Oleg Bakhmatyuk is an Ukrainian oligarch deeply enrooted in the corrupt Ukrainian political system. While supporting Ukraine in the righteous war with Russia there is no need to turn a blind eye of what’s always been a characteristic trait of the Ukrainian statehood: a colossal level of corruption. Oleg Bakhmatyuk is, at a first glance, a plain and straight businessman. But let’s have no doubt: his difficulties are far from the current business climate. They are inherent to the general poor business practice, to say the least. VAB Bank was defrauded by the own management and Oleg Bakhmatyuk is a main suspect in the case, the national prosecution office considers.
Bakhmatyuk’s Cyprus-issued golden passport makes him much more resilient. In fact, he abuses the EU citizenship to boost his immunity against his own (Ukrainian) state, prosecution suspects. Meanwhile, Oleg Bakhmatyuk blames politics for all his failures.
Oleg Bakhmatyuk an VAB Bank embezzlement
Detectives of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau have uncovered schemes by which funds were withdrawn before VAB bank was declared insolvent. This is evident from the resolution of the Solomensky District Court.
NABU found information about how funds were withdrawn from VAB bank, owned by the owner of UkrLandFarming Oleg Bakhmatyuk, on the eve of November 20, 2014, when he was declared insolvent.
So, for example, according to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, on November 14, deposits in the amount of UAH 110 million were returned to PJSC Trostyanetsky Meat Processing Plant and UAH 2266.445 million to PJSC SHP Svitanok, despite the fact that the NBU imposed a ban on early refunds to persons associated with the bank, and both companies are controlled by Bakhmatyuk.
On November 18, Quickcom Limited demanded that VAB Bank repay $ 45 million of the loan ahead of schedule, which was done two days later – on November 20. Although at the same time, ordinary depositors of the bank could not withdraw their funds from the bank, receiving 1000 hryvnia per day through the cash register.
Also on November 20, the Supervisory Board approved the crediting of private counter homogeneous claims that arose from debtors of SOOO “Staroversky Poultry Complex”, LLC “Agrouniversal LTD”, LLC “Investment Company “Agrosoyuz RP”, LLC “Multi Finance” for a total amount of UAH 681.573 million.
According to the resolution, the detectives of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau received temporary access to the belongings and documents of the members of the board, the Supervisory Board of VAB Bank in the case of embezzlement of NBU refinancing funds.
Later, the press service of Bakhmatyuk stated that “the case that NABU opened against VABBANK was investigated for a year and a half and was closed by other law enforcement agencies.”
“All the facts that were given in the court’s decision have been investigated by other law enforcement agencies for 1.5 years, dozens of interrogations and investigative actions were conducted, as a result of which the case was closed for lack of corpus delicti,” the company says.
In addition, Bakhmatyuk himself claims that “the specified money did not leave the bank.”
“It was officially confirmed that there was no withdrawal of money from the bank. This was documented by other law enforcement agencies and the case was closed. All those operations referred to in the NABU detective’s submission were internal to banking operations,” he says.
Recall that on March 19, 2015, the National Bank decided to revoke the banking license and liquidate the “VIABI Bank”
As you know, VAB Bank has been operating in the financial market of Ukraine since 1992 and by the beginning of October, in terms of assets, it ranked 16th (UAH 23.973 billion) among all banks in the country.
Maximov previously fully controlled VAB Bank, then owned the financial institution together with the Dutch TBIF Financial Services.
By mid-2010, Maximov owned 49% of the bank’s shares.
At the beginning of 2011, Bakhmatyuk became a co-owner of VAB Bank, who announced his intention to concentrate more than 50% of the shares of the financial institution.
By mid-November 2011, the share of Dutch TBIF Financial Services in VAB Bank had decreased to 8%, and Maximov’s to 10%.
Maximov and Bakhmatyuk accused each other of withdrawing money from the bank and being unfriendly to each other.
As you know, the Kyiv Prosecutor’s Office has opened criminal proceedings under the article “Embezzlement on a particularly large scale” regarding possible illegal actions of officials of the insolvent VIAB Bank and its owner Oleg Bakhmatyuk.
Criminal proceedings were opened at the request of the National Bank of Ukraine.
