Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoisky faces life imprisonment for murder

Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoisky faces life imprisonment for murder
Igor Kolomoisky, pre-eminent among Ukraine's oligarchs, has being charged with murder. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews May 8, 2024

Igor Kolomoisky, once considered Ukraine’s most influential oligarch and a supporter of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has been charged with organising a murder over 20 years ago and faces life in prison if convicted.

Kolomoisky was informed of suspicion in organising a contract killing of a director of a legal firm dating back to 2003, according to the country's Prosecutor General's Office and National Police.

The one time friend and patron of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Kolomoisky was arrested on September 2 by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and charged with money laundering and fraud. He has been held on remand ever since awaiting trial.

Now Kolomoisky faces new and much more serious charges, an accusation of involvement in the assassination plot, allegedly stemming from a corporate dispute over shareholder decisions.

"Under the procedural guidance of the Prosecutor General's Office, a well-known businessman suspected of money laundering has been informed of another crime related to the organisation of a contract killing," the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

According to informed sources, the allegations are directed at Kolomoisky.

Investigators assert that the oligarch ordered the killing of a legal firm's director over the refusal to annul decisions made during a shareholders' meeting of an open joint-stock company.

Police officials claim that Kolomoisky had personal commercial interests in a metallurgical plant, which were impeded by the shareholder decisions that barred him from fully executing his profit-making plans.

Consequently, he allegedly resorted to threats and hired a gang, known for its involvement in physical assaults against competitors, to carry out the hit.

The assault occurred in August 2003 in the city of Feodosia, where four men attacked the victim with metal rods and inflicted stab wounds to various parts of his body. The victim survived due to the intervention of his wife and prompt medical assistance.

The alleged perpetrators were apprehended shortly after the incident and later sentenced to imprisonment ranging from 6 to 12 years.

The investigation into identifying the mastermind behind the assassination attempt remained a separate inquiry until May 8, 2024, when Kolomoisky was formally notified of suspicion.

The charges against him, involving attempted premeditated murder, carry penalties ranging from imprisonment for up to 15 years to life imprisonment.

Additionally, 23 searches are being conducted in four regions of the country as part of the ongoing investigation.

The oligarch has faced legal scrutiny in the past, with criminal proceedings initiated against him in 2005 for allegedly orchestrating the assassination attempt of lawyer Serhiy Karpenko. However, the case was closed under dubious circumstances later that year.

In 2013, Viktor Pinchuk, who initiated legal proceedings against Kolomoisky in London over shares in the Kryvyi Rih Iron Ore Plant, attempted to revive the case, accusing Kolomoisky of involvement in Karpenko's murder. Nevertheless, the High Court of London ruled out the inclusion of the "Karpenko episode" in the trial

In 2016 his PrivatBank was nationalised after a bne IntelliNews investigation “Privat Investigations” revealed that almost all the loans on the bank’s book were fraudulent. The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) stepped in with a $5.5bn bailout to rescues PrivatBank, the largest commercial bank in the country. Kolomoisky has now been charged with fraud charges in connection with that case, but almost none of the money stolen by him and his partners has been recovered.

After Zelenskiy took office in 2019 with the backing of Kolomoisky-controlled media, he returned to Ukraine from Israel and launched what the NBU called a campaign of terror to regain control of PrivatBank. NBU governor at the time Valeria Gontareva told bne IntelliNews in an exclusive interview that Kolomoisky threatened her life personally. She quit her job and fled to London when someone sent a coffin to the doors of the NBU dressed up to look like Gontareva.

In 2023, Ukraine's Security Service, Bureau of Economic Security, and the Prosecutor General's Office formally charged Kolomoisky with fraud and money laundering and arrested him.

Kolomoisky's bail was initially set at nearly UAH510mn ($16mn), later increased to UAH3.89bn ($121mn). He is known to have citizenship of Ukraine, Israel and Cyprus and was formerly the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.