Archive for the ‘Yanukovych’ Category

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Good business, bad politics. Tigipko

January 2, 2017

Having written about Viktor Pinchuk in the previous entry, this post concentrates on another Dnipro Clan oligarch and long time acquaintance, Sergei Tigipko, who has been spending money recently.

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Mr Tigipko it has to be said is an interesting soul whose business activities are somewhat difficult to keep an all-seeing eye upon.

Perhaps he is fated to be that way, for ever since birth Mr Tigipko has not been what he appears to be.  Mr Tigipko was actually born on 13th February 1960 – officially, but in fact he was born in the early hours of 14th February.  Due to a bureaucratic mix up between medical night shift and morning shift workers the wrong date was officially recorded.  It is claimed, similar to Queen Elizabeth II, he therefore has two birthdays, an official one and a real one.

Fair enough – surely all oligarchs can afford to have two birthdays.

In the late 1970’s the family moved from Moldova to Odessa and Mr Tigipko then headed to Dnepropetrovsk and the Metallurgy Institute where (perhaps with the help of a well placed step-father) he became a member of the Komsomol Committee.  In true Marxist-Leninist adherence he busied himself with organising discos and supplying the evils of western decadence – Pepsi.  It appears that a disco-loving Ihor Kolomoisky was a regular and that they became good friends.

(As an aside Mr Tigipko, or more precisely Mrs Tigipko, retain their interest in Odessa in an act philanthropy annually organising and sponsoring the Odessa International Film Festival – which is actually a very good event.)

Indeed Mr Tigipko has had good fortune in meeting business acquaintances, whilst suffering an equally poor fortune in the world of politics.

A few years of questionable military service and teaching intervene before Mr Tigipko lands the role of chief of psyops/reflexive control when he became the Second Secretary of the (Communist) party and Komsomol committees in Dnipro.  Propaganda and agitation commonly being the role of the Second Secretary – a role he was destined to fail at with the date being 1989 and the implosion of the Soviet system only 2 years away.

Nevertheless, having already forged a friendship with Ihor Kolomoisky, it is within the regional Komsomol committee he also meets Olexandr Turchynov (the current head of the Ukrainian national security apparatus and once upon a time, an ardent Tymoshenko ally).

When the Soviet nonsense all eventually crashed, Mr Tigipko had become First Secretary and in charge of the regional Komsomol cash box.  He was also by then known to Gennady Tymoshenko who was head of ideological manipulation for the Kirov District.  Gennady is the father of Alexander Tymoshenko – the unfortunate husband of Yulia.  Indeed it is rumoured that Mr Tigipko played a role in funding Ms Tymoshenko’s video empire back in the day – presumably with Komsomol cash.  Controlling that cash, he also came to the attention of Dnepro Regional Council Chairman, the infamous Pavel Lazerenko.  He had also made direct acquaintance with (soon to be President) Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Pinchuk.

A reader can now literally see the Dnipro Clan forming.

As the Komsomol system was collapsing Mr Tigipko was swiftly given a senior position within Dnipro Bank – no doubt moving to the position along with the Komsomol regional cash.  (There is no reason to believe that events in Dnipro would be any different than those elsewhere in Ukraine at the time when it comes to moving regional Komsomol cash).

Within a year the bank owners were far from getting along well and Mr Tigipko set up PrivatBank with Ihor Kolomoisky, Gennady Bogolyubov, the late Leonid Miloslavsky and Alexie Martynov.  From 1992 – 97 Mr Tigipko was Chairman of the Board of PrivatBank – although what share holding he had will probably never been known.  What is known is that the initial shareholding was not equal.  How much Komsomol/Dnipro Bank cash was used in the creation of Privat is somewhat unclear – and will undoubtedly remain that way.

Meanwhile Mr Kuchma became President Kuchma and Pavel Lazarenko became Prime Minister – leading to a split within the Dnipro Clan and President Kuchma using Mr Tigipko to keep an eye on the out-sized and out of control criminal appetites of Pavel Lazarenko.  He becomes Vice Prime Minister for Economic Reforms in order to carry out that task.

(This move obviously ruffled feathers and PrivatBank came under scrutiny for laundering money via its Riga branch.  Some things don’t change.)

Whilst in post, Mr Tigipko acted as “roof” for the French cement company Lafarge who then had a few issues with assets in Ukraine.  As Bernadette Chirac (wife of Jacques) then sat on the Lafarge board it is perhaps no surprise that Mr Tigipko was awarded French honours personally by Mrs Chirac in 1997.

By 2000 Mr Tigipko wisely quit as the conflict of interests of those around him in the Kuchma government were in all probability intractable at best and very bad for the health at worst.

