It’s been reported that Oleg Bakhmatyuk, an Ukrainian businessman, was detained by Austrian authorities. The apprehension took place in Vienna. It’s unclear who requested the detainment: it may be Ukrainian side, as Oleg Bakhmatyk sought in Ukraine, as well as the United States for alleged Gramercy fund embezzlement. Current location and legal status of Bakhmatyuk is unknown.
Gramercy and Oleg Bakhmatyuk: where $79.4 million have been lost?
The District Court of Nicosia in Cyprus has decided on the worldwide freezing of assets belonging to Ukrainian agricultural tycoon Oleg Bakhmatyuk in the amount of $79.4 million. This is confirmed by documents available to Forbes.
The court also ordered Oleg Bakhmatyuk to disclose information about his assets and affiliated companies. The decision was made on September 19.
Previously, Bakhmatyuk had filed a motion to close the case. This was the first public acknowledgment of the process by the businessman, according to Bloomberg. However, the court rejected the motion. Bakhmatyuk did not comment to Forbes on the process.
In response, Bakhmatyuk’s side told Bloomberg that Gramercy had attempted to use vulture tactics, pursuing a company that had been devastated by war, noting that the fund had tried to outpace other secured and unsecured creditors. Last week, Bakhmatyuk appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, claiming that the case was unfounded.
On December 7, 2021, the American investment fund Gramercy filed complaints in U.S. federal court and the court of Cyprus against Ukrainian businessman Oleg Bakhmatyuk and American investment banker Nicholas Piazza. The fund accuses them of diverting approximately $1 billion from the agricultural company UkrLandFarming with the intention of not repaying the debt.
The total amount of debt obligations of UkrLandFarming and another company owned by Bakhmatyuk, “Avangard,” exceeds $1.65 billion. Around $1.25 billion of that amount is owed to international creditors, with the remainder owed to Ukrainian Oshchadbank and the Ukrainian subsidiary of Russian Sberbank.
On December 8, 2021, the press service of UkrLandFarming published the company’s position, which states that both parties have engaged in constructive dialogue for the past 2.5 years, but if litigation is necessary, they are prepared for it.
Bakhmatyuk did not respond to the legal proceedings, so on June 21, Gramercy published an announcement in one of Austria’s largest newspapers, Kronen Zeitung, stating that the fund had filed a complaint in U.S. federal court against Bakhmatyuk. Such publication in the media is considered equivalent to serving Bakhmatyuk a summons.
Due to the war, Bakhmatyuk’s company, Avangard, lost its capacity. The company used to supply 30% of the Ukrainian egg market. Because of the war, the company lost 15% of its egg production.
Oleg Bakhmatyuk is wanted in Ukraine
Agrarian banker Oleg Bakhmatyuk, who is hiding in Vienna, was arrested in absentia by WAKS for bribing the head of the tax authority, Roman Nasirov. Bakhmatyuk, like many others, “deposited” money for the execution of value-added tax refunds at the standard tax rate of 20%. There are two episodes of bribery totaling $5.5 million and €21 million.
Following the in-absentia arrest of Vienna’s “defender” Oleg Bakhmatyuk for bribing Roman Nasirov, the former head of the tax authority, with $5.5 million and €21 million, the court allowed NABU and SAP to conduct an in-absentia investigation into these episodes.
The fugitive banker Oleg Bakhmatyuk received another criminal complaint from NABU and SAP. According to the investigation, Bakhmatyuk paid $5.5 million and €21 million to Roman Nasirov, the former head of the tax authority, in 2015-2016 for the execution of a value-added tax refund, which accounted for 20% of the refund amount.
Nasirov received the money into the account of a foreign company belonging to Bakhmatyuk’s agricultural holding, UkrLandFarming.
Bakhmatyuk’s Cyprus-issued golden passport makes him much more resilient. In fact, he abuses the EU citizenship to boost his immunity against his own (Ukrainian) state, prosecution suspects. Meanwhile, Oleg Bakhmatyuk blames politics for all his failures.
