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Rinat Akhmetov and Viktor Yanukovych inspect the Donbas Arena stadium of football club Shakhtar. Source: Press Office of Shaktar Donetzk Пресслужба на Шахтьор Донецк

An investigation Bivol and OCCRP (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) proved undeniable links between Swiss companies of Yanukovych Jr. (Alexander Yanukovych, son of deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych – editor’s note) and of Rinat Akhmetov, managed by the same hired managers. Is the wealth of the oligarch going to be investigated and frozen in the European Union, including Bulgaria?

Switzerland froze the bank accounts of Viktor Yanukovych’s family and launched an investigation in the companies of his son Alexander. Swiss press is hinting of ties of Yanukovych with the wealthiest Ukrainian oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, but for the time being the Swiss authorities are not investigating Akhmetov, according to AFP.

The sponsor of Yanukovych’s election campaign in 2005, the super wealthy Ukrainian tycoon Rinat Akhmetov (his fortune is estimated at 16 billion US dollars), reneged on his former protégé in mid-December 2013, in the midst of Euromaidan. Today Akhmetov emphatically denies having business links with the family of the deposed president, but witnesses and company records show otherwise.

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In May 2013, American citizen of Uzbek origin Felix Blitshtein told “Correspondent” that he had founded the company Mako Trading in Geneva to trade Ukrainian coal. The company belongs to Alexander Yanukovych, Blitshtein is categorical:

– In founding the company did you invest your own money?

– No, the company belongs to Alexander Yanukovych.

– It’s his money?

– Yes, I am a hired manager.

In the same interview, Blitshtein lifts the curtain on his relationship with Akhmetov, which passes through the companies Leman Commodities and Partifina.

Yanukovych and Akhmetov with same managers

Business registries of Switzerland, inspected with the help of a team of OCCRP, confirm the following, not very complex, scheme. The current manager of Mako Trading S.A. is Felix Blitshtein. The latter has a joint company with Joseph Riedweg – Partifina S.A., which is registered at the same address in Geneva as Mako Trading.

Joseph Riedweg is currently on the Board of Directors of Metinvest International S.A., which is 100 % owned by Metinvest B.V. Holland. Meanwhile, the previous name of Metinvest International S.A. is Leman Commodities, a company for trading of metals, which was founded by Felix Blitshtein, and was subsequently acquired by Akhmetov.

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In two years of coal trade under the expert guidance of Blitshtein, Mako Trading gained hundreds of millions of dollars. A small detail is that the origin of coal, sold to benefit Yanukovych Jr, is dubious – it came from the so -called „kopanki“ (digs) in which the raw material is mined illegally without paying taxes to the state. But with such an influential father, hardly anyone in Ukraine dared to oppose.

Common directors and managers, used by both Yanukovych and Akhmetov, are evident, but the question whether there are financial flows between bank accounts of Mako Trading and Metinvest, is way more interesting and is something Swiss investigators can easily establish.

It should be noted that possible European Union sanctions against the Ukrainian oligarch over his links with Yanukovych will target not only Akhmetov’s metallurgical enterprises in Italy (Ferriera Valsider SpA, Trametal SpA), England (Spartan UK Ltd), but also a Bulgarian factory for ordinary and special steel „Promet Steel“ in Debelt, bought by Akhmetov in 2008 through the Russian „Smart Group.“ Currently, 95% of the capital of „Promet Steel,“ which amounts to 49 million US dollars is owned by Metinvest B.V.

After the closure of the Kremikovtsi steel mill near the capital Sofia, the production of the factory near Burgas, which employs 850 people, suddenly soared and reached an annual turnover of nearly 250 million US dollars, annual reports show. The Ukrainian owners promised modernization investments of 1.5 billion US dollars, which are yet to materialize.

Recently Akhmetov’s Metinvest opened offices in Bucharest, local OCCRP partner RISE Project revealed. Manager of the company is Bulgarian Vesselin Sokolov, aged 32, head of Sales for South-East of Metinvest International SA Geneva. Sokolov is not listed in Bulgarian firm registries as manager or owner of other companies.  According to our partners from RISE Project, Promet Steel was trying to recover 312,000 euros from the insolvant Romanian company United Prodimpex SA.

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