By 2001 whatever shares in Privat he had were sold for a figure unknown, and he set up on his own with the TAS brand containing banking, insurance, and numerous other interests held under the usual Cypriot holding company  – which today is a beast of many tentacles – and is in fact the reason for this entry.  (Indeed Mr Tigipko sold one of his banks to Swedbank pre 2008 crisis for $735 million via TAS Overseas Investments (Cyprus)).

If business has been good, politics has not been.

Politically Mr Tigipko did not fare well under Viktor Yushenko and Yulia Tymoshenko.  Having chosen the Kuchma side of the Dnipro Clan split, thus backing Yanukovych in 2004/5 elections, that clearly did not sit well with the new “Orange” president, nor a Prime Minister that chose the Lazarenko side of the Dnipro Clan split.

Further when Yanukovych eventually became president in 2010, despite initially welcoming him into the fold, he very clearly and publicly shafted by Mr Tigipko politically.

Lo, tax avoidance aside, it clearly pays in a business sense to hold your assets offshore and in a different legal jurisdiction in a predatory political environment like Ukraine.  It is simply far easier to defend and retain your assets.

Under the current president Mr Tigipko has kept his head down making no discernible political moves and very few business moves.

However, in the past few months Mr Tigipko appears to be going on a spending spree domestically.  Having recently bought another insurance company and rolled it into his TAS insurance entities, it appears he is now entering the hotel business too.

Not only is he entering the hotel business his seems to be doing getting good deals.  For a mere $10 million Mr Tigipko has bought the Radisson Hotel in Kyiv from the Russian owners who for a long time have desperate to sell.

Now a reader may think that the hotel business in Ukraine is not one where returns will be swift – and they’d be right too.  There are no swift returns with anything to do with hotels in Ukraine.  That said, the price paid for this asset being so low, it is possible he will see a 7 year ROI.

However, it may also be that Mr Tigipko has some insider knowledge regarding the return of licensed gambling in Ukraine and any amended parameters regarding what premises can host casinos – and which can’t.   It may well be that the absolute nonsense proposed a year ago for the return of gambling has now had a more sensible eye cast upon it – or is about to have a more sensible eye take a look.

If so, then the Radisson in Kyiv would have additional potential – and a far swifter ROI.  As Mr Tigipko has a knack for good business and poor politics, then who would be surprised if that will ultimately prove to be the case?

More generally, does Mr Tigipko now think that the bottom has now been reached and that the small economic bounce is likely to continue in an upward trend, so now is the time to buy?

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Treading on the toes of Angels – Odessa machinations

December 26, 2016

The name Alexander Angert also know as Angel to use his mafia name, has appeared in this blog numerous times (a reader may use the search facility if particularly interested).  How could it not?  His links with Mayor Trukhanov and Alexander Zhukov (father of Daria, the current Mrs Roman Abramovich) among others of notoriety and the numerous joint and associated business enterprises that do well out of City Hall and Ukraine more broadly, demand that every now and again his name is mentioned.

Indeed Mr Angert was mentioned so often by Yuri Lutsenko when he was Minister of Interior in the Tymoshenko government it would be difficult to have seen him as anything other than a personal nemesis.  (A reader may ponder why he no longer mentions it now he is Prosecutor General).  Misha Saakashvili as Governor was also not adverse to throwing Mr Angert’s name about when it came to the organised criminality in Odessa.

Mr Angert no longer lives in Odessa – but he does visit when the situation is serious enough to demand he personal participation in a “negotiation”.  His last know place of abode (for many years) is London.  Indeed if asking the personal assistant of Mr Zhukov who also lives in London, messages can apparently reach Mr Angert through that channel.  (It seems that via this route Leonid Minin can be reached in Rome too).

The full extent of Mr Angert’s (business) interests is very difficult to gauge.  In some cases his control is “unofficial”.  Others there are clearly cut outs who are known associates.  There are overtly known long term business partners like Igor Uchitel.  There are even one or two business where Mr Angert’s name actually appears.  Thus quite where all the metaphorical and literal bodies are buried is unknown – but there are definitely both metaphorical and literal bodies buried.

Perhaps the best way to identify the assets controlled by Mr Angert are those in Odessa that were left alone by Viktor Yanukovych and “The Family” from 2010 to 2014.  Former President Yanukovych did indeed meet with Mr Angert in Odessa and whatever was said between them seemingly saved Mr Angert’s interests from the attentions of “The Family” – or perhaps saved “The Family” from a slighted and vengeful “Angel”.

angel

Of the businesses that are transparently associated with Mr Angert, one is Odessagaz.  It is co-owned by Messrs Angert and Uchitel and has been for decades.  Neither oligarchs such as Firtash or Kolomoisky and not former President Yanukovych have ever made an attempt upon Odessagaz, nor interfered as they have with other regional and national gas companies.

