Mykola Martynenko, a close associate of Ukraine's former prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and ex-lawmaker of the People's Front parliamentary faction, was detained on April 20 by anti-corruption operatives on suspicion of possible embezzlement of funds from a state-owned company.
A few hours later, detectives of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) also detained Serhiy Pereloma, first deputy chairman of state oil and gas company Naftogaz, on separate charges of creating a criminal organisation and using a government position for personal enrichment.
The detentions mark a string of high-profile criminal investigations of NABU, the country’s main anti-graft body created under pressure by Ukraine’s western backers and donors, specifically, the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Earlier, NABU detained the head of Ukraine’s State Fiscal Service, Roman Nasirov, who allegedly provided restructuring of rent payments for gas production companies associated with fugitive Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Onyshchenko. Nasirov is accused of giving an order that cost the state budget UAH2bn (€70mn). On March 3, the government suspended him from his duties pending the results of the probe.
In July, Ukraine’s parliament sanctioned the criminal prosecution, detention and arrest of Onyshchenko, a member of the Volia Narodu (People's Will) parliamentary group, in connection with alleged fraud schemes with gas sold together with the Ukrgazvydobuvannia gas company.
On April 20, NABU’s media office said Martynenko is suspected of creation of a criminal organisation, misappropriation, embezzlement of property or seizure of property through abuse of official position. The politician is suspected over the theft of funds of the state-run Eastern Mining and Processing Combine Mining (VostGOK) during the purchase of uranium concentrate.
In a separate statement, the head of the Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAPO) Nazar Kholodnytsky said Martynenko had embezzled $17.28mn from VostGOK.
According to the pre-trial investigation, officials of VostGOK and Austrian company-mediator Steuermann Investitions- und Handelsgesellschaft, as well as a group of people, who “had control over these companies, including Martynenko”, embezzled funds of VostGOK “through improper conclusion and subsequent” execution of the contract for the purchase and sale of uranium concentrate of VostGOK through Steuermann.
The funds were allegedly transferred to the bank accounts of Steuermann via offshore companies Wargrave Trading and Dallas Fuel and used by “the members of the criminal organisation” afterwards, Kholodnytsky added.
Martynenko, who refused any wrongdoing, abdicated his parliamentary powers and political immunity as an MP in December 2015 for the period of the investigation.
Meanwhile, the charges against Pereloma are related to his time at the state-owned iron ore company VostGOK in Dnipropetrovsk region. According to NABU, Pereloma oversaw a number of intermediary companies, related to VostGOK, which allowed him to funnel cash out of the plant.
Naftogaz in turn claimed that the detention is not linked to his work at the company.
“According to available information, the criminal investigation, under which deputy chairman of the board Serhiy Pereloma was detained, has no connection to his work at Neftegaz,” the company said in a statement on April 21. “The company confirms its constant readiness to cooperate with the investigation and provide information on any new developments,” the statement added.
Pereloma is already involved in another high-profile criminal case. In July 2016, he was detained for 60 days on suspicion of embezzlement of UAH205mn (€7.1mn) from the Odessa Port Plant (OPP) where he was head of the supervisory board.
That case is still under investigation.