Why the “Zlochevsky case” will become another episode in the criminal case of Petro Poroshenko’s gang.
As an official at the time of Yanukovych, Zlochevsky achieved the closure of criminal cases and turned into a top oligarch — an investigation by journalists from New Times.
Nikolay Zlochevsky, a top government official in the times of Viktor Yanukovych, not only achieved the closure of criminal cases against himself, but also turned into a super-successful businessman, having reached the 11th place in the list of the richest Ukrainians, writes the magazine New Times.
He is a large man with a shaved head, who wears square suits and does not like to button the top of his shirt.
So the British journalist and writer Oliver Bullough in his new book the Money Land described Nikolay Zlochevsky, the former Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine of the times of Viktor Yanukovich, the founder of the gas group Burisma Group.
Zlochevsky got into a book published this year in London for a reason. Bullough says that after the Maidan, an international meeting of representatives of different countries was held in the British capital, at which it was discussed how to help Ukraine return the money stolen by the comrades-in-arms of former President Viktor Yanukovych. And soon after, the Central Criminal Court in London arrested $ 23.5 million found on four accounts at BNP Paribas and owned by the gas producing companies of Zlochevsky. This money came to London from Latvia, Bullough writes. The British became interested in these funds, because before the Revolution of Dignity, Zlochevsky was in the civil service for a long time.
But then Zlochevsky’s lawyers managed to lift the arrest. Daria Kalenyuk, the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Center (ACC), is sure that Ukrainian law enforcement agencies helped them in this. And the criminal case instituted against the ex-official in his homeland ended in the payment of 180 million UAH of taxes by the accountant of his company.
ACC executive director Daria Kalenyuk is confident that Ukrainian law enforcers helped lift the arrest from Zlochevsky’s $ 23.5 million in London
Zlochevsky managed to make not only this jump, but he also became a successful entrepreneur. His Ukrainian business only flourishes every year.
In 2018, Yanukovych’s ex-associate ranked 11th in the list of the richest Ukrainians, which NT makes with Dragon Capital. The status of Zlochevsky in the rating is estimated at $ 636 million, which is 2.5 times more than he had in 2013 when he first broke into the rating of Ukrainian rich people.
The word “Ukrainian” as applied to Zlochevsky is conditional: it is still not known exactly which country the former official lives in today.
However, once a year, he regularly appears in public, surrounded by European and American experts in Monaco, at an energy security forum that Zlochevsky and his partners founded three years ago.
His strong ties with world officials are confirmed by the fact that the supervisory board of Burisma includes former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Hunter Biden, son of the former US Vice President.
“His [Zlochevsky] scenario now is to whiten his image”, — said Viktoria Voitsitskaya, People’s Deputy, member of the fraction “Samopomich” and expert on energy issues.
From SDPU (u) to Klyuyev
Zlochevsky got into big politics in 2002, becoming a deputy of VR on the lists of the notorious SDPU (u) party, the leader of which was no less scandalous Viktor Medvedchuk.
In 2003-2005, Zlochevsky was the head of the State Committee for Natural Resources, then deputy for four years with the Party of Regions, and after another couple of years he headed the State Committee for Material Reserves. In 2010, when Yanukovych came to power, Zlochevsky headed the Ministry of Environmental Protection, then became Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources and retained his status until 2012.
It was at that moment that Burisma received six new licenses for the exploration of gas fields and four licenses for gas production. “Licenses Zlochevsky issued to himself. He was the main bureaucrat in this matter”, — explains Tatyana Chornovil, a people’s deputy from the People’s Front, who at the time was engaged in anti-corruption investigations.
Licenses Zlochevsky gave himself. He was the main bureaucrat in this issue. Tatyana Chornovil
Having worked under Yanukovych as the head of the Ministry of Environment, Zlochevsky handed over this status to Eduard Stavitsky, and became the deputy secretary of the Security Council — a fugitive Andrei Klyuyev was his predecessor.
Sergei Leshchenko, the People’s Deputy of the PPB, says that in those days Zlochevsky was a middle-class oligarch and was part of Klyuyev’s informal group. At the same time, he was never greedy, so he easily found a common language with everyone.
