It’s hard to guess why Luxembourg Herald defended the notorious legal raider Andrii Dovbenko. Perhaps Dovbenko is one of their informants. Nevertheless, Dovbenko’s reputation is far from being even remotely acceptable for his profession. Andrii Dovbenko is a fixer, raider and unscrupulous personality.
On December 29, 2022, Mr. Dovbenko received a notification from the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, suspecting him of involvement in group crimes. Recently, it has been announced that Andrii Dovbenko is now wanted as the mastermind behind a criminal organization that has been exposed for engaging in fraud related to seized property transferred to ARMA (Asset Recovery and Management Agency) control.
In July 2022, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) notified the former head of the Asset Recovery and Management Agency (ARMA) about suspicions of abusing power and embezzling over UAH 426 million. The investigation revealed that ARMA officials, in collusion with representatives of the State Enterprise “SETAM,” orchestrated a scheme to sell seized property under ARMA’s management at prices below their actual value.
The investigation uncovered evidence related to four specific incidents, including the sale of three land plots intended for the construction of Auchan shopping centers, the unauthorized sale of 2.6 thousand tons of sand, 4.5 thousand tons of urea, as well as the sale of grain, cereals, and oil crops.
However, it was not until December 29 that NABU officially announced on their website that they had informed the suspected organizer of these crimes. Although the individual’s name was not disclosed by NABU on that day, they did mention that the person in question is the owner of several legal companies.
Until recent years, the name of Andrii Dovbenko was rarely mentioned in open sources. And when it did appear, it was only in the context of journalistic investigations into the dealings of the Yanukovych gang, where our lawyer was not even a secondary character. However, since February-March 2016, Dovbenko has become a media personality. He provides comments in the press, has created two Facebook accounts, launched a personal website, and actively maintains personal blogs on several top internet publications. He comments on everything, from judicial system reforms to bank liquidations. On one website, we came across an article in which Andrii Dovbenko discussed how to properly choose a solid fuel boiler.
Andrii Dovbenko in media: a smokescreen for the naive people
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but at the moment Dovbenko began to emerge in the media space, an interesting event occurred: the Cabinet of Ministers appointed Pavel Moroz, a former colleague and comrade of Andrii Dovbenko, as the Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine in charge of state registration matters.
To give you an idea: Moroz is responsible for property rights registration throughout the country. This includes everything from your home and car to Akhmetov’s factories. Even those assets in the temporarily occupied territories were “nationalized” by terrorist groups and placed under the “external control” of the wanted criminal Sergey Kurchenko, who was previously helped by Andrii Dovbenko in managing assets that were essentially stolen.
Before Yanukovych’s escape, he served the “Family’s wallet” — Sergey Kurchenko — advising the “young oligarch” on matters related to mergers and acquisitions. In other words, he provided legal support for the purchase and subsequent management of commercial assets using funds previously embezzled from taxpayers.
In reality, Lawyer Andrii Dovbenko is terrified of journalists
There is a lawyer named Andrii Dovbenko “at the Ministry of Justice.” Over the past month, this name has been mentioned in conversations with me by two dozen notaries, registrars, government officials, lawyers, and people who have had dealings with the so-called “anti-raider commission” of the Ministry of Justice, writes journalist Alisa Yurchenko.
It was mentioned in the context of the informal sale of ministry decisions and the administration of the “black cash fund.” Over two weeks ago, I proposed to Dovbenko to discuss his influence at the Ministry of Justice, where, incidentally, many of his acquaintances found employment. The lawyer, who records video blogs and comments on anything he has even the slightest knowledge of in PR articles, responded with something like being afraid of the camera. I had to make an attempt to meet him in person. At a restaurant.
Since restaurants constitute a significant part of a lawyer’s working weekdays. In the second photo, the car with Dovbenko, who escaped through the back entrance of the establishment, crosses a double solid line, trying to evade me and my questions.