Clearly tangling with those behind Odessagaz was not worth the blood and treasure – even for such odious, nefarious and powerful men.

Any regular reader is well aware of the frequent mention of the business appetites (by hook but mostly crook) of Igor Kononenko, President Poroshenko’s long term friend, occasional business partner and parliamentary “leg breaker”.  He is, to be blunt, as bad as they come when it comes to scams, schemes, and coercion.  His current appetites and methodology as to feeding them have hardly gone unnoticed – neither has the completely absent desire of President Poroshenko to rein them in.

It would appear however that Mr Kononenko is about to go not only where angels and oligarchs fear to tread, but indeed is about to stand on Angel’s toes.

Mr Angert, or more precisely Odessagaz, for many, many years has been trying to bring about the insolvency of Odessa CHP (thermal power plant).  Bankruptcy petitions have been made and various internal nefarious financial acts have been “encouraged” of the employees within Odessa CHP by Odessagaz (Mr Angert).  The net result was to engineer the bankruptcy of Odessa CHP beholding of large debts to Odessagaz who would then take Odessa CHP as debt settlement.

Recently however, that plan has quickly been undone via the purchasing of a significant quantity of Odessa CHP debts by Energomerezha.  This company is controlled by the brothers Surkis who are in turn puppets of Igor Kononenko.  In buying up those debts Energomerezha has therefore taken control of Odessa CHP financials that can either prevent Odessa CHP bankruptcy or assume the role of leading creditor thus undoing the plans of Odessagaz (Mr Angert).

In short when Energomerezha decides to allow Odessa CHP to go bankrupt at a time of its chosing it would be the largest creditor with a claim to taking control of the asset as settlement.  Thus that can be expected when all the ducks are lined up to insure the loser would be Odessagaz – and by extension Mr Angert.

(In the meantime as usual there is a scam whereby an agreement has been reached between Odessa CHP and Energomerezha that enables Energomerezha (read the brothers Surkis and Igor Kononenko) to clear UAH 1000 in profit for every thousand cubic meters of gas).

Quite how this situation will play out remains to be seen when even the appetites of Yanukovych, Kolomoisky and Firtash left the machinations of Angel well alone in Odessa.

Perhaps Messrs Kononenko and Angert will come to an agreement amicably.

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Or perhaps there will be made an offer than cannot be refused.

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Banking of interest (not with interest) Odessa

November 16, 2016

Much is written regarding the banking system in Ukraine.  Normally relating to the on-going clean-up of the nefarious Ukrainian banking sector by the NBU, or relating to the alleged nefarious actions of the NBU itself.

It therefore catches the eye when a small provincial bank in Odessa is to be bought by an Austrian investment banker with a curriculum vitae that clearly infers connections within the elite strata of Vienna.

The bank in question is called Investbank which certainly does not have much high street recognition in Odessa despite being a bank of Odessa.  Indeed, it is not a “high street bank”.

The Austrian purchaser, or at least soon to be majority shareholder, is Uwe Christian Eshner.  The current owners being Alexander and Tamara Nezvinsky, Nick and Igor Teplitz, and Sergei Yablonsky.

Unsurprisingly, for a provincial bank with no high street recognition, in the national ranking by size of assets, the bank falls within the smallest 25%.

That it was available for purchase is not exactly a secret.  Some years ago it could have been bought for $100 million or so.  No doubt the purchase price will be substantially less considering the dramatic change of circumstances Ukraine has found itself subject to.

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Clearly Mr Eshner is purchasing the majority share to own a fully licensed banking vehicle in Ukraine – though why Investbank when there are perhaps better deals to be struck with the NBU over insolvent licensed entities is perhaps a question some readers will ponder.

Austrian banks and bankers certainly have a “reputation” within Ukraine and among the Ukrainian elite and organised criminal class for being “helpful” when it comes to moving money out of Ukraine (and laundering it).  Who among of the very elite of Yanukovych/”Family” did not have Austrian bank accounts and expensive property in Vienna?

Mr Eshner of course will not be unaware of such things.  His Bloomberg profile boasts a history that began to “build up and develop extensive contacts to Central Eastern European countries” in the early 1990s.  Thus even if not partaking in, nor facilitating any nefarious activities, it is beyond belief that during the mad 1990’s when Mr Eshner began his banking expedition into the eastern-European nations he will have been unaware of what what brazenly going on in both Austrian and CEE banking.

(Indeed, a reader may ponder whether the infamous Udo Proksch was in any way related to one of the favoured Yanukovych Austrian bankers Reinhard Proksch.)

As a healthy level of cynicism is a requirement for living in Odessa, there are some questions that arise that may be without foundation – or not.