Oleg Bakhmatyuk an VAB Bank embezzlement
Detectives of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau have uncovered schemes by which funds were withdrawn before VAB bank was declared insolvent. This is evident from the resolution of the Solomensky District Court.
NABU found information about how funds were withdrawn from VAB bank, owned by the owner of UkrLandFarming Oleg Bakhmatyuk, on the eve of November 20, 2014, when he was declared insolvent.
So, for example, according to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, on November 14, deposits in the amount of UAH 110 million were returned to PJSC Trostyanetsky Meat Processing Plant and UAH 2266.445 million to PJSC SHP Svitanok, despite the fact that the NBU imposed a ban on early refunds to persons associated with the bank, and both companies are controlled by Bakhmatyuk.
On November 18, Quickcom Limited demanded that VAB Bank repay $ 45 million of the loan ahead of schedule, which was done two days later – on November 20. Although at the same time, ordinary depositors of the bank could not withdraw their funds from the bank, receiving 1000 hryvnia per day through the cash register.
Also on November 20, the Supervisory Board approved the crediting of private counter homogeneous claims that arose from debtors of SOOO “Staroversky Poultry Complex”, LLC “Agrouniversal LTD”, LLC “Investment Company “Agrosoyuz RP”, LLC “Multi Finance” for a total amount of UAH 681.573 million.
According to the resolution, the detectives of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau received temporary access to the belongings and documents of the members of the board, the Supervisory Board of VAB Bank in the case of embezzlement of NBU refinancing funds.
Later, the press service of Bakhmatyuk stated that “the case that NABU opened against VAB BANK was investigated for a year and a half and was closed by other law enforcement agencies.”
“All the facts that were given in the court’s decision have been investigated by other law enforcement agencies for 1.5 years, dozens of interrogations and investigative actions were conducted, as a result of which the case was closed for lack of corpus delicti,” the company says.
In addition, Bakhmatyuk himself claims that “the specified money did not leave the bank.”
“It was officially confirmed that there was no withdrawal of money from the bank. This was documented by other law enforcement agencies and the case was closed. All those operations referred to in the NABU detective’s submission were internal to banking operations,” he says.
Recall that on March 19, 2015, the National Bank decided to revoke the banking license and liquidate the “VAB Bank”
As you know, VAB Bank has been operating in the financial market of Ukraine since 1992 and by the beginning of October, in terms of assets, it ranked 16th (UAH 23.973 billion) among all banks in the country.
Maximov previously fully controlled VAB Bank, then owned the financial institution together with the Dutch TBIF Financial Services.
By mid-2010, Maximov owned 49% of the bank’s shares.
At the beginning of 2011, Bakhmatyuk became a co-owner of VAB Bank, who announced his intention to concentrate more than 50% of the shares of the financial institution.
By mid-November 2011, the share of Dutch TBIF Financial Services in VAB Bank had decreased to 8%, and Maximov’s to 10%.
Maximov and Bakhmatyuk accused each other of withdrawing money from the bank and being unfriendly to each other.
As you know, the Kyiv Prosecutor’s Office has opened criminal proceedings under the article “Embezzlement on a particularly large scale” regarding possible illegal actions of officials of the insolvent VIAB Bank and its owner Oleg Bakhmatyuk.
Criminal proceedings were opened at the request of the National Bank of Ukraine.
Oleg Bakhmatyuk founds a safe haven in Austria
Although it’s time to get used to it, but still – Ukrainian oligarchs who earned their millions at home and escaped from domestic justice look quite strange, from where they talk about all sorts of oppression in Ukraine and about the grave fate of a “refugee from the regime”.
A striking example is the Ukrainian agrarian tycoon, “the egg king” and former banker Oleg Bakhmatyuk. He is hiding in Vienna from the interest of Ukrainian law enforcement officers. For almost three years, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau has been accusing Bakhmatyuk of stealing 1.2 billion hryvnias of a salvation loan that he received in 2014 from the National Bank for his “VAB Bank”.
