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Monday, August 10 – US criminal charges against Ihor Kolomoisky

Kolomoisky: US Criminal Charges to Follow Civil?...New Governor Wins Control of Central Bank Board...Ukraine Moves Rapidly from Cash to Cards...Ukraine to Tap Green Financing...Next April: UIA To Restart Regular Service to US, Canada and India...
James Brooke
by James Brooke
UBN Morning News is reported and written by James Brooke, a former New York Times foreign correspondent and Bloomberg Moscow Bureau Chief

US criminal charges against Ihor Kolomoisky could follow last week’s civil forfeiture complaints by the US Department of Justice, speculate Concorde Capital and the Kyiv Post. “Given that they [Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov] have already been accused by the U.S. Justice Department of money laundering and embezzlement (among other crimes), criminal charges are likely in the pipeline,” writes Concorde’s Zenon Zawada. “Though Kolomoisky can fight the forfeitures without being in court, criminal charges will likely require that he appear. That would lead to the U.S. seeking Kolomoisky’s extradition, since we don’t expect him to go to the U.S. on his own will.”

Igor Kolomoisky rejects US Justice Department allegations that he and his partners bought office buildings and steel mills in the US property as part of a “conspiracy to launder money embezzled and fraudulently obtained” from PrivatBank, reports the Financial Times. “All investments in the USA were made from personal funds received in 2007-2008” from the sale of Ukraine-based steel industry assets and “from the income of other businesses” with accounts at PrivatBank, he tells the FT. “Everything else is categorically rejected.” He made similar comments Friday to pravda.com.ua news site.

The US moves seem to come partly in response to last month’s purge of bank reformers from the National Bank of Ukraine. In 2016, faced with a $5.5 billion hole at Kolomoisky’s bank, PrivatBank, the Central Bank nationalized the bank.

    Zawada writes: “These accusations offer added insurance that Kolomoisky will not regain control over Privatbank. We believe they mark the peak of Kolomoisky’s influence in Ukraine, which will wane once criminal charges are filed in the U.S.”

    Timothy Ash writes from London: “With recent moves against the reform team at the NBU, the US Government might have reached the conclusion that if they don’t move now, then the risk is the whole domestically driven legal push on Privatbank collapses, and with it I guess hopes for sustaining the 2015-17 bank reforms and bank clean up program…things are now moving so fast in Ukraine from the forces acting against banking reform et al, that the US decided that it might be game over by the time Biden assumes the presidency in February.”

    Oleksiy Shaban has been named a Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, giving Kyrylo Shevchenko, the new Governor, a majority on the central bank board. Shaban worked as director of the bank’s payment systems department.

    Timothy Ash writes from London: “The new Governor Shevchenko is now fully in charge at the NBU…The IMF is signaling they will want to take some time to assess the changes at the NBU and give Shevchenko some time to prove himself…This likely means delay to IMF reviews and also IMF disbursements…I struggle to see further IMF credit disbursements this year.”

    The use of payment cards jumped 17% yoy during the first half of this year in Ukraine, to 2.74 billion transactions, reports the National Bank of Ukraine. The size of the average transaction edged up 7%, to $15.

    As Ukrainians shifted rapidly to cashless transactions, the number of cash transactions with cards – largely withdrawals from ATM machines – dropped by 12% during the first half of this year.

    During the first half, the number of point of sale terminal increased by 5%. The number of issued cards also increased by 5%, to 71.7 million, or two for every Ukrainian.

    Increasingly popular are contactless and tokenized cards. In June, almost 10 million contactless cards were used, up 25.6% since January. In June, 2.7 million tokenized cards were in use, up 22.5% from January.

    Ukraine is moving to introduce green finance standards in the country, with a focus on green bonds. The World Bank’s IFC signed a cooperation agreement on green finance Friday with Ukraine’s National Securities and Stock Market Commission. Timur Khromaev, the Commission Chairman, said: “The Ukrainian capital market should become part of the global capital markets and our work aims to help develop this potential. Together with our international partners, we will work on policies to introduce green finance standards in Ukraine, mainly through green bonds.”

    Jason Pellmar, IFC’s Regional Manager, said: “IFC’s extensive global experience has proven that investments providing environmental benefits are not only more ecologically sustainable but also more commercially sound. The development of green finance is gaining momentum throughout the world.”

    Ukraine’s Commission recently joined the Sustainable Banking Network — a group of regulatory agencies and banking associations from 40 emerging markets committed to advancing sustainable finance. The Network represents 40 countries and $43 trillion, or 86% of total banking assets in emerging markets. With Ukraine owing almost $1 billion in unpaid electricity fees to solar and wind producers, green bonds increasingly are seen as a way out.

    UIA only plans to return to regularly scheduled flights to New York, Toronto and Delhi in April, according to Evgeny Dykhne, president of Ukraine’s largest airline. He says: “As governmental restrictions begin to ease, UIA plans to return to the hub model in April 2021 and restore the route network by at least 80% and will include long-haul flights to New York, Toronto and Delhi.” UIA has Kyiv Boryspil-Toronto flights scheduled for Aug. 15 and 29, and Kyiv-New York flights for Aug. 24 and 31. “UIA’s move makes sense,” writes Simple Flying website. “It is already August. There are few chances of the situation in the United States improving.”

    Kyiv Boryspil passenger traffic was down 80% yoy in July, to 328,667, from 1.6 million in July 2019. Hubbing, a key component of UIA’s model, was wiped out. Last month, the airport recorded 3,146 transfer passengers, less than 1% of the 358,746 passengers handled in July 2019. Thanks to a strong first quarter, Boryspil’s air traffic is down by only two thirds for the January-July, to 2.85 million people. Until anti-virus restrictions were imposed worldwide in mid-March, Boryspil was handling about 1 million passengers a month.

    Ukrzaliznytsia is doubling the frequency of Kyiv’s ‘train-to-the-plane’, the Boryspil Express. The train now travels 12 times a day between central Kyiv and Ukraine’s largest airport. The ride takes 40 minutes, with stops at Darnytsia, the left bank commuter rail station, and Vydubychi, the new right bank connection to the Green Line and buses to Odesa. Under the new schedule, trains leave Kyiv-Passenger station at 00:04, 03:00, 05:43, 06:30, 08:23, 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:56, 17: 50, 20:14 and 22:01. As of last night, the website posted the old schedule.

    From the Editor: “Tony Soprano would be impressed,” writes New York’s Daily News in a big stretch to get Americans interested in “Ukrainian billionaires [who] bought [US] properties with dirty money.” While Igor Kolomoisky is known for his humor and showmanship, the News sets a high bar by comparing him to the Italian-American don who fascinated American HBO viewers for six seasons in the 2000s. With The Godfather film trilogy entertaining an earlier generation, audiences around the world love Italian-American mobsters. But Jewish-Ukrainian gangsters with hard to pronounce names – try Bogolyubov – promise a tough box office sell. Today, few people know of Meyer Lansky and the Jewish mob that ran Havana’s casinos and racetracks in the 1950s. But, fair or not, the rebels who drove them out of Cuba are world media icons: Fidel Castro and CheGuevara. With Best Regards Jim Brooke