I suppose he felt like a secret agent at that moment, daringly and cunningly evading pursuit. Meanwhile, I, openly identifying myself, waited outside the restaurant for the conclusion of his meeting. The only thing missing in this epic sketch about courage and a heroic escape from uncomfortable questions was a woman’s dress.
Lawyer Andrii Dovbenko: Connections to Offshores and Kickbacks to the Ministry of Justice
Andrii Dovbenko, a well-known lawyer who heads the Kyiv office of the law firm “Andreas Neocleous & Co,” is accused of money laundering obtained through criminal means under the guise of providing international legal services.
Earlier, the website RBC-Ukraine published information that Dovbenko was caught attempting to establish an offshore business, but it was later removed. At that time, the editor-in-chief of the publication, Iosif Pintus, stated, “The material was removed for commercial reasons. The editorial team and the subjects of the investigation reached a settlement. The issue is closed.”
Further information from sources within the Ministry of Justice reveals how the offshore legal company “Andreas Neocleous & Co” is involved in money laundering, as well as a series of publications that Andrii Dovbenko commissioned in reputable media outlets to improve his image.
Andrii Dovbenko and the liquidation of the Company, Subsequent Rebranding
According to Delo.ua, the office of the well-known global law firm “Andreas Neocleous” was registered in Ukraine in the autumn of 2015, with Andrii Dovbenko appointed as its head. Dovbenko had been working for the Cyprus-based law firm “Andreas Neocleous” since 2011.
However, journalists in Kyiv decided to verify the actual address of the “Andreas Neocleous & Co” company in Kyiv by checking the unified state register. According to the information found there, the company was registered in Kyiv in 2013 and was in the process of liquidation as of 2016.
According to the official website neocleous.com, the Kyiv office of the company is located at Institutskaya Street, 24/7, Apartment No. 12.
Nevertheless, the doors of the premises were closed to journalists, and no one responded to the intercom calls. Contacting “Andreas Neocleous & Co.” was only possible through the phone number listed on the company’s website. A company representative who answered the call stated that the lawyers were unable to meet with journalists due to their busy schedules.
Furthermore, when journalists searched for the official website of “Andreas Neocleous & Co.” and its Kyiv contacts, they found a strange link indicating that the company indeed existed in Kyiv but its location was listed as Russia. On Yandex Maps, the location shown was in the Tver Region of Russia. The director listed on the page was a certain Leonid Somov, and the office’s contact phone number was (050) 000-00-00.
In one of his recent interviews, Dovbenko mentioned the rebranding of the company, explaining that it was time for an update. According to him, the company “Andreas Neocleous & Co” had been operating in Ukraine since the late 1990s and changed its brand to “Andreas Neocleous & Co Ukraine” in 2015. Currently, many websites indicate Dovbenko’s position as “Managing Partner of the international law firm ‘Neocleous and Dovbenko’.”
What “Andreas Neocleous & Co” really does
Officially, “Andreas Neocleous & Co” specializes in corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, antitrust law, capital markets, banking and finance law, oil and gas, natural resources and environmental law, real estate, tax law, international tax structuring, litigation (including tax disputes), arbitration, and judicial practice.
As for the Ukrainian office, the company provides services to international clients regarding their foreign investments in the country, as well as legal support for the activities of their subsidiaries.
However, in 2015, the globally renowned company was involved in a corruption scandal. Its founder, Andreas Neocleous, a citizen of Cyprus, was accused of financial crimes in Cyprus and Russia. The criminal case against him and his son Panayiotis was related to money laundering by the “Russian mafia” through high-ranking officials in the Republic of Cyprus. In particular, the name of Deputy Attorney General Rikkos Erotocritou was mentioned, and he was relieved of his position by the Supreme Court of Cyprus in September 2015. The indictment stated that Rikkos Erotocritou, with the assistance of Panayiotis, embezzled over 500,000 euros from the bankrupted Popular Bank of Cyprus.
