The secret court ruling revealed the way that Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine stole 1.5 billion dollars from Ukraine and the fact that the former financial advisers of Petro Poroshenko, the current President of Ukraine were involved in the fraud as Al Jazeera reported at the 95-page document declared to be a state secret.
According to Al Jazeera, the court order exposed in graphic detail the intricate company network used to steal the money, naming Investment Capital Ukraine (ICU) as brokering bond purchases made by Cypriot companies worth 1.5 billion dollars between 2012 and 2014.
ICU has close links with the current government, having advised billionaire President Poroshenko on the sale of his confectionary company Roshen. During the time of the Yanukovych fraud, the finance firm was led by Ukraine's Central Bank governor, Valeria Gontareva, a close ally of Poroshenko.
A spokesman for the president told Al Jazeera that he ‘strongly supports efforts to fight corruption in Ukraine’, while Gontareva added that when the transactions were made, she and ICU ‘saw nothing suspicious’. ICU said its role was limited to that of an agent. Campaign groups called for a thorough investigation into the role of ICU.
According to the secret document, ICU brokered the purchase of dollar-denominated bonds on behalf of eight Cypriot companies. They were later traced to Yanukovych, who was overthrown in February 2014. A military court in Kramatorsk city in east Ukraine quietly handed down the secret ruling in March 2017, listing hundreds of companies, some Cypriot, that were effectively a pipeline for syphoning cash out of the country. The whole financial network was described as a ‘criminal enterprise’ headed by "Party One", Yanukovych, who is self-exiled in Russia.
Also Kurchenko, the businessmen who emerged aged 27 with a net worth of 400million dollars and a huge oil and gas business was mentioned in the document. He was considered Yanukovych's ‘chief financial officer’.
Yury Lutsenko, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine revealed 1.5 billion dollars assets earlier and announced that the papers on this issue will not be published as the state secret and this claim triggered the opposition from the anti-corruption groups.
In fact, revealed1.5 billion dollars is considered to be the stolen money by Yanukovych clan. On paper, the money belongs to a shadowy network of Cypriot offshore companies and Ukrainian Prosecutor General had to prove that the money was the proceeds of crime.
This caused the challenge for Ukraine as the prime suspects escaped from the country and the legal system of Ukraine was not design for such cases when the suspects are absent and it was impossible to bring them to the responsibility. It was impossible to hold the trial, determine the guilty persons, punish them and return the stolen money back to the state.
Due to this, the secret trial was based on Arkady Kashkin, the low-profile figure who worked as the director of companies of Kurchenko, the man trusted to run Yanukovych's financial empire. While Yanukovych and Kurchenko escaped to Russia where they are protected by Russian special forces, Kashkin cut a deal with the prosecutors, declaring that he was the unlikely mastermind of a vast network of more than 400 companies that laundered hundreds of millions of dollars.
With a guilty plea, the government moved quickly to seize the funds. Ukraine's economy is suffering as the government funds a war with Russia and props up a state that lost nearly 20 percent of its GDP in 2014. The stolen money was badly needed.
Anti-corruption groups are deeply worried by the process and are demanding full disclosure of all the court papers. They believe the legal process, behind closed doors and without the representation of the Cypriot companies, is flawed, providing grounds for a legal challenge by the company owners. That legal battle is already under way, with the Cypriot shell companies filing cases to challenge the secret judgement. Lawyers believe they have a strong case and may yet secure the return of some or all of the 1.5 billion dollars.
Ukraine's government insists it is fully committed to the fight against corruption. ICU told Al Jazeera that it carefully complies with all legal and regulatory requirements prior to entering into brokerage agreements with any client. Moreover, it claimed that the law enforcement bodies and market regulators found that the ICU did not play essential role at the bond transactions