15 February 2018

Headlines and Realities # 1
On 6 February, BBC News carried a story relating to Ukraine. The headline promised revelations on “Potters Bar, Ukraine’s stolen billions, and the Eurovision connection”, which is, well, wow, breathtaking.
In reality, the article brings seasoned Ukraine-watchers some old news: “while in office ex-President Yanukovych and his associates stole 40 billion usd from the state”. The story is well known here, and, literally, caused a revolution. The reality in this story, and what really lies behind the salacious headline, is that a small amount of money was paid for the use of a particular building where both before and after parties relating to Eurovision were hosted. That building also houses a very well-known restaurant and well-used conference facility. Not really a scandal.
But, here’s the rub. First of all the purpose behind the construction of the building was not the interior, it was the roof. It was designed to be the helicopter landing spot for Yanukovych and whatever thieving placeholder he might have used to pay lip-service to constitutional limits on Presidential terms. And, from this BBC report, we learn that it is believed that Yanukovych still has control over this asset via proxies. We have to again wonder what on earth the state is doing with regard to asset recovery related to the aforementioned stolen 40 billion usd.
Here’s another interesting point raised by the BBC report: the proxy who nominally owns the Potters Bar holding company, a Ukrainian by the name of Serhiy Moskovskiy who lives in Germany, initially responded to inquiries about his relationship with this company by saying that he’d never heard of it. After his memory was jogged, Moskovskyi couldn’t say more for reasons of “commercial confidentiality”, but he did recall that he is, in fact, a shareholder in the company. Who would forget owning a multi-million dollar valued prime real estate asset? Only someone with something to hide, that’s who.

Headlines and Realities # 2
On 8 February, Al Jazeera carried a story relating to Ukraine. The headline shouted “Poroshenko sacks Lozhkin after news of $500 million deal”. And so, to the details…
The opening paragraph says that the sacking happened “hours after Al Jazeera contacted both men over a story that indicates they received tens of millions of dollars raised fraudulently.” Again, wow. After that though, the 500 million usd element to this story falls off the table.
Then a business transaction worth either 130 million usd or 160 million usd comes up, still an enormous sum of money, in which 28-year old overnight billionaire Serhiy Kurchenko bought Ukraine’s largest media business from Lozhkin and/or Poroshenko.
There’s a “he said she said” played out in the article over whether Poroshenko was still a shareholder at the time of the sale. Poroshenko’s spokesman says he was not, the article however alleges he still had 3% held via an offshore BVI company.
Regardless, the central question being investigated is whether (or not) the money Kurchenko used to buy the media group, UMH, was obtained illegally. Really? Is that actually a question? Of course it was. Every cent of Kurchenko’s suddenly acquired wealth was ill-gotten! There is a question of morality here rather than illegality on the side of the recipients of those funds. Should the owners of any business take money from someone as reprehensible as Kurchenko? For additional context, the UMH deal happened a month before the revolution started.

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