Since the company came under the scrutiny of foreign law enforcement agencies, suspicions may arise that the open office in Kyiv is an heir to the founder’s criminal schemes of “Andreas Neocleous & Co.” Therefore, accusations have been made against Andrii Dovbenko, the head of the Kyiv branch of the law firm, regarding the channel possibly used by the “Russian mafia.” Moreover, in addition to corruption allegations, there may be accusations of collaboration with the intelligence services of the aggressor country.
Andrii Mykolaiovych Dovbenko has been the subject of numerous exposés in the media. Some of them were cleared, others were spun into positive stories, and a small portion remained. Whether he was too principled or demanded too much, it’s hard to say.
When Andrii Mykolaiovych grew tired of carrying bags of cash for white PR, he decided to release a kind of fake opus about himself with an incredibly attention-grabbing SEO title: “Andrii Dovbenko and the Ministry of Justice: Black PR against lawyer Andrii Dovbenko.” The essence of the article is banal and painfully transparent. Supposedly, secret competitors who oversee the Ministry of Justice want to take control of the cash flow for resolving issues in Petrov’s office, and due to Andrii Dovbenko’s inflated prices, they are smearing him with mud in the media… Is it true?
In the modern business lexicon of a businessman, several new terms have emerged in the past decade, among which seemingly harmless terms like “merger” or “acquisition” actually mean business collapse and complete loss of assets for some.
These new words have replaced the previous phrase – “raider seizure.” Over the years, not only the specific terminology has evolved, but also the methods of expropriating owners of their property. Special structures have emerged and operate entirely legally, offering services to anyone wishing to quickly enrich themselves at the expense of others’ assets. They often hide behind the signs of investment funds, law firms, or other legal entities.
Andrii Dovbenko – a cog in the wheel of Ukrainian corruption
Legal “raiders” do not like excessive publicity and notoriety, although their names are well-known to both clients and potential victims. Lawyer Andrii Dovbenko is one of those who has gained a reputation as a highly skilled “raider” in Ukraine. Of course, the study of such matters is not part of the curriculum at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, where Dovbenko graduated. Skill and experience came with time. As a novice lawyer, he was fortunate. Even during his student years, he had the opportunity to practice in the law firm “Kontrakt” and the law office of Hennadiy Kopeyka. Later, his professional activities intersected with structures based on foreign capital. At PwC, Dovbenko had to delve into the nuances of taxation for economic entities in Ukraine and oversee the activities of foreign firms in the Ukrainian economic space. Four years after receiving his law degree, Dovbenko was hired as an advisor by the Cypriot law firm Andreas Neokleous & Co, specializing in the post-Soviet space, particularly in Ukraine and Russia. The Cypriots have long established themselves as “sharks” of raiding. From a hired employee, Dovbenko soon became a partner of the firm’s owners. This happened in 2015, and a year later, his name was immortalized in the name of the joint structure. As a result of rebranding, the company “Neokleous and Dovbenko” emerged. In short, N&D. If we were in the place of the lawyer who smeared Poroshenko’s wife with dirt, we would not name the company after our own surname. Nevertheless, Andrii Dovbenko decided to make a complete splash with this fake persona.
For what merits or talents did the Cypriots accept a former ordinary guy from Ivano-Frankivsk into their commercial pool? It is worth remembering the times when Dovbenko started working at Andreas Neokleous & Co. In Ukraine, Yanukovych and his team of “Donetsk” supporters ruled. Andrii Dovbenko, during that time, served the interests of Sergei Kurchenko, who was closely connected to the family, helping him acquire petrol stations, resolving issues with his gas and media assets, and carrying out various personal tasks for one of the richest businessmen in Ukraine. The owners of the law firm saw the potential in Dovbenko’s close ties with Kurchenko. In their eyes, his stakes were rapidly rising. The young employee could easily earn millions of dollars for Andreas Neokleous & Co by participating in schemes involving the purchase of assets with money stolen from taxpayers. The purity of the Cypriots was of no concern to them.