 

Considering the amount of elite “Ukrainian interest” past and present in Austria, who if anybody is behind Mr Eshner?

By extension, whose money is buying this banking vehicle?

What is this banking vehicle to be used for by Mr Eshner?

Is it to become a front for “interests” behind a respectable face?

Is it a bank where transactions will now be, or should be placed on a “watch list” if not by the NBU, then by the international policemen and spooks?

Did this banking purchase raise the same raised (interested) eyebrow with international policemen and spooks as it did the blog?

Why are the blog flags raised over this when there is nothing prima facie untoward?

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Oppo Block leaves the “for Porto Franco” group – Why?

November 3, 2016

On 3rd October 2016 Prosecutor General Lutsenko announced that, (as long anticipated), a request to the Verkhovna Rada to lift the immunity of Oppo Block MP Vadim Novinsky would be submitted on 4th October.

The investigations surrounding him relate to abuse of power and the unlawful imprisonment of high ranking church officials during the rule of the Yanukovych regime whilst attempts were made to “change” the leader – and his “aggressive” entanglements with the some within the church have continued since the flight of the Yanukovych “family”.

Coincidentally – or not – the day that may (or may not) see his Deputy immunity removed, Mr Novinsky is due to leave Ukraine and arrive in Greece where he is to visit Mount Athos in the company of high ranking Orthodox clergy.  A trip that is scheduled to last only the weekend.

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Depending upon who you may talk to within the Opposition Block this is either persecution of a leading Oppo Block MP, or a diversionary tactic of the current leadership to draw attention away from its failing policies, or both.

In Odessa, on the same day as PG Lutsenko’s announcement relating to Mr Novinsky, the local Oppo Block announced it was leaving the “for Porto Franco” group within City Hall to avoid being tarred with the “separatist” brush – this after 2 years of membership.

It is certainly true that despite any possible economic benefits to Odessa becoming a free port (again) the “for Porto Franco” project is certainly viewed as a “separatist” project by many.

This is perhaps unsurprising considering it was swiftly suggested by ex-Regionaries soon after the Crimean annexation,  during the early days of the occupation of the Donbas, and whilst the Kremlin was regularly banging the “federalisation of Ukraine” drum.  This was perhaps aggravated further as the level of free port autonomy sought/expected was similar to that of Hong Kong – rather than that of Southampton or Stockholm.

The immediate withdrawal of the local Oppo Block deputies now leaves on those associated with, or members of, Sergie Kivalov’s local Maritime Party – about half a dozen.

In short, the timing, the sponsors of the project, the degree of autonomy sought/expected, and the general circumstances at inception produced a project that would clearly be perceived as one with more than suspect motivation.  Thus the “for Porto Franco” political group has thus yet to hold a meeting that was not disrupted (and abruptly ended) by local pro-Ukrainian activists at each and every attempt over the past few years.

However, after several years remaining within such a controversial local political group actively attempting to sell the concept to a suspicious local constituency, it is upon the very day that the announcement of immediate attempts to deny Mr Novinsky his immunity that the local Oppo Block became concerned about a perception of being associated with “separatism”.

Such a label has not bothered the local Oppo Block for the past 2 years – and as political coincidence is far rarer that political conspiracy, a reader will ask whether there is a connection?

The answer is probably – if indirectly.

The local (and regional) Oppo Block dances to the tune of Dmitry Firtash’s/Sergei Liovochkin’s man in Odessa – Verkhova Rada MP Mykola Skoryk.  No local policy positions/decisions occur without his consent or instigation.  Therefore the Oppo Block leaving the “for Porto Franco” group within City Hall occurs at the instigation, or with the consent of, Mykola Skoryk.

How is this linked with the events surrounding Mr Novinsky, or alternatively how does it help him?

The short answer is that it isn’t and it doesn’t.

This local act has far more to do with the protection of Mykola Skoryk.

Having now witnessed Mr Novinsky’s immunity removal application submitted, it is widely known that Mr Skoryk is almost certain to be the next Oppo Block parliamentarian to see a request to lift his immunity to answer for past deeds when he was Yanukovych’s Governor of Odessa (and perhaps his deeds in following few months after his dismissal).

Deeds such as alleged involvement/sanctioning in the beating of journalists and protesters outside Oblast Administration in February 2014.

Deeds that are certainly perceived to be associated with separatism and that follow precisely timelines and actions matching the revelations of the Glasyev leaks.  Within the 2014 telephone intercepts released, Mr Glazyev laid down some ground rules to create the necessary smoke and mirrors for Kremlin support – including regional oblast building seizures and votes by regional councils favourable to the Kremlin narrative.

