Ukraine central bank chief Gontareva to step down on May 10

Ukraine central bank chief Gontareva to step down on May 10
Valeriya Gontareva, a close business associate of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, has led the NBU since June 2014.
By bne IntelliNews April 10, 2017

The governor of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) Valeriya Gontareva will step down from the post she has held for almost three years on May 10, she told told journalists on April 10.

“I came here to implement reforms. My mission is fulfilled - the reforms are implemented,” Gontareva said. “For the first time in history, the NBU governor’s resignation is not a political decision.”

The decision to dismiss the NBU head should be made by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and approved by parliament. “I have filed my letter of resignation to the president,” she added. “If the parliament is ready to vote for my resignation earlier [than in a month], I'm ready to step down earlier.”

In early March, Gontareva indicated that she would resign after the next memorandum under the country’s $17.5bn support programme from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been signed and sealed. On April 3, the IMF approved the release of a $1bn tranche to Ukraine.

Gontareva, who is a close business associate of Poroshenko, has led the central bank since June 2014. She is its second governor since the Euromaidan protests ousted the regime of former president Viktor Yanukovych, and oversaw the closure of more than 80 banks, many of them due to their involvement in money laundering or for having a non-transparent ownership structure.

In a separate statement published by the NBU’s media office the same day, Gontareva underlined the importance that the next governor of the central bank would be “a true professional, a banker and a technocrat, not a politician”.

“This is my vision and I have already proposed several candidates for my potential successor to president Poroshenko,” Gontareva said in the statement. “I know that if all government institutions conducted their reforms in the same way as the NBU, our country would be at a very different qualitative level in its development today,” she added.

Meanwhile, the professional activities of Gontareva and her NBU colleagues continue to be scrutinised by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), which on March 29 raided the central bank’s headquarters. Operatives seized documents under what they said was a criminal investigation into abuse of power by senior NBU officials in 2015-2016.

“We have been holding a criminal inquiry implicating NBU executives and related to the embezzlement of funds assigned for refinancing a number of commercial financial institutions for the past few months,” NABU chief Artem Sytnyk said in a televised interview in early April. “We are verifying the legality of spending of the refinancing funds and the involvement of NBU executives in this process.”

However, Gontareva rejected any wrongdoing by her team. “My team can report for each hryvnia issued by the refinancing [since the middle of 2014],” she told the same briefing.

The governor said she had submitted candidates for her post to the Ukrainian president three months ago, without disclosing any names. “We would not speculate on this,” Gontareva said. “This is the decision of the president. I hope that it would be announced in the near future. I submitted my proposals three months ago.”

Commentators in Kyiv cited several possible candidatures for the post, specifically, Raiffeisen Bank Aval head Volodymyr Lavrenchuk, advisor to local operations of Alfa Bank head Roman Shpek, NBU Council head Bogdan Danylyshyn, head of state-owned Ukreximbank Oleksandr Hrytsenko, and former Ukrainan president Viktor Yushchenko.

Meanwhile, Gontareva’s first deputy Yakiv Smoliy said on April 10 that he is ready to be acting head of the NBU if there is a pause with the appointment of the new NBU governor. However, he added, he did not receive any proposals to take the position.