Ukraine’s anti-corruption investigations uncover luxury watches, cars and thousands of dollars in cash


Ukrainian authorities have carried out a series of anti-corruption raids across the country, discovering hoards of money as well as luxury watches and cars.

Among those implicated in the investigation is the acting head of the Kyiv tax authorities, who was reportedly part of a plan to overlook 45 billion Ukrainian hryvnia ($1.2 billion) in unpaid taxes.

On Wednesday, the state Bureau of Investigations (SBI) said it had found hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, as well as luxury watches and cars, in the tax chief’s residence. CNN is trying to reach that person for comment.

Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) said the raids were part of an effort to fight what it described as “the internal enemy” in the country.

“Any criminal who has the audacity to harm Ukraine, especially in times of war, should clearly understand that we will handcuff him,” Vasyl Maliuk, head of the SBU, said in a statement.

Cash found during a search of the head of the Kiev tax office.

The raids come as President Volodymyr Zelensky said his government is working on “new reforms” that will make the country “more humane, transparent and effective” as he prepares to meet with European Union officials on Friday for talks about Ukraine’s possible entry into the bloc.

Anti-corruption measures are “an important dimension of the EU accession process,” Ana Pisonero, a spokesperson for the European Commission, said on January 24.

Several raids took place on Wednesday, including a search of the property of former Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, which was linked to an investigation into the January 18 helicopter crash that killed 14 people.

Avakov was interior minister when the ‘Super Puma’ ES-225 helicopter involved in the crash was bought from France as part of a contract signed in 2018. On Wednesday, he denied any wrongdoing and said the contracts had been approved by parliament.

As usual, Ukrainian authorities have said they are investigating all possible causes of the helicopter crash, including pilot error, technical failure and sabotage.

The SBU also accused the “former management” of Ukraine’s largest oil extraction and refinery companies of the “misappropriation” of $1.1 billion.

“It was found that the illegal mechanisms were combined with tax evasion and money laundering,” the SBU said.

A handout photo provided by the Ukraine State Bureau of Investigation.

The oil companies PJSC Ukrnafta and PJSC Ukrtatnafta were nationalized last year as part of Ukraine’s martial law.

Top managers of PJSC Ukrtatnafta received a report of suspicion of committing criminal offenses, according to the SBU.

The SBU also said it had charged the former head of the Defense Ministry with embezzlement over the purchase of thousands of substandard protective vests.

The official spent the equivalent of $2.7 million on nearly 3,000 body armor for the Ukrainian armed forces, which later proved unable to “properly protect Ukrainian soldiers”.

The SBU said the official was charged with “misappropriation, misappropriation or seizure of property by abuse of office”, obstruction of the armed forces and “committing a criminal offense by a group of persons”.

The SBU said the person was jailed for five to eight years and recalled the substandard vests.

“In addition, the SBU conducts investigative actions against other officials in the security and defense sector who may be involved in illegal activities that harm state security. This is a series of measures aimed at strengthening the defense capabilities of our state.”

The raids come after Zelensky fired a slew of senior Ukrainian officials amid a growing corruption scandal linked to procurement of war supplies, in his government’s biggest shakeup since the start of the Russian invasion.

David Arakhamia, the leader of the parliamentary majority, said authorities were running a “spring raid campaign rather than a seed campaign”.

“The country will change during the war,” Arakhamia said. “If someone is not ready for change, the state will come to help them change.”

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