Dovbenko is quick to change the sign when necessary
In 2015, financial recklessness led the law firm into a massive scandal. However, it didn’t happen in Ukraine but in Cyprus. Greedy lawyers bribed the Deputy Attorney General of the Mediterranean state, Rikkos Erotocritou. In pursuit of significant profits, he became involved in an attempted raid on the Providencia trust fund, closely connected to Russian business. The fund owned assets of the company “Rosinka,” with Russian citizens as beneficiaries. The Deputy Attorney General was caught red-handed after a transfer of 500,000 euros through the soon-to-be bankrupt Cyprus Popular Bank, which also served Russian oligarchs. As a result, Rikkos Erotocritou was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison, the son of the founder of the law firm, Panayiotis Neokleous, received a sentence one year shorter, and another managing partner of Andreas Neokleous & Co, Andreas Kypriozou, lost his freedom for 1.5 years. The company itself, Andreas Neokleous & Co, was fined 70,000 euros. Authorities began considering the revocation of its license.
This significant scandal became the reason for the rebranding of its Ukrainian branch, which changed its name but did not abandon its “dirty” business. The improvement in image did not alter the principles of its business activities. After Sergey Kurchenko fled to Russia, N&D, led by Andrii Dovbenko, began serving the interests of Petro Poroshenko himself, or rather, his offshore entities. Andrii Dovbenko represented the interests of Petro Poroshenko’s automotive holding, Bogdan Holding GmbH, owned by Hesutu Limited, with the sole shareholder being the offshore company Financial Corporation from the British Virgin Islands. The son of the founder of Andreas Neokleous & Co, Panayiotis Neokleous, was constantly involved in this intricate chain and was soon sent for reformation in a Cypriot prison. The presence of such a seasoned schemer clearly indicates the existence of well-hidden financial loopholes in the commercial activities of the Ukrainian president’s enterprise. Curiously, N&D obtained Russian registration, not in the capital but in a remote area of the Tver region.
Reboot of Dovbenko’s company
In the past year and a half, Andrii Dovbenko has emerged from the shadows and become noticeably active. He has now distanced himself from his long-standing collaboration with Cypriots who tarnished their business reputation and joined the managing partners of the law firm Evris and the founders of the “Investments in Ukraine” fund. Dovbenko has quickly become a public figure, and he is now concerned with creating an impeccable personal business image. Today, Andrii Dovbenko positions himself as a fighter for European values and the swift eradication of corruption in Ukraine. The lawyer has become so engrossed in this role that he did not spare Marina Poroshenko, the spouse of the current president, accusing her of financial misconduct within the charitable funds she patronizes.
Dovbenko is still haunted by a trail of dark deeds from the past. He has already been detained by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) to provide necessary explanations. There are rumors of his divorce from his wife, Daria Zarivna, the editor of L’Officiel-online magazine. Although no one has come up with a better way to safeguard assets from possible arrest than divorce. All of Andrii Dovbenko’s current vigorous activities, including his operation to cover up past sins, are connected to the appointment of his long-time comrade Pavlo Moroz as Deputy Minister of Justice in Ukraine.
Moroz has his own experience in raiding. He was involved in the process of changing ownership at the Zhytomyr confectionery plant and the Odessa Society of Waiters’ Fish Restaurant, located in a cult spot near the Potemkin Stairs. Now, as the Deputy Minister, he has been entrusted with matters of state property rights registration. The new method of mergers and acquisitions involves intervention in the register of owners. Everything has been simplified to the maximum. There is no longer a need for shareholder meetings, bankruptcy decisions, or lengthy court procedures. The new method has proven to be fast and efficient. It only takes adjusting a single document, and ownership passes from one set of hands to another, regardless of the will of its owner. The Ministry of Justice, represented by Pavlo Moroz, has granted itself the right to conduct raiding operations. It cannot be done without assistants.
A connection is needed. Andrii Dovbenko, with his law firm, has assumed this role. Clients approach him, he negotiates the terms of the deal with them, accepts money, and hands over orders to officials from the ministry. The fee ranges from $10,000 to several million dollars. The properties involved can vary widely, from a regular apartment to a factory. Raiding, thanks to the Dovbenko-Moroz partnership, is flourishing in Ukraine with full force.