Unsurprisingly in March 2014, former Governor Skoryk indeed called an extraordinary meeting of the Odessa Regional Council per the Kremlin play book and time line with a single issue for deliberation – a “State of the Union” styled debate to result in a Kyiv or Moscow vote.  This despite there being no significant public pressure to do so – in fact the opposite.  It was also a debate far beyond the legal competency of both then Governor Skoryk or the authority of the Regional Council.

Fortunately then Governor Skoryk and the Kremlin play book failed to find a particularly willing or compliant Regional Council.  The council members were clearly far more in tune with the public mood than the then Governor who was following The Kremlin script.

After his dismissal as Governor, there are then deeds that manifested in more than mere tacit support during the events leading up to, and following, the 2nd May 2014 tragedy – which incidentally left him despised by both those sympathetic toward Kyiv and also those sympathetic toward Moscow.  (Should he ever go to jail and there be “protests”, those “protesters” will be turning out for a day’s pay.)

Ergo, with such a potential charge sheet facing Mr Skoryk, when next on the immunity-stripping list it perhaps pays to officially withdraw the local forces under his command from unnecessarily awkward groups.

Most assuredly if Mr Skoryk was not next on the list, the Oppo Block local deputies would have remained in the “for Porto Franco” group continuing to pay no mind to the “separatist” label that has suddenly become an issue – however imminent events surrounding Mr Novinsky dictate the need for preparatory mitigation.

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Trickle down culpability – An Odessa case to watch

October 18, 2016

A reader may ponder quite rightly just how many letters Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko receives directly requesting him to do his part in upholding the law.

However many he receives, he can now add one more to the list – a letter from Invest Group in Odessa, part of which reads “In view of the above employees of the company Invest Group refer to you as the head of the Prosecutor General’s Office, which seeks to protect human rights, the interests of society and the state, with a request to protect our employees against threats and attacks on the part of Mr. Dubov AF.”  

In short a public and direct appeal to Yuri Lutsenko not to continue to turn a blind eye to raider attacks by Mr Dubov (and associates) – please do your job!

The problems for Yuri Lutsenko continue to mount, for his undoubted return to politics (and at a minimum with a Cabinet position) rest heavily upon actually being perceived as a Prosecutor General that actively went after the elite and put more than a few in jail.  That necessity will eventually bring him into conflict with President Poroshenko who thus far has presided by way of managing elite interests, striking grubby deals, and insuring that none of the elite actually go to jail – at worst to be found guilty in absentia.

Whilst “trickle down economics” may be a commonly known phrase to many, “trickle down culpability” is how anti-corruption is currently to be perceived in Ukraine.  Those at the bottom of the “trickle down culpability” pyramid however, are hardly set to benefit in either theory or practice.

This particular Invest Group case however, is somewhat interesting for it involves a man with no legitimate immunity, who is unambiguously connected to the very top of the Ukrainian elite yet politically toxic, and is nothing short of a professional “raider” of businesses.

Thus there are local complainants, a local structure that simply fails to control his well known nefarious deeds, a local infrastructure that acts on his behalf/defends his actions, and an elite connection that is undeniable yet intangible – whilst he is without any of the immunity complications associated with actually arresting him.

Before going any further, a few lines about Mr Alexander Dubov are perhaps in order – for most readers will have never heard of him (even if they live in Ukraine).

Mr Dubov hails from Odessa Oblast.  He finished medical school and also holds qualifications in law from Odessa National Academy.  Upon completion his mysteriously managed to land some highly placed positions in the southwest of the Oblast immediately.  For example he promptly became Deputy Director of Dombudkonstruktsiya near Ismail.  Time spent on the borders of Transnistria was not wasted and it is claimed/known that he became a major player in cigarette smuggling during the mid to late 1990’s.  He also became the Deputy Director (of General Affairs) for the Christian Charitable Foundation Trust until 2002/3.

“Foundations”, “trusts” and “charities” were/are a prerequisite for those with sullied reputations but who have political ambition – and political ambition Mr Dubov had (and still has).

He became a Deputy Director of an entity called the Ukrainian Investment Group which sometime around 2005/6 came into contact with an entity called International Investment Group.  International Investment Group was then led by Alexander Yanukovych, the eldest (and wanted) son of former-President Yanukovych.

A reader will therefore be able to predict the increased profitability and infamy of Mr Dubov within certain circles once a relationship with Alexander Yanukovych developed.

Indeed in 2007, when then President Yushenko was juggling Prime Ministers and minions of both Yanukovych and Tymoshenko sallied forth across the land offering MP mandates for $5 million for those interested and deemed appropriate/came with recommendation (with an expected return of quadrupling that investment during a parliamentary mandate – or such was the return offered to this blog when asked in 2007 if for $5 million a seat in the Verkhovna Rada would be of interest), Mr Dubov entered the Verkhovna Rada under the Batkivshchyna (Tymoshenko) Party label.

