Almost all crimes in the world can be solved by studying bank receipt and payment orders. And almost every crime has a clear financial trail. If there is an offence, there must be someone who benefits from it. This is approximately how one of my acquaintances (an employee of the Department for Combating Economic Crimes) shared his experience with me back in the 1990s.
Since then, almost nothing has changed – except that the financial trail has become digital, and it is necessary to study not cash orders but account transactions and crypto wallets.
In fact, it is terrible, but it is a true fact – even in times of war, we have corruption. This is no longer a "blood business" but a robbery amidst a sea of blood and suffering of an entire nation.
Let us study these digital footprints.
According to the Ministry of Finance, from January 1, 2022, to May 1, 2023, overdue receivables arising from the non-fulfilment of contracts signed by the Ministry of Defense increased from UAH 33.2 billion to UAH 36.3 billion.
That is, in all previous years, the "overdue" amounted to only 3.1 billion, and now there is such a jump. Of course, the increase in defence procurement during the full-scale war also played a role, but the tenfold increase in overdue debt cannot be explained by this reason alone.
This is also confirmed by the fact that the Ministry of Defense has already filed lawsuits against its unscrupulous counterparties for a total of UAH 8.9 billion.
Journalists have calculated that the total cost of the delay (more than UAH 30 billion) could have been used to import 3,000 Canadian Senator armoured vehicles or about 5,000 FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile systems for the needs of the Armed Forces.
Journalists provide more details in their investigation of the Polish company Alfa Sp z o.o. This company has overdue arms supplies to Ukraine.
The Polish Alfa is engaged in non-specialized wholesale trade. It does not publish tax reports and was even involved in a criminal proceeding for supplying low-quality ammunition.
However, this did not prevent the company from entering into contracts with the Ministry of Defense, which resulted in receivables from our military department amounting to almost EUR 96 million.
The case is currently being investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, which refuses to disclose more information, citing the secrecy of the investigation.
In this context, the role of state-owned banks in the above transactions should be carefully examined.
Anyone who has ever encountered our banks when making payments abroad knows that the bank's currency control and financial monitoring not only examines the contracts with foreign counterparties but also checks them against such indicators as "business purpose" and "economic feasibility."
In addition, financial monitoring checks the business reputation of the counterparty and its servicing bank.
Sometimes, customers are forced to bring a whole pile of supporting documents to the bank, including medical tests.
It is clear that when it comes to payments worth hundreds of millions of dollars or euros, such control is even more rigorous, especially with regard to arms supply contracts.
Who are these people in state-owned banks? Let's take Ukreximbank, a key state-owned bank servicing state export-import contracts and authorized to service military contracts.
The following information is available on its website:
"Oleksandr Ihnatenko was appointed to the Management Board of the Bank on March 30, 2020, and was responsible, in particular, for implementing the Bank's strategy in terms of developing legal entities.
Ihnatenko, a member of the Management Board of JSC Ukreximbank, resigned from his position on his own initiative on August 16, 2023."
By the way, Ihnatenko is currently involved in the Ukrgasbank case and is cooperating with the investigation.
So why not immediately investigate the problematic debt of the Ministry of Defense, especially those contracts that were serviced by Ukreximbank during Ihnatenko's tenure as a member of the board (all of 2022 and January-August 2023)?
After all, Ihnatenko was responsible for the corporate sector, meaning that payments by the bank's clients under import contracts for the supply of weapons to Ukraine were also in his area of responsibility.
Now, Ihnatenko has made a deal with the investigation in the Ukrgasbank case. How could the investigators make him do that?
Journalist Serhii Liamets suggested that it could have been a scandalous loan issued for the purchase of corporate rights to the Kyiv Sky Mall.
I have a publicly available certificate from the Supervisory Board of Ukreximbank on this issue:
".. JSC Ukreximbank has decided to open a master loan agreement with a limit of USD 60 million for the total project of USD 80 million for purchasing and selling the Sky Mall by Serhii Briukhovetskyi from the current UBO business.
From the $60 million loan:
1) USD 39 m was used to refinance loan obligations of Wholesale Network 2011 LLC in two Ukrainian and one European bank and
2) USD 21 m to acquire corporate rights and complete the sale of the Sky Mall.
