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Ukraine Ex-Central Bank Official Among Seven Detained Over Loan To Troubled Bank

The National Bank of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 28, 2019.
The National Bank of Ukraine in Kyiv on June 28, 2019.

KYIV -- The former first deputy chairman of the central bank is among seven people who have been detained on suspicion of embezzling $49 million that was part of a loan the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) gave to stabilize a struggling bank owned by one of the country's biggest agricultural producers.

In a Facebook post on November 11, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) said those detained included former and current central-bank employees, VAB Bank staff, and companies linked to the lender's ultimate owners.

NABU wouldn't provide further details, citing confidentiality clauses related to ongoing investigations into the recapitalization of VAB Bank.

A source at NABU who is not authorized to speak to the media told RFE/RL that one of the detainees was Oleksandr Pysaruk, the current CEO of Austrian-owned Raiffeisen Bank Aval.

He previously was the first deputy chairman of the NBU when about half the country's banks were shuttered to end dirty lending practices and money laundering in the banking industry.

Earlier in the day, Pysaruk confirmed to local media that NABU officers were at his Kyiv Raiffeisen office but wouldn't say why the agents had entered the premises.

Oleh Bakhmatyuk, whose assets include Ukraine's largest egg producer and one of the country's biggest farmland holdings, owned VAB Bank, which was declared insolvent in November 2014.

Nearly 100 banks lost their licenses over a two-year period after Valeria Hontareva took over the NBU and installed her team in 2014. She resigned in April 2017.

During the process, Bakhmatyuk accused the NBU chairwoman of damaging the national economy.

Another bank taken into receivership was the country's largest lender, PrivatBank, where international auditors found a $5.5 billion whole on its balance sheet.

It's two principal former shareholders, multimillionaires Ihor Kolomoyskiy and Hennadiy Boholyubov, have not been criminally charged in Ukraine on issues related to the nationalized bank.

Kolomoyskiy has opposed the nationalization of PrivatBank and has been trying to regain ownership rights through the courts in multiple jurisdictions at home and abroad.

Authorities suspect billionaire Kostyantin Zhevaho of funneling approximately $100 million from his former Finance and Credit Bank.

An arrest warrant for him was issued on October 9.

Zhevaho, a former lawmaker, is also the majority owner of Ferrexpo, a London-traded iron-ore-pellet producer based in Poltava, a central region in Ukraine. The company boasts Europe's largest iron-ore deposit, with approximately 20 billion tons of resources.

He is believed to be currently residing outside Ukraine.

With reporting by Novoye Vremya,, Leviy Bereg, and Bloomberg
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