How Avakov, Venediktova and Pechersk Court rescue the agrobaron Bakhmatyuk and his property

by Vadym Valko, originally published on UP

On May 24, the NABU announced new suspects in the case of the VAB Bank. These is the number of officials of the National Bank of Ukraine and the deputy director of the appraiser’s company. 

The investigation believes that in 2014, when the NBU issued loan in the amount of 1.2 billion UAH, forged reports on valuation of mortgaged property were used, where its value was significantly overestimated: at market price in the amount of 72.6 million UAH, the valuation report contained data that value of property is allegedly amounts to as much as 1.8 billion UAH.

Few days before new suspicions, tenders regarding sale of part of the mortgaged property, namely plant for the production of alcoholic beverages in Ivano-Frankivsk with the starting price in the amount of 41 million UAH, had to take place. 

All funds from its sale had to be received by the National Bank of Ukraine.

But tenders had not taken place, because one week before they were held Pechersk District Court of Kyiv seized the plant, which had blocked its sale. This is not the first time during last six months.

It turned out that arrest was imposed according to the appeal of the prosecutor from Venediktova’s Office in the criminal proceeding with deliberately changed qualification by Avakov’s police.

Details of this story are clear confirmation of the fact how they try to save the oligarch Oleg Bakhmatyuk and his property from anti-corruption bodies in the department of Avakov and Venediktova with the help of unreformed courts.

What preceded it?

In 2014, the VAB Bank’s oligarch Bakhmatyuk wanted to borrow 1.2 billion UAH from the NBU. These funds were needed for financial recovery of the bank. 

The bank needed the guarantor to obtain loan. It was Stanislavska Trade Company, the beneficiary of which is Bakhmatyuk. This company pledged its property to the NBU, namely the distillery. In addition to the plant, the number of other commercial real estate was also pledged.

In two years, no one has repaid the loan, and the real value of collateral was 25 times less than shown in documents.

In 2016, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine became interested in circumstances of the loan. In addition to overvaluation of the collateral, detectives also found that the bank did not submit all documents required to obtain the loan.

Vodka scheme for the agrobaron

As the VAB Bank did not repay the loan, the National Bank filed the appeal against owner of the mortgaged property. On February 11, 2019, Economic Court of Kyiv satisfied the appeal and allowed forced sale of the distillery. This decision was also upheld by the Appeals Chamber and the Supreme Court. But even after receiving positive court decision, the sale of plant at tender is constantly blocked by other court decisions. It is interesting that main initiators of this are the police and the prosecutor’s office.

On December 29, 2020, Avakov’s National Police registered the criminal proceeding regarding alleged fraud by unidentified employees of the National Bank, the state executive service, the state enterprise SETAM, and others who allegedly deliberately underestimated cost of the distillery.

According to the police, this could lead to “incomplete receipt of funds in the state budget”.

However, the question arises: if the budget allegedly could not get something because of state officials, then what kind of fraud is this? Such actions should be classified as abuse of power or official position.

But if you open case under this article, it is responsibility of the NABU detectives, not Avakov’s police. And that is why they deliberately changed the qualification in the case.

Numerous economic examinations and assessments also hint at the probable artificiality and ordering of the police proceedings . 

In particular, there are several expert opinions that determine value of the distillery at maximum of several tens of millions of UAH. According to the latest estimate, the cost of plant is 41 million UAH. Given the exchange rate fluctuations, approximately the same value was established in the NABU’s examination. 

Contrary to these conclusions, owned by Bakhmatyuk Stanislavska Trade Company provided its own estimated value of the plant made by individual entrepreneur. And surprisingly, the cost of plant in the report amounts to cosmic 1.25 billion UAH. At the same time, plant was manipulatively assessed as integral property complex with all production facilities, although only real estate without equipment was mortgaged to the NBU. But it seems that this document is more convincing for the police.

Let’s move on. Almost immediately after the case was opened, the police recognized the plant as material evidence. However, this is not enough to block tenders. Therefore, the prosecutor Rostyslav Korkun from the Office of Venediktova went to Pechersk court.

On January 15, 2021, investigating Judge Vitaliy Pysanets granted the prosecutor’s appeal, arrested the plant and forbade any actions regarding its alienation.

But on April 9, 2021, Kyiv Appeal “covers” the scheme and cancels the decision of Pysanets. This again opened the way for tenders.