Whether or not he got a discount on the $5 million joining/mandate fee who knows – but assuredly it will have cost several $ millions for that mandate if offered the same deal that this blog was offered at that time.

Naturally, having now reached the Verkhovna Rada Mr Dubov also set up his own charity, “Foundation for Goodness and Love”.  It was the done thing and nothing unusual.  Such entities are particularly useful when it comes to voter bribery/coercion.

Once in the Verkhovna Rada Mr Dubov set about work in the font of all fonts of corruption and nefariousness – energy and nuclear power.  He became closely associated with Alexander Turchynov, the current Secretary of the National Security & Defence Council of Ukraine.  Mr Turchynov was at the time one of the staunchest of Tymoshenko loyalists.  Mr Turchynov appears to have ably assisted Mr Dubov’s parliamentary career – and with it access to numerous machinations and nefarious schemes.  Without listing them all, scams are alleged to have included the food budget for prisoners (presumably resulting in hungry prisoners), drug procurement, and (an on-going per the opening paragraphs) count of close to 100 corporate raids – mostly in Odessa, but not exclusively.

In 2012 his second term in the Verhovna Rada began (District 64, Odessa) in what must have been an extremely expensive voter bribery and/or coercion campaign.  At the time of “peak Yanukovych”, a Batkivshchyna MP from Odessa with a reputation as thoroughly sullied as his won fairly?  Clearly the previous Verhovna Rada “returns” during his first mandate, plus almost 100 corporate raids upon profitable companies provided for such expensive electoral funding.

What is perhaps somewhat unique about the corporate raiding conducted by Mr Dubov is that no entity seems to have survived once his eye (or the eyes of others for which he would ply his expertise) has been taken with them.  There is also a level of consistent brutality and brazenness about these corporate raids that set them apart from others.

Naturally not all spoils were (or are) retained by Mr Dubov.  He had (and has) patrons within the Verkhovna Rada to which tribute is necessarily paid.  Indeed rumour has it that he earned sufficient trust that during the immediate aftermath of the Yanukovych regime flight and the subsequent high positions of his patrons, that he became one of the “purses” for certain temporary highly placed political figures to re-route State funds through.

Dubrov, Yatseniuk, Tymoshenko Y, Tymoshenko E

Dubrov, Yatseniuk, Tymoshenko Y, Tymoshenko E

The “Revolution of Dignity” was not altogether rewarding for Mr Dubov however – even if you do get to stand next to Ms Tymoshenko upon her release before a less than enthusiastic crowd.

The subsequent Verkhovna Rada elections of October 2015 saw him lose his single mandate parliamentary seat and he was deemed simply to odious a figure to feature highly on any Batkivshchyna Party list in the post-revolutionary atmosphere.  Those with a public persona for thuggery, corporate raiding and extortion were swiftly distanced whilst new unsullied civil society and journalism people were actively sought – notwithstanding persistent and ugly inferences to his involvement in the preparations (and aftermath) resulting in the 2nd May tragedy in Odessa.

Mr Dubov is not man without political creativity, even if he is a brutal one.  Because political doors were/are closed due to the political climate (they may reopen), he toyed with the idea of heading the Chamber of Commerce instead.  After all, a degree of power is there to be had, and so are the invitations for drinkies and a canapes with ambassadors, economic and trade attaches, as well as foreign business leaders.  Unfortunately the Ukrainian leadership managed to grasp the prickly politics of placing a professional and notorious corporate raider as head of the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce (although a reader will doubt they would otherwise have understood the irony).

Nevertheless, the core business of (professional) corporate raiding continues as Invest Group’s very recent letter to the Prosecutor General makes abundantly clear.  This despite Mr Dubov having been nudged into the shadows of political expediency and therefore can no longer hide behind parliamentary immunity.

With immunity gone, why then does he continue to act so brazenly and implied impunity?

As any occultist will say “As above, so below”.  If Ms Tymoshenko, Alexander Yanukovych and Mr Turchynov (among others) have all been (and perhaps still are) the “above” – then who and what constitutes the “below”?  Corporate raiding is a “dark art” in Ukraine after all.

If persistent and informed whispers are in any way accurate, then the exact construction of that local protection is divided between the political and the legal.  It would perhaps, if whispers be true, compromise politically of Messrs Krotyk, Kmyrenko, Shyvalov, Shamilov, Deide, Lutsenko (I), and Ms Syslova and Kuzel, whilst influencing the legal would be Mr Babenko, Mr Mazark with the SBU, the police and prosecutors by Mr Podolev, and Mrs Podoleva the courts.

It must therefore be clear to a reader why Invest Group have decided to circumvent the local system and appeal directly and publicly to the Prosecutor General when faced with yet another corporate raid by Mr Dubov (via a shell company called Naster registered in Lithuania if Mr Lutsenko needs a place to start and work back from).

