State sanctions Ukrainian billionaire over alleged corruption

State sanctions Ukrainian billionaire over alleged corruption
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The U.S. is sanctioning a Ukrainian billionaire-oligarch and former local governor for his alleged involvement in significant corruption and ongoing threats to democratic processes, Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenMore than 180 local employees working at US embassy, consulates in Russia laid off Duterte restores pact allowing US war exercises Blinken urges Tunisian president to return country to 'democratic path as quickly as possible' MORE said on Friday. 

The designation blocks entry to the United States for Ihor Kolomoyskyy, who served as governor of Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk Oblast from 2014 to 2015. The entry restrictions also extend to Kolomoyskyy’s wife and two children. 

“While this designation is based on acts during his time in office, I also want to express concern about Kolomoyskyy’s current and ongoing efforts to undermine Ukraine’s democratic processes and institutions, which pose a serious threat to its future,” Blinken said in a statement.

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The U.S. alleges that Kolomoyskyy used his public office as governor for personal benefit. 

“This designation reaffirms the U.S. commitment to supporting political, economic, and justice sector reforms that are key to Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic path,” the secretary said. “The Department will continue to use authorities like this to promote accountability for corrupt actors in this region and globally.”

Kolomoyskyy, a real estate, metals and media billionaire who backed the candidacy of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, has come under increased scrutiny in recent years over allegations of corruption and fraud. 

Kolomoyskyy’s U.S.-based real estate management and investment firm, Optima Management Group, is under investigation by the FBI over allegations of fraud. Its offices in Cleveland and Miami were raided in August. 

BuzzFeed News first reported in May that Kolomoyskyy was under investigation by a federal grand jury for allegedly laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. real estate.

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Last month, Bloomberg reported that Ukrainian authorities named three former executives of PrivatBank, co-owned by Kolomoyskyy until 2016, as suspects in an investigation into embezzlement of an estimated $5.5 billion from the bank's coffers.

The announcement is viewed as a litmus test for Zelensky to crack down on corruption and a homing in on Kolomoyskyy’s role in the alleged fraud, which he denies.

Kolomoyskyy was also loosely tied to the impeachment investigation against former President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE over allegations Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on his political rival, then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenCDC chief clarifies vaccine comments: 'There will be no nationwide mandate' Overnight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Biden urges local governments to stave off evictions MORE.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News in May 2019, Kolomoyskyy said that he turned down a request from Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiCapitol insurrection hearing exposes Trumpworld delusions DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's riot lawsuit Bob Dole: 'I'm a Trumper' but 'I'm sort of Trumped out' MORE, to set up a meeting between them and Zelensky as part of efforts to raise requests to investigate Biden.