Oleg Bakhmatyuk founds a safe haven in Austria
Although it’s time to get used to it, but still – Ukrainian oligarchs who earned their millions at home and escaped from domestic justice look quite strange, from where they talk about all sorts of oppression in Ukraine and about the grave fate of a “refugee from the regime”.
A striking example is the Ukrainian agrarian tycoon, “the egg king” and former banker Oleg Bakhmatyuk. He is hiding in Vienna from the interest of Ukrainian law enforcement officers. For almost three years, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau has been accusing Bakhmatyuk of stealing 1.2 billion hryvnias of a salvation loan that he received in 2014 from the National Bank for his “VAB Bank”.
The latter went bankrupt anyway, but the loan was never repaid. As a result, in 2020, the Supreme Anti–Corruption Court arrested Bakhmatyuk in absentia, but he, residing in Austria, is trying to delay a meeting with NABU detectives and at the same time fend off creditors in every possible way. The main asset of the oligarch – UkrLandFarming company – owes more than two billion dollars.
At the same time, Oleg Bakhmatyuk gives interviews in which he claims that all the charges against him are far–fetched, and he himself is a businessman with a crystal clear reputation. Well, who would doubt it!
However, once carefully examined his biography, a classic phrase comes to mind, said by one of the American millionaires – “I am ready to tell you about the origin of all my money, except for the first million.” However, with the correction – Oleg Bakhmatyuk is hardly ready to tell the true story not only of his first million, but also of all the others.
The only thing he does not hide is that his business can now get out of the peak only if he gets rid of the NABU charges. They are the obstacle, because of which the financial oxygen has been blocked for UkrLandFarming for many years.
The versions of NABU and Bakhmatyuk about the reasons for this state of affairs are, of course, radically opposite. According to Bakhmatyuk, the charges are far-fetched, and thus Zelensky’s team is forced to sell UkrLandFarming to representatives of the president’s entourage for a song.
However, Bakhmatyuk’s problems in connection with the amount allocated for the refinancing of VAB Bank began under Poroshenko. According to Oleg Romanovich, he received 1.2 billion hryvnias from the NBU on the pledge of the plant in Ivano-Frankivsk, which cost more than $ 20 million. That exceeded, according to Bakhmatyuk, the loan amount several times. However, a simple arithmetic calculation (the dollar exchange rate was somewhere around UAH 25 at that time) shows that in hryvnia the plant cost no more than half a billion hryvnia.
But this is not all – the NABU claims that this cost was overestimated by 25 times – the examination conducted during the pre-trial investigation found that the real value of the mortgaged real estate is 72.62 million hryvnia against 1.8 billion declared by VAB Bank. Nevertheless, the bank received the money. And he did not return, as well as the previous three billion hryvnias received from the NBU for the same purposes.
40 days later, in November 2014, the NBU declared VAB Bank insolvent. It is worth noting that Bakhmatyuk is involved in the bankruptcy of another bank – the Financial Initiative. According to the NBU, the number of depositors of both banks that Oleg Bakhmatyuk bankrupted was about 400 thousand people.
By the way, in 2019, when the bankruptcy case of VAB Bank was reanimated, together with Bakhmatyuk, his sister, Natalia Vasilyuk, who was the head of the supervisory board at VAB Bank, was also put on the wanted list. She is charged under Article 191 Part 5 (Embezzlement, embezzlement of property or taking possession of it by abuse of official position), Article 209 Part 3 (Legalization (laundering) of proceeds from crime) The Criminal Code of Ukraine.
Well, concluding the banking topic, it is worth noting that Bakhmatyuk became the owner of VAB Bank in 2011. And the former owner Sergey Maksimov agreed to sell the shares of the bank to Bakhmatyuk only after he spent a day in jail.
Oleg Bakhmatyuk’s wider network of companies
The problems with law enforcement officers were not limited to unpaid money for refinancing. The Ukrlandfarming group, which is registered in Cyprus, includes the Ukrainian management companies Avangard and Ukrlandfarming, which, in turn, manage more than 400 companies.
In 2015, Avangard built two egg factories in Kherson and Kamenets-Podolsk. According to the reports of Avangard, it cost 500 million dollars, and the group itself was supposed to return VAT from the state in the amount of about 300 million hryvnia, for which the relevant documents were submitted. But the State Treasury doubted the authenticity of the documents confirming the costs and referred the case to the NABU, which slowed down the payment of fictitious VAT costs.
