By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON, Aug 6 – The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday filed two lawsuits seeking to seize $70 million worth of property in Texas and Kentucky that it said was bought by two Ukrainian oligarchs with money misappropriated from a bank they controlled.
Federal prosecutors in a Miami court alleged that oligarchs Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov stole billions of dollars from Privatbank, the Ukrainian institution which they owned.
Kolomoisky is one of the most prominent oligarchs in Ukraine and is regarded as a key political backer of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a former comedian who used to star in a TV series broadcast by a network owned by Kolomoisky.
U.S. prosecutors said that between 2008 and 2016, Kolomoisky and Boholiubov obtained fraudulent loans and lines of credit, some of whose proceeds they laundered through shell company accounts at PrivatBank’s Cyprus office before transferring the money to the United States.
U.S. prosecutors said audits by the National Bank of Ukraine in 2016 determined the oligarchs allegedly stole over $5 billion from PrivatBank. PrivatBank was nationalized by Ukrainian authorities after the alleged frauds were discovered in 2016.
Prosecutors said two associates of the oligarchs based in Miami created a web of businesses, often using the name “Optima”, to further launder stolen money. Some of the money was used to buy properties and companies in Louisville, Kentucky, and Dallas which the Justice Department is now seeking to seize, prosecutors said.
The Justice Department said the FBI’s Cleveland Division, the Internal Revenue Service and Customs and Border Protection, were investigating.
Two associates of former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, an advisor to President Donald Trump, met in 2019 with Kolomoisky in Israel.
Bruce Marks, a Philadelphia lawyer who represents Kolomoisky, declined to comment. Reuters was unable to determine if Boholiubov had legal counsel. (Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by David Gregorio)