Zelensky’s Ukraine, where Pandora’s papers hit the hardest



KIEV – Nowhere have the revelations of the Pandora Papers investigation been stronger than in Ukraine. The discovery of offshore accounts strikes at the heart of the current government and power structure of a ruling class that came to power on the promise of fighting corruption, including TV star-turned-president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Global investigation, sparked by mass leak to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), included the work of Ukrainian media journalists Slidstv®.Info, which linked the shady financial transactions of Zelensky’s television production company, Studio Kvartal 95, to Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. Slidstvo discovered that the laundered money was passing through the Cyprus branch of the Privatbank owned by Kolomoisky, law enforcement officials said.

More than 600 journalists from around the world have worked on the Pandora Papers project over the past year. Among the millions of documents from offshore registrars are the names of some of Ukraine’s most powerful figures. Ivan Bakanov, the head of the Security Service of Ukraine, Serhii Shafir, the president’s chief assistant, and President Zelensky himself are all there.

Igor Kolomoisky, the billionaire behind the president

But, first, let’s rewind the tape: because this is a story about the actor and director of Studio Kvartal 95, who played the chairman of the series and won in real life. Volodymyr Zelensky’s successful career in show business was created in Ukraine thanks to a hidden financial network of offshore companies.

Nine years ago, the popular Kvartal 95 went to the 1 + 1 TV channel. Their shows and programs were hits on the channel owned by Igor Kolomoisky, who would later support Zelensky and the team not only as artists but also as politicians. Today, Kolomoisky is interested in investigations in Ukraine, Great Britain and the United States.

No one wants to talk about the secret network of offshore companies.

According to the Pandora Papers, millions of Kolomoiskys did not go only to the accounts of Ukrainian companies close to Zelensky and his associates. The money also went where the weather was warm and taxes were lower. In that year, when Kvartal began to cooperate with the oligarch, key people in society registered several companies on distant islands. The network was assisted by offshore registrar Fidelity and Ukrainian lawyer Yurii Azarov, whose signatures appear on all key documents.

Maltex Multicapital unveils itself

At the heart of the network is the hitherto unknown company Maltex Multicapital, reveals Slidstvo. It is divided equally between the companies of Volodymyr Zelensky, the brothers Serhii and Borys Shefirs and Andrii Yakovlev. The declaration of trust was signed by the current head of the Security Service of Ukraine, Ivan Bakanov. His company was the nominal owner of Maltex. The names of the real owners were safely hidden in the safe.

If we take a closer look at the structure of the Kvartal company, we will see that the products are created and presented mainly in Ukraine. At the same time, transactions are carried out through foreign companies. As a result, taxes on these transactions do not go to the Ukrainian budget.

A little later, Kvartal 95 co-owner Serhii Shafir said Zelensky had left the company. On March 13, 2019, in the midst of the presidential race, a lawyer working for Zelensky law firms and his associates, Yurii Azarov, signed the document. This is a transfer of shares to Maltex, divided equally between the offshore managers of Kvartal 95. The firm of Serhii Shafir, future principal assistant to the president, received free of charge a quarter of the Maltex property of the company. Zelensky firm in Belize. The day after the inauguration, Zelensky appointed Serhii Shafir as senior assistant to the President of Ukraine.

What fate awaits Zelensky? And Kolomoisky?

On April 25, 2019, a few weeks after Zelenskyy’s share was transferred to Serhii Shafir, the same lawyer Yurii Azarov signed another document stating that Maltex intends to pay dividends to Zelensky’s offshore. Surprisingly, his offshore company no longer had a stake in this company.

Cases involving senior officials are being investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Office. NABU detectives are also investigating crimes related to money laundering. The investigation estimates that the former owners, in particular Igor Kolomoisky and Hennadii Boholyubov, could have caused billions in losses to the state. But the Ukrainian security service could not calculate the amount of damage and the case was blocked. The current attorney general has refused to answer journalists’ questions on the Privatbank case.

Risk of prison in the United States

What fate awaits Zelensky? And Kolomoisky? For the latter, this week Kolomoiskyi in the United States, where his fate may be the same as the former Ukrainian prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko: end up in an American prison.

For Zelensky, no one wants to talk about the secret network of offshore companies. Only Borys Shafir, the co-founder of Kvartal 95, answered some of our questions. Unlike his partners, he did not go into politics and now owns a significant portion of Kvartal’s offshore activities.

“Bakanov was our CFO, he arranged the financial plans for our business. And honestly, I’m not ready to answer you now,” Borys Shafir said. “Maybe I am the owner.”

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