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Ukrainian State Bank Chief Suspected Of Money Laundering Released Amid IMF Visit

The headquarters of the Ukrainian Security Service in Kyiv
The headquarters of the Ukrainian Security Service in Kyiv

A Kyiv court has released the chairman of a Ukrainian state-owned bank accused of money laundering, setting bail at $120,000, which the suspect must pay in five weeks.

Prosecutors at the Pechersk district court had asked for Ukreksimbank head Oleksandr Hrytsenko to stay in custody or post bail of $4.1 million.

Two days before, officers of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) arrested the bank chairman on suspicion of creating an organized crime group, embezzlement, and money laundering.

SBU spokeswoman Olena Hitlyanska said on November 16 that the suspect is facing charges that involve complicity in laundering stolen assets connected to the inner circle of former President Viktor Yanukovych.

The news of Hrytsenko's arrest came as a mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is visiting Kyiv.

Kyiv is looking to seal a three-year, $6 billion loan program, one that the Washington-based lender said would be tied to fiscal austerity and deep, structural changes.

A big obstacle for the IMF so far has been the legal effort by Ihor Kolomoyskiy, Zelenskiy's main media backer, to regain ownership of PrivatBank, the country's largest lender that required an injection of $5.5 billion to keep it afloat before it was nationalized in 2016.

Hrytsenko's lawyer, Denys Halanskiy, said on November 17 that his client was being punished for going after assets linked to the former president's entourage.

The 78-page indictment says Hrytsenko, who has headed the bank since August 2014, allegedly took part in unfreezing assets belonging to the media empire of the former president's reputed moneybag man, Serhiy Kurchenko, the UNIAN news agency reported.

Ukrainian Media Holding (UMH) once published the most widely circulated weekly news magazine in the country and had rights to publish the Russian-language versions of Forbes and Vogue in Ukraine.

Kurchenko and Yanukovych fled to Russia in February 2014 in the wake of the pro-democracy Maidan movement.

A trained lawyer, Kurchenko had bought UMH in 2013 partly with a loan from Ukreksimbank.

Ukreksimbank is Ukraine's third-largest bank, with more than $7 billion in assets, according to the central bank.

Meanwhile, another bank chairman, Oleksandr Pysaruk of the Austrian-owned Ukrainian unit of Raiffeisen Bank, was released on bail on November 15.

He is suspected of participating in a $49 million embezzlement scheme during a bank bailout in 2015 while serving as the deputy chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine, the country's central bank.

His current employer posted the $208,000 bail and Pysaruk has returned to work.

Pysaruk, also a former IMF employee for nearly three years, "will continue to serve as chairman of the board of Raiffeisen Bank Aval," Raiffeisen Bank International Chief Financial Officer Martin Gruhl said in Vienna. "We are all convinced that all suspicions of misconduct will be lifted from Mr. Pysaruk in the near future."

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