A Russian trace is likely to undermine the head of the Ukrainian Central Bank Andriy Pyshnyy’s future

A Russian trace is likely to undermine the head of the Ukrainian Central Bank Andriy Pyshnyy’s future
Опубликовано: Tuesday, 11 April 2023 05:19

A Russian trace is likely to undermine the head of the Ukrainian Central Bank Andriy Pyshnyy’s future, writes Serhyi Lyamets.

"In times of Russian invasion and European sanctions, these moments hardly can be left unnoticed. There was an episode in the activities of the current head of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), which was once widely reported by the Ukrainian mass media. In 2020, while Andriy Pishny headed the state-owned Oschadbank, he carried out a rather suspicious financial transaction. Several years have passed, and these transactions have not been properly investigated. Moreover, Pishny has become the head of the NBU.

One could say that in the time of the Russian war, there might be other important issues to investigate but it is exactly the reason why we need to come back to this story. The reason is that the transaction was done with a counterpart, who’s considered to be a relative to the notorious Russian official, former Russian president Dmitri Medvedev. It is he who’s never missed any public chance to threaten Ukraine and the West with nuclear bombs. Meanwhile, his supposed relatives prosper in Ukraine due to suspicious deals, which Ukrainian law enforcement agencies failed to properly investigate.

The story is about a loan for the construction of one of the largest office and shopping centres in Kyiv “Gulliver”. It belongs to "Three O" LLC, which in 2006 received initial 61.6 million USD of loans provided by the state-owned "Oschadbank" and "Ukreximbank". Andriy Pyshniy who is now head of the NBU then occupied the position of the first deputy chairman at the board of "Oschadbank". He was actively engaged in the deal in person and even gave comments to Russian Kommersant on that loan.

Subsequently, the debt increased to more than 200 million dollars, and according to some sources — even to $441 million. Most of the funding was provided by “Oschadbank” ($353 million), and approximately a quarter of the investment was made by another state-owned bank — "Ukreximbank".

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Previous beneficiaries of the complex were Vagif Aliyev, Oleksiy Kucherenko and Serhiy Veselov . But in 2012, the then unfinished " Gulliver " was purchased by Viktor Polishchuk, the owner to the chain of electronics and household appliances stores "Technopolis". This deal was approved by "Kommersant" investigation.

Today, the official owner of the "Three O" LLC is a bunch of offshore companies and one physical Vyacheslav Ignatenko. But as it follows from an investigation by NGO “Nashi ” ("Our Money"), Viktor Polishchuk and his wife Lilia Rezvaya remained the real owners of the Gulliver shopping centre. Probably they still own it.

Viktor Polishchuk is not only known as the owner of the Technopolis network, which he merged with the Eldorado network after its acquisition in 2013. The businessman also owned the bankrupt "Mykhailivskyi" bank, which left behind thousands of defrauded customers, causing losses to the Ukrainian state of billions of hryvnias. But even this fact is not the most compromising.

Polishchuk’s wife, Lilia Rezvaya , is often referred to as the niece of Svitlana Medvedeva, the wife of the ex-president of the Russian Federation. Now Dmytro Medvedev is the Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, and one of the main supporters of Vladimir Putin , wanted by the Hague Criminal Court for crimes against Ukrainian children. Medvedev regularly threatens the West and Ukraine with nuclear attacks and is one of the most prominent hawks supporting the war.

Actually, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began not in 2022 but in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of Donbas.

So in 2020 Andriy Pishnyi and the officials of Oschadbank could not stay uninformed about Medvedev supporting the annexation of Crimea and hostilities in the east of Ukraine. Pyshniy could also know about supposed connections between Polishchuk and Medvedev families as it is le secret de Polichinelle in Ukraine. Polishchuk and Rezvaya have never acknowledged their family connection with Medvedev though, but they were known for that in Ukrainian media. They could use those rumours in order to demonstrate their importance because of their close relationship with the former Russian president.

So, it is very embarrassing that a state-owned bank despite of direct link of its borrower with the former Russian president engaged in the far-reaching restructuring of debts on very suspicious conditions.

Repayment of the debt for building up "Gulliver" was supposed to take place in 2025. However, after the 2014-2016 crisis, Polishchuk stopped paying the debt. Media said that was not for the reason he had no money. That was rather his way of making business. In October 2016, the head of the National Bank of Ukraine Valeria Gontareva officially stated that Polishchuk owed Ukrainian banks and the Individual Deposit Guarantee Fund UAH 23 billion. It was stated that the funds were precisely "withdrawn" from his bank “Mykhailivskyi" through different suspicious schemes. The bank went bankrupt, the NBU recorded billion-dollar frauds with clients’ funds. The Verkhovna Rada even got forced to pass a special law in order to repay the debts to thousands of defrauded bank depositors at the expense of the state. But no proper reaction by authorities followed. Surprisingly, Polishchuk’s name did not ever get into the list of suspects in that case. Moreover, it is still not there. It’s still unknown whether it was corruption at the level of public officials or a opportunistic political decision due to family ties of the Polishchuk family.