The latter went bankrupt anyway, but the loan was never repaid. As a result, in 2020, the Supreme Anti–Corruption Court arrested Bakhmatyuk in absentia, but he, residing in Austria, is trying to delay a meeting with NABU detectives and at the same time fend off creditors in every possible way. The main asset of the oligarch – UkrLandFarming company – owes more than two billion dollars.
At the same time, Oleg Bakhmatyuk gives interviews in which he claims that all the charges against him are far–fetched, and he himself is a businessman with a crystal clear reputation. Well, who would doubt it!
However, once carefully examined his biography, a classic phrase comes to mind, said by one of the American millionaires – “I am ready to tell you about the origin of all my money, except for the first million.” However, with the correction – Oleg Bakhmatyuk is hardly ready to tell the true story not only of his first million, but also of all the others.
The only thing he does not hide is that his business can now get out of the peak only if he gets rid of the NABU charges. They are the obstacle, because of which the financial oxygen has been blocked for UkrLandFarming for many years.
The versions of NABU and Bakhmatyuk about the reasons for this state of affairs are, of course, radically opposite. According to Bakhmatyuk, the charges are far-fetched, and thus Zelensky’s team is forced to sell UkrLandFarming to representatives of the president’s entourage for a song.
However, Bakhmatyuk’s problems in connection with the amount allocated for the refinancing of VAB Bank began under Poroshenko. According to Oleg Romanovich, he received 1.2 billion hryvnias from the NBU on the pledge of the plant in Ivano-Frankivsk, which cost more than $ 20 million. That exceeded, according to Bakhmatyuk, the loan amount several times. However, a simple arithmetic calculation (the dollar exchange rate was somewhere around UAH 25 at that time) shows that in hryvnia the plant cost no more than half a billion hryvnia.
But this is not all – the NABU claims that this cost was overestimated by 25 times – the examination conducted during the pre-trial investigation found that the real value of the mortgaged real estate is 72.62 million hryvnia against 1.8 billion declared by VAB Bank. Nevertheless, the bank received the money. And he did not return, as well as the previous three billion hryvnias received from the NBU for the same purposes.
40 days later, in November 2014, the NBU declared VAB Bank insolvent. It is worth noting that Bakhmatyuk is involved in the bankruptcy of another bank – the Financial Initiative. According to the NBU, the number of depositors of both banks that Oleg Bakhmatyuk bankrupted was about 400 thousand people.
By the way, in 2019, when the bankruptcy case of VAB Bank was reanimated, together with Bakhmatyuk, his sister, Natalia Vasilyuk, who was the head of the supervisory board at VAB Bank, was also put on the wanted list. She is charged under Article 191 Part 5 (Embezzlement, embezzlement of property or taking possession of it by abuse of official position), Article 209 Part 3 (Legalization (laundering) of proceeds from crime) The Criminal Code of Ukraine.
Well, concluding the banking topic, it is worth noting that Bakhmatyuk became the owner of VAB Bank in 2011. And the former owner Sergey Maksimov agreed to sell the shares of the bank to Bakhmatyuk only after he spent a day in jail.
Oleg Bakhmatyuk’s wider network of companies
The problems with law enforcement officers were not limited to unpaid money for refinancing. The Ukrlandfarming group, which is registered in Cyprus, includes the Ukrainian management companies Avangard and Ukrlandfarming, which, in turn, manage more than 400 companies.
In 2015, Avangard built two egg factories in Kherson and Kamenets-Podolsk. According to the reports of Avangard, it cost 500 million dollars, and the group itself was supposed to return VAT from the state in the amount of about 300 million hryvnia, for which the relevant documents were submitted. But the State Treasury doubted the authenticity of the documents confirming the costs and referred the case to the NABU, which slowed down the payment of fictitious VAT costs.
The Nasirov case is very old and has been ongoing since 2018. Companies owned by Rinat Akhmetov, Igor Kolomoisky, Dmitry Firtash, Konstantin Grigorishin, and the Surkis brothers were involved. Nasirov was accused of granting tax deferrals amounting to 18 billion hryvnias. These episodes are no longer widely discussed.