A report by forensic auditor Kroll into PrivatBank uncovered a “large-scale and coordinated fraud” scheme that emptied $5.5 billion from the bank’s vaults, the National Bank of Ukraine said in a statement.
The summarized results confirm years of allegations that PrivatBank operated as a “vacuum cleaner” for its former owners, oligarchs Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov. The Ukrainian government nationalized the bank in December 2016.
The General Prosecutor’s Office has yet to make a single arrest in one of the largest corruption cases in the country’s history, which has cost the nation’s taxpayers $5.4 billion in recapitalization funds to date.
General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko has defended his office, saying “up until today, neither PrivatBank, nor the National Bank, nor the prosecution has established where these funds are located due to long procedures of international legal assistance requests. Kroll and other foreign partners did this much faster.”
The NBU only provided the press with a summary of the results. An NBU spokesman declined to provide the Kyiv Post with a copy of the original audit report, saying “state authorities agree that it is necessary to refrain from publishing the audit, since its publication may be detrimental to ongoing legal and law enforcement proceedings.”
Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov have repeatedly denied allegations that they embezzled money from the bank.
The NBU summary states that 95 percent of the bank’s loan portfolio was to parties connected to the former owners, while only 50 borrowers at Privat’s overseas units received 92 percent of the loans.
The report details how PrivatBank used insider lending schemes to siphon billions of dollars worth of deposits from its Ukrainian clients to its overseas branches, and then away from the bank.
Companies controlled by Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov would take out loans from PrivatBank, with new related parties then paying off the earlier loans, allegedly creating a process that the report dubs “loan recycling.”
From there, the related companies would transfer the money between themselves, masking the cash flows.
The NBU also alleges that the scheme was underpinned by falsifying collateral on the bank’s balance sheets. Though the bank does not name the auditor that was responsible for PrivatBank in the report, NBU officials have publicly accused PwC of falsely appraising collateral which led to the bank’s collapse, and to the revocation of PwC’s bank audit license in July 2017.
The Kroll report also suggests that certain claims made by top Ukrainian officials in the past may have been exaggerated. Former NBU Governor Valeriya Gontareva stated that 100 percent of PrivatBank’s loan portfolio consisted of insider loans, while the Kroll report places the amount at 95 percent or above.
Kolomoisky has alleged that NBU officials changed the capitalization requirements for PrivatBank in the run-up to nationalization, and has sued the central bank in a bid to overturn the nationalization.
The 54-year old oligarch was given six months to agree on a debt restructuring plan with the Ukrainian government, but missed the deadline after negotiations, managed by Rothschild, failed to get off the ground.
In December, a London judge froze $2.5 billion in Kolomoisky’s and Bogolyubov’s assets one day after their former bank sued them over mass embezzlement at the lender.
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