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Member since: Tue May 17, 2016, 10:19 PM
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The "James Bond supervillain" behind the Ukraine scandal

You've probably never heard of Ihor Kolomoisky. You could read a hundred articles about the burgeoning "whistleblower" scandal without once seeing his name.

But he's behind it.

Or rather: He's the oligarch behind Volodymyr Zelensky, the comic actor who became the current leader of Ukraine. Zelensky became famous in his country starring in a show called Servant of the People, in which he played an average guy who, almost accidentally, becomes president of Ukraine. That show was broadcast on Kolomoisky's TV network 1+1. By most accounts, it was Kolomoisky who decided to make art imitate life -- to transform the sitcom president into a real president.

Though Zelensky has denied in interviews that he is Kolomoisky's puppet, many have discerned a certain "Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy" quality to their relationship. While running for office, Zelensky made several trips to Tel Aviv. That was a tell: Kolomoisky lived there during his period of exile.

He's not in exile anymore.

Why did Kolomoisky leave Ukraine? To save his skin. The previous president, Petro Poroshenko, had nationalized PrivatBank, which was owned in large part by Kolomoisky. This was no small matter: Nearly half of all Ukrainians with bank accounts dealt with PrivatBank.

There was a very good chance that Kolomoisky himself might have seen the inside of a courtroom, had he stayed in his home country. From the Daily Beast:

Kolomoisky has a host of enemies. He’s been accused of commissioning contract killings. And in 2016, Ukraine’s central bank nationalized Kolomoisky’s PrivatBank because it didn’t have enough cash. Billions of dollars disappeared from its coffers because it lent so much to Kolomoisky associates, according to the FT. The move was widely viewed in the West as a victory for transparency and good governance, in a country whose politics are impoverished on both counts. It was a flashpoint in Kolomoisky’s relationship with Poroshenko, and many speculate the oligarch backs Zelensky in part because hopes to depose the president who oversaw the takeover of his bank.

Also see here:

Kolomoisky first and foremost, had robbed it to the tune of $5.5 billion by getting it to issue loans to shell companies that were never expected to be recovered. The accusations were confirmed by an investigation by Kroll, the American risk-mitigation company, conducted for the National Bank.

Hence his "vacation" in Israel, which does not extradite citizens. Kolomoisky has triple citizenship: Ukrainian, Israeli and Cypriot. (Privatbank was the first Ukrainian bank to open a branch in Cyprus. There's also a branch in Moscow.) Although Ukraine's constitution prohibits dual citizenship, Kolomoisky argues that the constitution says nothing about a triple.

From afar, he constantly tried to get his bank back. Poroshenko stood in his way. Thus, it was necessary to get rid of Poroshenko and replace him with someone pliant. With Zelensky in office, a Ukrainian court decided in Kolomoisky's favor, allowing him to return to Ukraine.

(Hilariously, Zelensky's character on that TV show came to prominence by inveighing against corruption.)

One of the reasons people have likened Kolomoisky to a James Bond supervillain is his taste in pets: He keeps a large shark in a tank in his office. When he's in a mood to intimidate his associates, he feeds the shark while they watch.

Another reason: There are the longstanding rumors that he has had people killed. Those "rumors" are very real to Valeria Gontareva, the former head of Ukraine's National Bank -- the central bank of her country. She exposed the corruption at PrivatBank.

In March 2018, Valeria Gontareva revealed the alleged theft of US$5.5 billion from PrivatBank, once the country’s largest commercial lender. The suspected masterminds are the bank’s two oligarch owners: Igor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogoliubov, who stand accused of absconding with an amount roughly equal to 5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Gontareva has been blaming Kolomoisky and his allies for the hostile acts against her and her family, saying he was threatening her. The controversial oligarch has denied her allegations.

One of those threats involved a coffin placed at her door. She quit her job as head of the National Bank.

The prospect of Kolomoisky's return put her in fear of her life, so she moved to London. On August 26, a car struck her while she crossed the road. In September, her home in Kyiv burnt to the ground in an arson fire.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov called the fire "a manifestation of criminal pressure."

President Volodymyr Zelensky, in turn, said he expected the police to investigate the incident as soon as possible.

When asked about these attacks, Kolomoisky offered these cryptic words: "Now, it is most likely she will not be extradited [to Ukraine]. Therefore you think [about theories]..." Kolomoisky's favorite theory is that she burnt down the house herself.

At the point you may be wondering: How does all of this relate to the "whistleblower" scandal?

It's simple. You have to think of that scandal in terms of pressure points. Trump wants two things: He wants dirt on Joe Biden, and he wants to pardon Paul Manafort. (One of the charges against Manafort concerns payoffs from a previous Ukrainian government. If the documentation is declared spurious, Trump may have political room to issue a pardon.)

Right now, most people believe that the key pressure point involves the $250 million in military aid earmarked for Ukraine, which is fighting a war against Russians in the north. There is also the strange matter of an extra $140 million, which serves no apparent purpose beyond appeasing the graft which has become endemic to Ukrainian politics. As most people know by now, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had no answer when asked about this money. It was a classic Ralph Kramden homina homina moment.

But the original pressure point, the important pressure point, is Kolomoisky.

You see, he has been accused of money laundering. And for quite a while now, he has been under investigation by the FBI.

“Mr. Kolomoisky categorically denies that he has laundered any funds into the United States, period,” said Mike Sullivan, an attorney with the Ashcroft Law Firm who represents Kolomoisky. “He’s a businessperson. His bank was seized by the government, claiming the bank was on the verge of collapse. That information turned out to be false.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Ohio is involved in the probe, as Kolomoisky has investments there, according to the Kyiv Post.

The existence of an FBI probe means that he is open to manipulation from the Trump administration.

The FBI is an investigative agency. That's what the "I" stands for. They don't mount prosecutions. In a case like this, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute would be made by William Barr. By this point, I think we've all gained a pretty good idea of who Barr is and how he operates.

In essence, Trump controls Kolomoisky, and Kolomoisky controls Zelensky.

Never forget that Kolomoisky is the real power in Ukraine. He made Zelensky and he can break him. That's why I'm not expecting much from the release of the transcript of Trump's call to Zelensky: If any quid pro quo was discussed, it probably was not discussed on that occasion.

One arranges such matters with the puppeteer, not with the puppet.

For God's sake, DON'T TRUST ZELENSKY! He knows that he can't defy Kolomoisky. If he does, he'll end up like Valeria Gontareva.

Any evidence offered by Zelensky against Biden or pro-Manafort will be false.
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