Oleg Romanovich has been working with VAT for a long time – the scheme for the return of a fictitious value-added tax was debugged back in the days of Kuchma, when Bakhmatyuk was engaged in the gas condensate trade. Then he left the Itera company and founded his own business in the Ivano-Frankivsk region.
With VAT, Bakhmatyuk switched to “gasification of settlements in the region”, having received money from the state for this as part of the program for gasification of settlements in Western Ukraine. It is known that in 2005, the state allocated UAH 410 billion for gasification of this region. As a result, only a few gas pipelines were carried out, but not for budget money. Funds for the sale were illegally collected from local residents.
During the same period, Bakhmatyuk began to take his first steps in the agricultural business – he bought the Avangard poultry farm, which became the basis of his egg production and gave the name to the group of companies.
To buy the factory, he took out a loan of one million dollars from the Aval bank. According to Bakhmatyuk himself, a friend from the board of the bank helped him in this. Anyway, the loan was given, and Oleg Romanovich bought Avangard, which eventually turned into one of the market leaders in egg production.
In 2005, Bakhmatyuk was appointed deputy Chairman of the Board of Naftogaz of Ukraine. A year later, he managed to buy out controlling stakes of regional gas distribution companies operating in Western Ukraine. A year later, he sold them to RosUkrEnergo, which was run by Dmitry Firtash.
In 2010, a Ukrainian entrepreneur acquired the assets of the American company “Townsends Inc”, engaged in the processing of chicken meat. Her task was to coordinate a number of poultry companies. Oleg Bakhmatyuk persuaded them to take out loans to expand their business. After that, he took the money abroad and appropriated it. As a result, an American court banned him from entering the United States.
In 2011, Oleg Bakhmatyuk established the agricultural holding UkrLandFarming. The main directions of the company were grain production and cattle breeding.
It was at this time that UkrLandFarming became the leader of the agricultural market – its land bank reached 670 thousand hectares, the group owns 24 elevators, 23 poultry farms, eight feed mills and 40 livestock farms. Observers note that Bakhmatyuk’s business went uphill after he agreed to sell his shares in regional gas companies to Firtash.
Bakhmatyuk himself comments on the topic in general phrases, but describes the period of Yanukovych’s rule as “more specific” and “having rules”. It was during this period that his business empire reached its peak.
After that, everything went downhill. In 2015, problems began with the non-refunded money allocated by the NBU for refinancing, problems arose with an attempt to get a VAT refund on fictitious documents, the volume of production and sale of agricultural products fell.
Characteristically, then Bakhmatyuk said that Poroshenko was to blame for his problems. In his big interview with the publication “Gordon”, Bakhmatyuk said that he considers not anyone but the fifth president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, to be guilty of his failures. In particular, according to Bakhmatyuk, the decision to liquidate banks was made in the office of the president in the presence of Valeria Gontareva.
However, with the change of power in the country, the culprits also changed – as recently as at the end of January this year, Oleg Romanovich gave a lengthy interview to Ekonomicheskaya Pravda, in which he named Vladimir Zelensky and the former head of the presidential office Andrei Bogdan as the reason for his failures.
In the same interview, he again assured creditors that he would repay all debts as soon as he “solved the problems with NABU.” The current government prevents him from solving these problems. Bakhmatyuk also assured that the business in Ukraine, which he manages from Austria, although significantly reduced, but is under “full control”.
Actually, the interview is interesting, we recommend it. But there is a kind of hopelessness about it. Everyone is to blame, except himself. But who is to blame – let Oleg Romanovich decide for himself. But the other question is “what to do?” it is much more acute. And first of all – for his creditors, whom, according to Bakhmatyuk’s own words, he has been persuading for several years now “not to tear the UkrLandFarming group to pieces”, promising to pay off debts.
According to him, creditors “tolerate” and believe in his promise to repay debts. However, it seems that in fact UkrLandFarming is “not being torn to pieces” because there has been nothing to “tear” there for a long time. Oleg Bakhmatyuk has a huge experience in covert assets’ withdrawal.