Wannabe prez Zelensky as Kolomoisky's bargaining chip in struggle for his lost business

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

Does showman Volodymyr Zelensky run for president to help his sponsor Igor Kolomoisky to return PrivatBank?
13:00, 7 March 2019

AP photo

Sometimes complex combinations are a part of a simple goal. Many analysts have a question - does showman Volodymyr Zelensky run for president to help his sponsor Igor Kolomoisky to return his PrivatBank, taken from him during Poroshenko’s presidency? According to the polls of September 2018, Zelensky had no more than 10-11%; in winter, he emerged as an undoubted leader of the presidential race.

A lawsuit against PrivatBank nationalization

So, the facts: the former owners of Privatbank, Igor Kolomoisky and Gennady Bogolyubov, together with Triantal investments LTD, filed a lawsuit against the nationalization of the bank. Information on this appeal appeared in the Unified Register of Court Decisions. As stated in the registry, the plaintiffs ask the Economic Court of Kyiv to declare invalid the contract of sale of PJSC PrivatBank in those parts that affect the rights and interests of the plaintiffs. At the same time, Kolomoisky and Co. called the Ukrainian government the respondents.

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The appeal of Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov took place on February 27. Having studied the complaint, the court concluded that it does not contain sufficient facts and justification. Consequently, at the end of the first hearing, Themis decided to leave the claim without a movement. And the plaintiffs received 10 days to collect and submit to the court the missing evidence.

In the meantime, while the team of lawyers of Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov is preparing for the second round of battle, we recall that the decision to nationalize PJSC PrivatBank was made on December 18, 2017. According to him, 100% of the shares of the largest bank in Ukraine became the property of the state. The International Monetary Fund welcomed this news, noting that nationalization is an important step in the efforts of the Ukrainian authorities to preserve financial stability. In addition, the court seized the property of enterprises controlled by the former owners of PrivatBank.

It can be assumed that privatization of PrivatBank was the last nail in the coffin of Kolomoisky’s relationship with a post-revolutionary government. These relations began agonizing since the conflict around Ukrnafta and the dismissal of the oligarch from the post of the Dnipropetrovsk governor.

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Vadym Karasiov, director of the Institute of Global Strategies, says that PrivatBank is a special pearl in Kolomoisky’s empire. And this is not only about the financial side of the issue. He created this bank and implemented the plan, drawing modern management to the development of the idea.  

That is exactly the way Kolomoisky is extremely interested in changing the power configuration. Without the involvement of politicians, this matter will not get off the ground. Some courts will not give the plaintiff anything - at least, some of the experts we surveyed believe.

No law - no bank

As economist Oleksandr Okhrymenko explains, Ukraine lacks a legal framework that would allow the operation "nationalization" to play back. A mechanism by which a bank can be liquidated is legally prescribed, and there is a mechanism that regulates its transfer to state ownership. But there is no inverse algorithm. Therefore, summarizes Okhrimenko, Kolomoisky might appeal to a court, but this is a losing matter.

 “The court can only stop the decision on PrivatBank, but it will not prevent anyone from accepting it again in a couple of days. In order to actually return the bank, it must be privatized again. That is, to declare privatization and put it up for sale,” the expert says.

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And Kolomoisky is unlikely to easily accept the idea of buying his own bank. Andriy Novak, economist and political scientist, believes that a similar situation occurred in 2004-2005 with the sale of Kryvorizhstal, Ukraine’s major industrial entity. The analogy, of course, is not complete: Kryvorizhstal belonged to the state, then passed into the hands of private business (namely, Rinat Akhmetov), then, through judicial appeal, returned to the State Property Fund and, and, finally, was privatized for the second time, by Mittal Steel Germany GmbH. The judicial intervention was 90% political. The then President Viktor Yushchenko took the side of oligarch Akhmetov, and the then Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko took the side of Mittal Steel.  However, Andriy Novak believes that in Kolomoisky’s struggle for PrivatBank, much will depend on the lawyers.

Too tired to prolong

Kost Bondarenkoб the founder of The Gorshenin Institute analytical center, adds that the court might take a positive decision on the claim Kolomoisky, but only after receiving appropriate instructions from above.

"Kolomoisky's appeal to the court is a proposal for Petro Poroshenko. A signal that they are ready to withdraw Zelensky if some judge decides the situation in their favor." Frankly, the scenario described by Bondarenko looks unlikely. But if we proceed from the fact that Zelensky is not an independent figure and no one is going to reckon with his personal ambitions, the showman can really be forced to abandon his further struggle.

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At the crucial moment, Zelensky might say: “I am too tired to prolong.” However, to give such a gift, Poroshenko would have to pay Kolomoisky a little more than just returning PrivatBank. For example, the appointment of his associate Igor Palytsia to the post the Naftogaz head. Kolomoisky can use the auction around PrivatBank to achieve various goals, and not only to obtain moral satisfaction.

But it should be added that very little time is left for Zelensky’s sensational refusal to run for balloting. By the law, a candidate can withdraw his candidacy three weeks before the vote, until March 8.

Zelensky as a pass

Meanwhile, Oleksandr Okhrimenko believes that Kolomoisky can also rely on Yulia Tymoshenko. However, she has lately been experiencing electoral losses - the latest polls give her the third place.

Only if Zelensky or Tymoshenko comes to power, Kolomoisky can count on the return of his bank. And under any circumstances, the government should intervene in the fate of PrivatBank, because the court will have no results.

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Ukraine’s former MP Mykhailo Pozhyvanov, looks at the situation from a somewhat unexpected side. “Kolomoisky does not need this bank; a fight for it will cause outrage in society. Kolomoisky will not collect the lost money from Poroshenko and not from Gontareva (former head of Ukraine’s National Bank), he will collect them from the state.”

And finally, the position of the main person involved in all these layouts is Volodymyr Zelensky. On February 21, Interfax reported on a meeting held between him and former Finance Minister Danilyuk and former Economic Development Minister Aivaras Abromavicius. During the meeting, the questions of PrivatBank and Zelensky’s links with Igor Kolomoisky were raised. Well, obviously, everything depends on what "carrots" will the main stakeholders offer.

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