In support of its decision, the Appeal stated that the police had recognized the distillery as material evidence without grounds, and the prosecutor had not proved the need for arrest.

This did not suit the police and the prosecutor’s office, which promptly initiated the new consideration of the issue regarding arrest in Pechersk court. And on May 14, 2021, six days before tender the judge Olena Busyk re-arrested the plant.

Why does Bakhmatyuk need this? This is tactical move, because the National Bank does not write off reserves, such as property that it has in the mortgage. And until the property is sold, Bakhmatyuk’s defense may say that no losses from non-repayment of the loan have occurred. 

At the same time, investigators of the National Police are initiating another examination of the cost of plant in order to “cover” the appraisal report, according to which in 2020 the cost of plant was about 41 million UAH.

Old “schemes” of rescue

This is not the first time Bakhmatyuk has received help from the National Police. Back in 2015 and 2017, Avakov’s police closed several cases against employees of the VAB Bank related to fraud with refinancing of the NBU.

Immediately after their closure, more than one hundred volumes of materials, including originals of credit files, were “drowned” in basement of the company that conducted examinations. 

It is also significant that cases were closed by investigator Dmytro Lyubeznikov, who was appointed by then deputy head of the Main Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Grygoriy Mamka. Today, Mamka is Member of Parliament from the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform For Life and when he has already been Member of Parliament he submitted amendments to the draft law on electronic criminal proceedings (e-Case) in interests of Bakhmatyuk.

The next attempt to save Bakhmatyuk was events with the new case of the NABU. 

In early 2019, then Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko illegally and suddenly transferred the proceeding to Avakov’s department, where it will be closed in six months due to alleged lack of corpus delicti. However, Lutsenko was soon dismissed, and the team of new Prosecutor General resumed investigation and returned him to the NABU. After that, the case takes second breath and in November 2019, detectives announced suspicion to 10 people, including former deputy head of the NBU Oleksandr Pysaruk, top manager of the VAB Bank and its beneficial owner Oleg Bakhmatyuk.

Bakhmatyuk is running away to Austria, where he conducts an active campaign against the NABU, for instance, produces 1 billion eggs with the inscription “Sytnyk away!”. 

Later, in the interview Bakhmatyuk publicly stated that he was ready to pay deposit in the amount of 5-10 million UAH and return to Ukraine, but has not done so yet.

The next attempt to influence the investigation took place in March 2020. The head of the Security Service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov asked the Prosecutor General Venediktova to transfer case of the NABU to his department, where he promised to “ensure prompt investigation and punishment of perpetrators”. Fortunately, this did not happen then.

But in April 2020, the Prosecutor General Venediktova demanded that the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office provide her with materials of all cases involving Bakhmatyuk.

Symptomatically, she did so immediately after Bakhmatyuk’s letter about his alleged “persecution and revenge” by the NABU and Sytnyk himself. In this regard, it is not surprising that Venediktova has been blocking Bakhmatyuk’s extradition for almost one year.

Another attempt to save Bakhmatyuk and company took place in summer 2020.

This time by the judge of Pechersk District Court of Kyiv Vyacheslav Pidpalyi and current Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova. The first violated the jurisdiction and ordered the Office of the Prosecutor General to cancel the reopening of case of Ryaboshapko’s time, and the second obediently and promptly complied with this decision. The NABU immediately declared illegal interference in their investigation. And only thanks to the Appeals Chamber of the High Anti-Corruption Court the “scheme” was stopped.

***

Recent actions of the police and the prosecutor’s office point to the main purpose of using the scheme with artificial proceeding: to block tenders and obtain “necessary” examination, which will show that value of property mortgaged in 2014 to the NBU allegedly amounted more than 1.2 billion UAH.

In future such examination will certainly be used to either deny any losses of the National Bank from non-repayment of loans to the VAB Bank, or to unite all cases “under the roof” of the National Police.

It is also possible that under the pretext of new investigation, the police will try to gain access to materials of the NABU, as it has been done in other cases. For instance, when the police wanted to seize detectives’ examination and report of the US detective agency Kroll in the case of Privatbank.

Implementation of any of these options could “bury” the case of the NABU. And everything is usually done with the help of Avakov’s police, Venediktova’s prosecutors and judges of the unreformed Pechersk District Court of Kyiv.

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