A reader may question whether the Invest Group corporate raid is an act of Mr Dubov alone, or whether it done on behalf of others?  If so which others?  Alexander Yanukovych?  NSDC Secretary Turchynov?  Ms Tymoshenko?  Others from his Batkivshchyna history?   Perhaps the acts occur on behalf of yet others?  He is certainly skilled at what he does.  His reputation is earned.

The sensitive issue of how well acquainted Mr Dubov is with the Attorney General who was also a Batkivshchyna loyalist renowned for grubby deals behind the curtain during Mr Dubov’s two terms as a Deputy from the same party also arises.

How does Attorney General Lutsenko now act upon receipt of this letter?  It is not a case that will get any diplomatic attention (unless the diplomats that read this blog now take it under observation).  It is a case that can be easily ignored should he chose to do so – or at least act so slowly as to be too late to prevent the successful conclusion of the Invest Group corporate raid.

If he has any conflicting interests, who does he pass this off to?

If he (or President Poroshenko) want a big scalp in Odessa, and one which is also well known within the national elite circles, does the currently politically toxic and immunity-less Mr Dubov provide for something approaching a significant anti-corruption/business friendly conviction whereby the current “trickle down culpability policy” does not necessarily have to trickle down very far?

Although this case will probably get little by way of attention, it is perhaps one that should be watched as something of a bellwether simply because it presents overt political opportunities unhindered by issues of immunity that can provide publicity regarding successful anti-corruption, criminal action and bettering the business environment- or not.

Attorney General Lutsenko’s response is awaited.

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Dignity and Freedom Day Ukraine

November 22, 2015

Two years ago today, as the first 20 – 30 somethings were gathering at Maidan in Kyiv to protest the failure of the then president to sign the Association Agreement and DCFTA with the EU, this blog wrote  “Perhaps those millions in favour of the agreement will turn out en masse with a policy of civil disobedience in numbers reminiscent of 2004/5 and panic the National Security Council and President Yanukovych into a different decision over the next week? Time will tell.”  

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Well time did indeed tell – and former President Yanukovych and the most corrupt and the closest of his criminal entourage fled Ukraine a few months and numerous deaths later.

Deliberately avoiding concentrating upon the illegal annexation of Crimea and naked direct and sponsored Kremlin aggression within the now occupied Donbas, or any other Kremlin inspired/sponsored/funded acts directed at crippling, undermining and subjugating Ukraine, the result of EuroMaidan domestically nevertheless certainly fall far short of the expectations of some.

Some with lofty expectations despite the fact that in electing Messrs Poroshenko and Yatseniuk, themselves products of an odious and thoroughly corrupt climate, chose not to see that clearly they were and are only ever going to be able to take the nation so far before those never indoctrinated in that odious and corrupt past are tasked to take the nation the rest of the way.

Messrs Poroshenko and Yatseniuk are quite aware that The Rubicon has been crossed politically and within society, there is no going back – but they are simply not keen and/or able to run from the new shoreline, creating a forcible and unwavering beachhead of transition, and gallop into the level economic playing fields and consolidated democratic meadows that lay ahead.  Instead an oft perceived shuffling away from, or indeed marking time within, corrupt schemes past and present rightly haunts them.

Thus for the more careful of thinkers, the frustrations with Messrs Poroshenko and Yatseniuk are not that they have failed to deliver that which was never within them, but that they are yet to deliver what they are capable of delivering in a timely way even when accounting for their histories, the skeletons that lurk there, and the ingrained nefarious mindset of which they were a part for the decades they spent climbing the greasy – and corrupt to the core – political and business pole they conquered.

Nonetheless there has been some notable progress too, albeit almost all progress worthy of the name has been externally forced upon the generally feckless Ukrainian political class by those nations and international institutions that are keeping the Ukraine economically, diplomatically and politically afloat.

But the negatives and the positives – and there are both – that have resulted from what started 2 years ago today are not the point of this entry.

Perhaps the most poignant question for readers to ponder on Dignity and Freedom Day in Ukraine, is not necessarily what EuroMaidan has achieved thus far – or not – but what fate for Ukraine did EuroMaidan prevent?

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Populism or front-loaded social policy reform? Ukraine

September 21, 2015

Today Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk announced increased pensions for State employees from early October, and for other pensioners an additional payment before the month end and an increase in pensions thereafter.

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Clearly with local elections on the 25th October there is a distinct whiff of populist politics meant to buy off the voting constituency in order that they overlook what is a decidedly grotesque social system.

It is a system that is exceptionally centralised, at times unreliable, extremely politicised and thus corrupt.

