July 2021 with a share capital of only 10 thousand rubles. In addition, in 2021, Firtash was actively selling his agribusiness and construction business, as well as real estate (all these assets were not large and did not have a monopoly on the Ukrainian market, unlike chemical or gas sector in the empire of Firtash). Most likely, the consolidation of assets of Firtash in Ukraine is primarily due to the fact that the oligarch seeks to reduce the cost of asset administration.

At the end of 2021, Dmytro Firtash lost in court a very important case, as a result of which he lost control of the Zaporizhia Titanium and Magnesium Plant, and the company was returned to the state. Firtash owned a 49% stake in the Zaporizhia Titanium and Magnesium Plant through the offshore company Tolexis Trading Limited, and robbed the company through loyal management; in addition, the oligarch undertook to invest USD 110 million in the modernization of this enterprise. However, in 2013-2015, the oligarch’s efforts created corruption schemes, multimillion-dollar debts for electricity and wages, and so on. For this reason, the State Property Fund terminated the agreement with Firtash who has already announced that he would appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.

In 2021, Firtash has finally lost his political control over the largest group of companies in the field of titanium ore production – the United Mining and Chemical Plant, which has not been prepared for privatization due to the position of the President’s Office and Serhii Shefir.

However, in early January 2022, the media reported that the regional gas company Group DF aimed to resume operations in the field of trade and storage of liquefied natural gas.

In general, Dmytro Firtash’s position is deteriorating every year in Ukraine. Due to high gas prices, his chemical industry assets has come to a complete halt; and the gas monopoly on gas supply and distribution to the population is also under constant scrutiny by the National Security and Defence Council – NSDC. In general, Firtash is afraid that at any moment he may lose his business in regional gas companies. In addition, the Americans are pressuring the Austrian authorities not to interfere with the extradition of Firtash to the USA to administer American justice to the oligarch. At the very least, the resignation of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz who actively defended the Ukrainian oligarch and used his planes and other benefits, significantly weakened the position of “Viennese oligarch Firtash”.

Therefore, the situation for Firtash is very uncertain and dangerous. Of course, having the “Inter” channel at his disposal, Firtash is to some extent balancing with the authorities. The matter is that the main negotiator with the President’s Office here is Serhii Liovochkin who is forming his own agenda. It is far from the fact that Liovochkin defends Firtash’s interests in communication with the President’s Office. At the very least, Liovochkin’s lobbying services towards Firtash in 2020-2021 did not yield any results; moreover, they worsened Firtash’s position. According to the “OPFL” circles, Liovochkin brings more harm to Firtash, than use; he cooperates with the Americans behind Firtash’s back rather than helping his partner. In addition, Liovochkin, taking advantage of Medvedchuk’s weakness, actively took control of party organizations and bought out deputies in regional councils in the OP “For Life” faction. For this reason, the government of the Russian Federation imposed sanctions against Serhii Liovochkin, demonstrating that this man should not be trusted, once the Kremlin imposes sanctions against him.

Liovochkin’s logic is also clear – this oligarch wants to stay in the game and keep his business in the authority structure of Zelenskyi. To do this, Liovochkin traditionally sells Yurii Boiko to the President’s Office, as a potential competitor in the upcoming presidential election. According to our information, Serhii Liovochkin has good contacts with the head of the President’s Office – Andrii Yermak. Liovochkin’s client – Mykhailo Podoliak now completely forms all information policy in the President’s Office.

The “Inter” Channel comments quite complimentary on all the events concerning the authorities, and especially concerning the big construction of Zelenskyi. In our opinion, Serhii Liovochkin will not be included in the list of oligarchs in 2022, because he is neutral and positive towards authorities of Zelenskyi.

The oligarch Liovochkin still has a political asset in the form of Yurii Boiko who will be able to lead his project in the next Parliament even in the event of the collapse of the OP “For Life”. Yes, it would be a small faction of gas businessmen, but it would be loyal to Zelenskyi, and it is possible that it would become a member of the future coalition with Zelenskyi. In turn, even Medvedchuk and Akhmetov cannot stand Liovochkin.

Liovochkin also has a separate ace – the Mayor of Kyiv Vitalii Klychko who can play his game on the eve of the 2024 presidential election. However, the mayor of Kyiv would not play as much here as his younger brother Volodymyr Klychko who has ambitious plans to run for President in 2024. Therefore, Liovochkin has opportunities for political manoeuvres and negotiations with Zelenskyi’s authorities. Unlike Akhmetov, Kolomoiskyi, Medvedchuk and Pinchuk, oligarch Liovochkin has always managed to promote bright political projects in Ukraine. Thanks to Liovochkin’s efforts, Oleh Liashko’s party was born (Akhmetov bought it later); it was Liovochkin who created Vitalii Klychko’s “UDAR” project; Liovochkin promoted the “Svoboda” party in 2010-2012 as a controlled nationalist force to counter Viktor Yanukovych and so on.