Poroshenko officially nominates Smolii for post of Ukraine central bank governor

By bne IntelliNews January 19, 2018

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has nominated Yakiv Smolii, the acting head of National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), as a candidate for the post of governor to replace the outgoing governor Valeria Gontareva, according to Poroshenko’s draft decrees submitted to the country’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.

According to the official website of the Ukrainian parliament, the relevant draft decrees were registered in the Rada on January 18, Interfax news agency reported the same day.

According to earlier media reports, another possible nominee, Volodymyr Lavrenchuk, the CEO of local operations of Raiffeisen Bank International, Raiffeisen Bank Aval, who was the favourite of Ukraine’s foreign investors, won’t secure enough support in the parliament.

Gontareva, the outgoing governor of the NBU, who has been absent on unpaid leave since September 26, will remain absent until her resignation is approved by the country’s parliament, the central bank’s media office said in a statement the same day. According to the NBU statement, Gontareva does not plan to return to work at the central bank.

The move followed Gontareva’s unpaid leave from September 8 through September 26 following paid holidays starting on May 11 that run through August 7. 

Gontareva, who is a close business associate of President Petro Poroshenko, has led the central bank since June 2014. Gontareva stepped down from the post on May 10, and her first deputy Smolii becomes the regulator’s acting governor. Gontareva’s resignation and a candidate for the post should be approved by the country’s parliament.

Gontareva won widespread praise for her work in cleaning up the banking sector, having closed around 80 banks that were little more than scams and glorified money-laundering schemes. She also made the bold decision to nationalise PrivatBank, the country’s largest lender by assets, which belonged to Ukrainian oligarchs Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov.

At the same time, observers are also confused by the fact that the professional activities of Gontareva and her NBU colleagues continue to be scrutinised by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), the newly-created anti-graft agency. In March, the NABU raided the central bank’s headquarters and its operatives seized documents under what they said was a criminal investigation into abuse of power by senior NBU officials in 2015-2016.

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