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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 BlinkenBiden eyes bigger US role in global vaccination efforts Ukraine says it will not back down to Russian pressure Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge 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 TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE over allegations Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on his political rival, then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden eyes bigger US role in global vaccination efforts Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech Kemp: Pulling All-Star game out of Atlanta will hurt business owners of color 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 GiulianiGaetz hires legal counsel amid DOJ probe Georgia lieutenant governor: Giuliani election claims helped lead to new voting law Rep. Lee Zeldin announces bid for New York governor MORE, to set up a meeting between them and Zelensky as part of efforts to raise requests to investigate Biden.