Further, whilst the leadership should be rightly concerned with assisting the poorest half of Ukrainian society in the wake of rampant inflation, necessary energy price rises (necessary in order to tackle elite corruption in the energy sector and remove subsidies the State cannot afford), these pension rises do absolutely nothing to address the social expenditures that are obscenely high in Ukraine.

Despite the obscenely high social expenditures Ukrainian society is entirely dissatisfied with the quality of services these expenditures provide.  That a good deal of social expenditure reaches people that do not need it, whilst those that genuinely need State social expenditure to escape real and unnecessary suffering do not get enough of it, lies squarely within a social policy that has no mechanism to target assistance to the most needy nor eliminate of the most wasteful excesses.

Leaving aside education and health which continually rank very highly within Ukrainian societal opinion polls as priorities (but have not been treated as priorities historically regardless of their consistently high poll rankings) this entry will stick to pensions and the usual pension rise prior to any election in Ukraine.

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In Ukraine the politics of populism has always preferred to increase benefits rather than address systemic and fundamental social reforms within the State infrastructure.  In the absence of any social reforms since independence, to political class has managed to alienate themselves and the institutions of state from their constituents.  It is necessary to be entirely honest – social reforms normally manifest themselves very, very quickly.  The benefits in living standards, social justice and quality of social services normally increase societal trust in the State and its institutions.  Where the State fails, the opposite occurs – and that opposite is what has happened continuously in Ukraine.

For those that recall the Yanukovych-Tymoshenko attempts to out do each other on in the populist fight between 2005 and 2009, they will perhaps be aware that pension expenditures rocketed.  From a few percent when independence came, by 2004 that percentage had reached 10% of GDP.  After the populism contest between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko during the mid/end noughties, pension expenditure had reached 18% of GDP – where it has stayed until now.  The current pension mess is directly attributable to this populist nonsense instead of social expenditure reform.

Now with a shrinking GDP and another increase in pensions, we are likely to see another increase – despite 18% of GDP being by far the highest percent of GDP being spent on pensions across the entire European continent.

The reasons for this are numerous, and briefly outlined relate to the retirement age being far too low and the minimum working (and contributing) years to receive a full State pension being far too short.  The number of citizens that qualify for early “special pensions” are far too numerous (police, military, miners, state officials etc., account for 4% of GDP alone) and the system overly rewards the old Communist Party elites (Heroes of the Soviet Union etc) at the expense of the young and middle class (health and education), whilst the pitifully poor receive support that ridiculues the definition insufficient or even woeful.

With such a low retirement age, so few years to be worked before qualifying for a full State pension, and so many entitled to an early “special pension”, approximately 30 of Ukrainian citizens are pensioners of one type or another – whilst many continue to work because they are still comparatively young (and would be a decade (at least) away from a pension in almost all European countries).

The purpose of an old age pension is surely not to reward State officials that have spent a career stealing from their fellow citizens.  Likewise many of the police, and many responsible for societal repression within the old Soviet structures.  The purpose of a pension is surely at its most fundamental, sufficient funds to prevent the elderly dying in abject poverty – and so dysfunctional and unreliable is the current state of the Ukrainian social policy, it is entirely likely that the State fails in this regard on all counts.

Clearly, at some point the pension system has to be brought under control, the age limit lifted, the qualifying years for a full pension increased, and controls and caps on “special pensions” created.  There is surely room, notwithstanding an obvious economic need if the State is to survive, to at the very least halve the 18% of GDP pensions currently cost.

Naturally it would help matters if the State would radically cut employers payroll tax, bringing more hidden employees into the collectible and declarable tax arena, but mandatory contributions could perhaps be run in parallel to voluntary private pension saving schemes – as most other nations manage to do?

Presumably these new pension hikes will be funded in part by the debt haircuts recently agreed, and the small budget surplus accrued thus far this year, as well as other odds and ends left over in budget pots as the budgetary year ends – but it is not sustainable.

To make it sustainable, serious GDP savings must be made elsewhere, in energy as previously identified, by privatisation, and by the immediate stop to all subsidies – but even then, is it desirable to have the most costly (in terms of GDP) and yet least efficient and socially irresponsible pension system within the European continent?

Perhaps when making such pension announcements, Prime Minister Yatseniuk could/should explain how these pension rises, which in the current circumstances are needed by the poorest in the nation, are going to be financed not only in the immediate term, but also in the medium term?  Some linkage to other fiscal and economic policies may be a reasonable idea within the public domain so when pain is felt in some sectors, all will know where the benefits of that pain are being felt elsewhere?

Is this a benefit front-loaded signal of social expenditure reform (even if the announcement will not properly benefit those who need it the most due to the system) and hard policy choices will also be announced (after the elections), or is it the usual pension populism with no regard to national sustainability?

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