Regarding the status of Serhii Briukhovetskyi.
The loan file contains a copy of the certificate of registration of an internally displaced person.
During the KYC (know your customer) procedures, the analysis of the beneficial owner's ownership of corporate rights by Serhii Briukhovetskyi was conducted, and the fact of ownership of corporate rights (shares in the authorized capital, all less than 100%) of three companies registered in the non-government controlled areas of Ukraine was revealed:
Gorspetslifit LLC (34657731), date of registration – 11/23/2006, location of the legal entity -
Ukraine, 84630, Donetsk region, Horlivka, 20 Voznesensky Street, not operating (no financial statements are submitted). The location of the registration file is the Horlivka City Department of Justice, Briukhovetskyi Serhii Hryhorovych has a 50% ownership interest.
Spetsremash LLC (34782555), date of registration – 31.01.2007, location of the legal entity – Ukraine, 84630, Donetsk region, Horlivka, 20 Voznesensky Street, not operating, location of the registration file – Horlivka City Department of Justice, Briukhovetskyi Serhii Hryhorovych has a 16.6648% ownership interest.
Skhidnyi Donbas LLC (30670226), date of registration – 02.12.1999, location of the legal entity – Ukraine, 84601, Donetsk region, Horlivka, Lenin Prospect, 34, Briukhovetskyi Serhii Hryhorovych had a share of 46.5409%, terminated on 07.09.2011".
According to the Supervisory Board of Ukreximbank, this information is not a reason to refuse to provide USD 60 million in loans to the state-owned bank.
Among the versions of why Ihnatenko was forced to testify, we can consider the version of overdue contracts for the purchase of goods for the Defense Ministry.
After all, the case of the loan for the purchase of Sky Mall, although it indirectly caused the resignation of the former head of Ukreximbank (due to questions from journalists and the reaction to them), is a game that no one remembers during the war.
But the version with contracts of the Defense Ministry can at least be considered. After all, only the investigation can show whether this is true or not. We are still considering possible hypothetical versions.
The forces behind this are very powerful.
In the meantime, Ihnatenko made a deal with the investigation, either, as NABU reported, for "compensation" of UAH 35 million to an unknown person and on what terms, given that there is no victim in the case or for a donation of UAH 15 million to a special charitable foundation for the production of drones (I wonder why not to the state budget), as reported later by the SAPO.
He must have the money because the bail of UAH 40 million was paid quickly. Ihnatenko himself and three individuals accounted for a smaller portion, and a larger portion was made up of a little-known company called Flybridge. How can it be connected to Ihnatenko? Opendatabot provides the following information. The owner of the company is JSC "Closed Non-Diversified Venture Corporate Investment Fund "Orexim". The ultimate beneficial owner and founder is Yurii Budnyk. He specializes in grain trading. In 2022, the company incurred a loss of more than UAH 21 million.
According to Opendatabot, the same participants are also listed in the ownership structure of the Stevedoring Investment Company. In which 12% of corporate rights belong to... Oleksandr Ihnatenko. The puzzle has been completed. The stevedoring business is a port service that is closely related to grain trading. What does the state banker Ihnatenko have to do with the stevedoring business and grain trade? The amount of the share itself is not large, but the question here is why Ihnatenko was "allowed" into this business. These are not shares on the stock exchange. What services could a state banker provide to such a business, managing the corporate sector in a state-owned bank? The question is rhetorical.
But the answer must be given by the authorized state bodies – NABU, SAPO, NAPC and others. First of all, it is necessary to identify whether there was a conflict of interest in this combination of state banking and private business. And also to give a clear answer: was the sale of a share in a potentially mega-profitable stevedoring business to a top manager of a state-owned bank (and a bank with partial state participation) a kind of "veiled bribe"? These are very important questions for law enforcement agencies.
But if to return to the topic of our article, we see a strange picture. On the one hand, the NABU reclassifies the Ukrgasbank case from embezzlement to a criminal group, and on the other hand, it approves the negligence of the former deputy head of the bank and dismisses him.
All in order to make Inatenko a material witness in the case of Kyrylo Shevchenko, former head of the NBU, and get him to give the "necessary testimony". But can such testimony from such a witness be objective? The question is rhetorical.
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