Zlochevsky got into the gas business the same year as in politics. Then the subsidiaries of Burisma became interested in hydrocarbon production. In 2004, two of them, Esko-Service and Pari, obtained exploration licenses and began operating the first well.
But real luck smiled upon them when Zlochevsky headed the Ministry of Environment. Chornovil explains: in the gas business, the main problem is the passage of all bureaucratic procedures and the receipt of production licenses. “The question is not even in money equivalent, but in this”, — explains the deputy. The whole bureaucracy was in charge of the Ministry of Environment.
After the revolution, Zlochevsky still remained in Ukraine, but then, fearing criminal prosecution, he left the country.
Aleksander Onishchenko, a businessman from gas and the person involved in the investigations of NABU, told NT that in January 2016, he met Zlochevsky in Dubai. Most likely, the former minister lives there today.
The question is closed
In 2014, Kalenyuk closely followed the work of law enforcement agencies in criminal matters, which featured Zlochevsky. In October, for example, the ACC filed a statement with the General Prosecutor’s Office about the ex-minister’s crime. “We described the wells, for which he obtained permits, working as a minister”, — recalls Kalenyuk.
Then, during a meeting with the investigator of the GPU, she was struck by the number of folders in the Zlochevsky case in the office of the prosecutor’s employee — definitely, the investigation was very active.
But Vitaliy Yarema, who headed the General Prosecutor’s Office at that moment, was not, according to Kalenyuk, interested in the result of this work. She draws this conclusion on the basis that it was the position of the GPU that helped remove the arrest from Zlochevsky’s money in London.
The British sent to Ukraine a request for international legal assistance in the case of the owner Burisma and even came to Kiev to create an international investigation team. But after talking with local law enforcement officers changed their mind.
The British wanted from the GPU information about where the $ 23.5 million they arrested on Zlochevsky’s accounts came from. And they did not receive it.
But, according to Kalenyuk, the Prosecutor General’s Office issued to Zlochevsky’s lawyer a certificate stating that his client was not under suspicion and there were no official complaints against him. With this document in the hands of a lawyer, it was easy for the British authorities to release millions of the former minister.
And the GPU then transferred the case to the police and then returned it back, and in January 2015, the office even put Zlochevsky on the wanted list. But the money has already gone.
Yuriy Lutsenko, having come to the post of Prosecutor General, took measures against the owner of Burisma.
The Prosecutor General’s Office issued a statement to Zlochevsky’s lawyer that his client was not under suspicion and there were no official complaints against him.
In July 2016, he estimated the losses from tax evasion by Zlochevsky’s companies at 1 billion UAH, which he said at a special briefing.
But in the end, the case was retrained. And after Burisma paid 180 million UAH of tax payments, the GPU closed it in November 2016.
After that, at the end of the year, Zlochevsky was noticed in a Viennese restaurant in the company of Igor Kononenko, a deputy from the PPB and a close associate of the president of the country. A number of experts regard this parliamentarian as a person with influence on the GPU.
Kononenko in the process of a short and nervous conversation with NT said that he was not communicating with Zlochevsky now and he was not interested in his gas business, and called a photo from a meeting in Vienna as Photoshop.
The National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) also dealt with Zlochevsky. Two years ago, his detectives established that part of the licenses to companies of the Burisma group had been issued without the consent of local councils, and such approval was legally required by law.
NABU asked the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAP) to apply administrative dispute before the court to revoke the licenses.
But the special prosecutor missed the six-month deadline for filing a lawsuit — in the end, the court refused to even consider the matter.
The head of SAP Nazar Kholodnitsky told NT that they delayed the process not on their own: for a long time, they said, they could not get an answer from the relevant State service on geology. And when they did receive it, it turned out that this structure sees no reason for revoking ill-fated licenses. Only after that SAP went to sue.
At NABU, as reported in the press service of the bureau, there are still two more productions in which Zlochevsky’s last name flashes.
The first is on the fact of the commission of illegal actions by officials of the Ministry of Environment during the issuance in 2010-2012 of special permits for the use of subsoil to a number of enterprises in which Zlochevsky is the ultimate beneficiary.
The second is in the case of taking money from the state budget by officials of the ministry during the procurement of software advisory services.
But personally Zlochevsky doesn’t suspect in these cases.
And domestic law enforcement officers removed this businessman from the Ukrainian and interstate search.