In November 2016 "Gulliver" ownership was arrested as part of the bankruptcy case of "Mykhailivskyi" bank. In order to decouple profit making business centre and bankrupted bank Polishchuk denied owning Gulliver, assured that he “was never the owner of the company "Three O" and called the arrest a "surprise". "Gulliver does not belong to me. I cannot say what procedural actions the prosecutor’s office was guided by," Polishchuk said in an interview. But he officially recognized that his wife, whom media already recognized as a relative of Medvedev, "manages" the Gulliver.

However, the negotiations regarding the debts of Gulliver were conducted by Polishchuk himself. According to the Ukrainian media, in 2018, Oschadbank restructured the debt of a number of companies that were associated with Polishchuk, including Gulliver, Diesa LLC , Technopolis-1 LLC, Techenergotrade LLC etc. So the debt restructuring for Gulliver was not the only case of cooperation with Andriy Pyshny.

In September 2016 the former Ministry of Finance official provided information Oschadbank loan to relative of Medvedev was 460 million dollars while the market value of the mortgaged property was barely half of this amount. Indeed, in the extract from the register of property rights to real estate, the sum of the debt was 440.99 million dollars — 352.79 million dollars — to "Oschadbank" and 88.2 million dollars — to "Ukreximbank".

In March 2016, the "Weekly Mirror " newspaper wrote the loan to Guliver owners was set at a surprisingly low rate of 9%, while the rates on the market reached 30% and the payment period was extended to December 2025, which for the Ukrainian market is very unusual.

Andriy Pyshnyi, who was already in charge of Oschadbank, refrained from commenting to journalists why Gulliver owners received such a preferential treatment but later mentioned that "all decisions on loans were made by the credit committee and the board of the bank are with the participation of the NBU representatives". So, he basically refused to take responsibility for such a suspicious decision.

However, it was not the end of the story.

In 2018, it turned out that again, despite of these exceptional conditions, debts were not paid. State banks initiated an auction to sell mortgaged property for those loans, in particular, the Gulliver shopping centre. In the fall of 2018, "Oschadbank" and "Ukreximbank" offered for sale the rights and claims for loans secured by the property of the Gulliver shopping centre. The starting price was UAH 18.2 billion.

However, the auction did not take place then. Instead, a weird thing happened. In 2020, the investigative journalist group "Our Money" published an extract from the state register of property rights to immovable property, which provides information about the debt of Gulliver to Oschadbank for 537.2 million dollars, and to Ukreximbank — for 137.8 million dollars (i.e. in total — 675 million USD). So, the total debt due to the Polishchuk project to two state banks reached 674.99 million USD.

So, despite of such a bad credit history of Polishchuk and Gulliver in 2020, Oshchadbank of Andriy Pyshnyi not only postponed debt repayment but even increased lending time. Moreover, Gulliver received new, fantastic Ukrainian market conditions for new loans. According to the published documents, the company’s debt to state-owned banks repayment term was extended to January 2044, and the loan rate was set at the level of 3.65% in all currencies.

What could that deal for Polishchuk mean in the realities of Ukrainian business? Restructuring by 2044 effectively can be explained as the loan will never be repaid. The interest rates provided were openly non-market. Such a generous offer could never be obtained by even the most profitable business in Ukraine. That fact brings up the suspicion that Andrii Pishny arranged a behind-the-scenes restructuring by special arrangement. Considering that "Oschadbank" belongs to the state, we can suspect corruption at extremely high level. It is not a surprise that because of such loans, Oshchadbank has one of the worst market results and regularly demands the owner – the Ukrainian government – to provide it with yet another subsidy from the state budget.

If the suspicion is right, that means that Ukrainian taxpayers subsidized private wealth to proper relatives of the former Russian president.

Such a story had to be investigated and those responsible had to be punished. But in this case, the result was very different. The chairman of the board of the state-owned Oschadbank Andrii Pyshnyi was promoted to the position of chairman of the Ukrainian central bank after his two predecessors were forced to leave their posts before their end of term and both accused office of the president under political pressure. So, putting a person with such a “credit history” to the position of NBU head could be a warning to international partners of Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities now sanctioned their own and foreign citizens rather harshly, often after only on the assumption of them cooperating with the Russian Federation. In this case, we have strong facts that both the Ukrainian and the Western authorities should investigate very thoroughly."

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