On March 5, the US State Department issued a public designation of Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky for his involvement in “significant corruption”, and banned both him and his immediate family from entering the United States.
“This is an unprecedented step,” wrote AntAC executive director Daria Kaleniuk in a post on Facebook following the announcement. “It’s also a signal from the United States to all of those who work with Kolomoisky and cover for him – they may be next on the list.”
As Kaleniuk explains,” it’s no coincidence” that the sanctions against Kolomoisky refer to his involvement in corrupt acts during his tenure as governor of Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region, rather than highlighting the charges he’s facing for allegedly syphoning $5.5bn out of the country through Privatbank.
In all likelihood, this case went unmentioned to prevent the oligarch’s lawyers from arguing that he’s facing political persecution in the United States. Indeed, Kolomoisky is still under investigation by a federal grand jury for allegedly funnelling stolen funds into American real estate (for more on this case, check out this Buzzfeed News report from last year).
“It appears that the confiscation of [his] assets and Kolomoisky’s prosecution for withdrawing billions from Privatbank to the United States will continue within the framework of a criminal adversarial proceeding,” Kaleniuk says. “Therefore the story will continue.”
At the same time, she underscores that Washington’s decision is more than just a blow to the Kolomoisky family and an important development for Ukraine: “It’s a marker of a change in US government policy in their fight against foreign oligarchs. The State Department is programmatically showing that it will fight the top corrupt officials from around the world.”
Going forward,” Ukraine will be an important battleground, where the United States will demonstrate strength and practical tools of de-oligarchisation. We’re stocking up on popcorn,” the anti-corruption activist concludes.
This article originally appeared in FPRI's BMB Ukraine newsletter. Click here to learn more about BMB Ukraine and subscribe to the newsletter.