While Ukrainian and British law enforcement agencies were conducting their investigations, the ex-minister was engaged in bleaching reputation. And he began with London.
Oliver Bullough tells that he was in a small film crew of a short documentary film that told two stories about Ukraine. One concerned just the arrest of all the same $ 23.5 million.
In the course of the preparation, the authors turned to commentaries, including Zlochevsky’s lawyers. Therefore, they knew about the preparation of the film, says Bullough.
A few days before the premiere, which was to take place in a small London cinema press club, they received a letter from the British law firm Peters & Peters, representing the interests of Zlochevsky in London. Its meaning: the film — slander.
“Unfortunately, because of this letter, the small cinema where the film was supposed to be shown decided not to risk it. And then everyone else decided not to risk it”, — recalls Bullough. However, he clarifies: there was no slander.
Later, the Briton described this story in his book.
Closing problematic issues in Ukraine, Burisma began to overgrow with foreign connections. In 2016, Joseph Cofer Black, the former head of the CIA Anti-Terrorism Center, also joined her supervisory board in addition to those who were there several years earlier, Kwasniewski and Hunter Biden.
In the same year, Zlochevsky’s daughter Karina became director of the group.
At the same time, Zlochevsky, together with Prince Albert II of Monaco and the Kwasniewski Foundation, founded the International Forum on Energy Security for the Future.
Last year, a deputy from PPB Nina Yuzhanina and Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kistion, who was close to Poroshenko, came there. “This is a demonstration of handshake”, — said the deputy Voitsitskaya.
Not only his daughter Karina (first on the right), but also Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kistion (second on the left) and PPB’s deputy Nina Yuzhanina (first on the left), and ex-president of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski (second from right) came to the Nikolay Zlochevsky’s Forum (center) in Monaco in 2017.
True, when they learned about the handshake in Ukraine, a scandal erupted. Therefore, this year domestic officials did not go to the forum anymore. But there the president of Latvia Raimonds Vejonis made a speech.
But not a single forum: in January 2017, the day before the inauguration of Donald Trump, Burisma signed a cooperation agreement with the Atlantic Council, an influential US non-governmental think tank.
In the fall of 2017, this center and Burisma held a joint conference in Washington on investment issues.
John Herbst, a former US ambassador to Ukraine and head of the Eurasian Center at the Atlantic Council, explained to NT that Burisma is one of the many sponsors of the Eurasian Center’s activities in the Ukrainian area.
“We do not disclose publicly an agreement with our donors”, — the ex-diplomat said, but clarified: at the end of the year, the center publishes an annual report listing the donors and the procedure for their financial support.
According to the The Guardian newspaper, we can talk about amounts from $ 100 thousand to $ 249 thousand.
Zlochevsky uses the same tools for bleaching reputations as other oligarchs, explains communications consultant Yarina Klyuchkovskaya. “If you get familiar with the get-together, sooner or later you will be accepted as your own”, — she explains. They say that reputation is like an old-fashioned photo album: if there are a lot of beautiful fresh photos in it, old pictures will be lost sooner or later.
At home, Burisma, which includes 12 companies, continues to thrive, becoming one of the largest private gas producers. It has 20 licenses for the extraction of hydrocarbons, and since the beginning of the year the group has produced almost 800 million cubic meters of gas, says Gennadiy Kobol, director of ExPro Consulting. And at the end of 2018, this figure will approach the mark of 1 billion cubic meters that at current gas prices is equivalent to earnings of 10 billion USD, says the expert.
But Burisma also produces condensate with oil.
Zlochevsky still does not risk appearing in Ukraine. But he miraculously attended all this time and continues to be present in the capital.
Already after Euromaidan, a luxury men’s shoes store opened in the center of Kiev. They sell unique products — alligator, ostrich, eel and red deer. The boutique is called meaningfully — Zlocci. And a number of people polled by NT are sure: the elite retail outlet is connected with Zlochevsky.
Zlocci store appeared in the center of Kiev after Euromaidan
The site of the boutique states that their shoes “will allow you to emphasize style and status in the highest society”. It looks like the program of actions of Zlochevsky, who is “wearing shoes” in connection with famous world personalities.
Neither Zlochevsky, nor his daughter answered the HT’s requests to comment on the information contained in this article.