One of the five men in custody suspected of their involvement in the Dec. 25 beating of journalist Tetyana Chornovol was the co-owner of the license to TVi, which until April was considered one of the last remaining television outlets that investigated high-level corruption in government.
Kotenko, 29, was as of July 2 the director of and 40 percent shareholder in Keyko Ukraine, the license
holder of TVi, according to a September Kyiv Post investigation into the ownership changes at the
A month before Keyko took over
the license of TVi, 60 percent of its ownership went to an Estonian company,
Bellday OU, which had been established on April 22, five days after TVi was
abruptly taken over by an Ukraine-born American with a bad credit history.
The sole shareholder of Bellday
is Panama-based Valarta Consulting. A Danish firm, founded in June, now holds Kotenko’s 40 percent share in Keyko.
Until April TVi was known for its
in-depth investigations that uncovered corruption in the upper echelons of
Ukraine’s government. The channel’s best-known investigations included one into
the alleged overspending of state budget funds during the procurement of oil
rigs in 2012. TVi’s journalists also helped shed more insight on Livela, a
shady company that in 2010 nearly monopolized Ukraine’s imports of gasoline, in
addition to enjoying the benefits of a court ruling that exempted the company
from paying excise duties.
But in April, it was taken over
by a new team of owners during which more than 30 journalists left the channel
in protest while programming softened and it drifted toward infotainment.
A dizzying series of transactions
then took place at the channel over the next three months involving companies
in the British Virgin Islands, Panama, United Kingdom, Estonia, and Ukraine. By
July 2, Kotenko ended up as the 40 percent owner of Teleradiosvit, the TVi
Four reportedly in custody over Chornovol beating
In addition to Kotenko, there are
four other suspects in custody for the beating of Chornovol.
Police say they also have Andriy
Nasikovsky and Oleksandr Khramtsov in custody, the latter of whom is the
registered owner of the sports utility vehicle that blocked and ran Chornovol’s
car off a highway. He however sold the car to Kotenko six months ago, according
to news reports, and journalists have uncovered video footage of Khramtsov at a
Kyiv restaurant during the time of Chornovol’s attack.
He is still the registered owner
because Kotenko hasn’t paid him in full for the vehicle, Ukrainska Pravda reported. A police
statement on Dec. 27, quoting Mykola Chynchyn, head of the interior
ministry’s investigation department, said that having an alibi doesn’t exculpate
The fourth person in custody is Kotenko’s
older brother Oleksandr Kotenko. According to Chynchyn, he was a member of an
organized crime group.
A fifth suspect who the police wouldn’t name
and in custody was described as “directly taking part in the beating of the
victim (Chornovol),” based on preliminary information.
“I would also like to add that the main task
of this investigation is determine who gave the orders to commit the crime,”