Dmitry Firtash

June 29, 2015 – IMF officials are implicated in theft, concealment of Ukraine loan corruption, US Justice Department investigates

“Officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are in flight from evidence of negligence, incompetence, and corruption in their management of billions of dollars in loans for Ukraine.

Nikolai Gueorguiev, head of the Ukraine team at IMF headquarters in Washington, DC, and Jerome Vacher, the IMF representative in Kiev, refuse to respond to questions on their role in the offshore diversion of IMF loan money through Privatbank and Credit Dnepr Bank, banks owned by Ukrainian oligarchs Igor Kolomoisky and Victor Pinchuk. The Fund’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde (lead image, front) and her spokesman, Gerry Rice (rear), are covering up evidence of conflicts of interest and multiple violations of the IMF Staff Code of Conduct which have been occurring in the Ukraine loan programme. Simonetta Nardin, head of the Fund’s media relations, refuses to explain her apparent violations of the Code, or respond to evidence that she fabricated elements of her career resume.

On Tuesday a spokesman at the US Department of Justice in Washington confirmed that an investigation is under way of the role played by US clearing banks in the movement of IMF funds through the Privatbank group and companies connected with Kolomoisky. Speaking for the Asset Forefeiture and Money Laundering Section, Peter Carr declined to give more details.

In recent indictments presented to US courts, Justice Department officials have defined the crime of money laundering as the transmission or transfer of money through “a place in the United States to or through a place outside the United States” with the “intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity”; with knowledge that the transfer of funds represents “the proceeds of some unlawful activity”; and with the intention to “conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of unspecified unlawful activity”.

The role of US system banks, such as Citibank, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase, in clearing US dollar transactions has been the basis of selective Justice Department prosecutions of Russian and pro-Russian Ukrainian companies and individuals since the toppling of President Victor Yanukovich in Kiev in February 2014. In contrast, Ukrainian allies of the US in that operation, including Yulia Tymoshenko (below, left), Kolomoisky (centre), and Pinchuk (right), have not been pursued on court evidence of their involvement in corruption and money-laundering.

Washington’s selectivity and political favouritism was condemned by an Austrian court in May when a US extradition request for Dmitry Firtash on corruption charges was rejected. Justice Department lawyers are now attempting a retrial of their allegations in an appeals court in Vienna.

For the Justice Department to acknowledge this week that it is investigating Kolomoisky is unusual. Kolomoisky himself was last recorded as visiting the US in April; follow that story here. He is based in Geneva, where a Swiss Government investigation of his qualification for renewal of a residency permit continues without end.

For the US to acknowledge opening an investigation of IMF lending to Ukraine is unprecedented. The IMF resumed its loan disbursements to Ukraine in March. This was after a hiatus of six months from October of 2014 when the Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) agreed the previous April was suspended as Fund officials attempted to convince the board that the Kiev government was capable of repaying its debts and meeting its loan conditions. When the Fund launched the SBA on April 30, 2014, it had claimed: “A strong and comprehensive structural reform package is critical to reduce corruption…to build capacity to more effectively conduct enforcement of anti-money laundering and anti-corruption legislation.”

The IMF reports that in 2014 it gave $2.2 billion to the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) before the suspension. Another $5.4 billion in IMF cash was paid to Kiev for what is called “budget support”. That also included warfighting in eastern Ukraine.

When the IMF board agreed to restart lending with a new arrangement called the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), the American deputy managing director of the Fund, David Lipton, claimed: “Restoring a sound banking system is key for economic recovery. To this end, the strategy to strengthen banks through recapitalization, reduction of related-party lending, and resolution of impaired assets should be implemented decisively.” Using the future tense Lipton (below, left) was acknowledging that next to nothing had been done to reform the Ukrainian banks in fifteen months.

Gueorguiev (right), an ex-official of the Bulgarian government, has claimed he is in charge of the independent auditing and supervision of the Ukrainian banks; for the record of his admissions in June 2014click. Since then Gueorguiev refuses to answer questions.

In the new staff report for which he and Jerome Vacher, the IMF resident representative in Kiev, are responsible, issued a month ago, they admitted the condition of the Ukrainian banks is parlous. “Outstanding NBU loans are still elevated for a number of domestic banks. At end-June, the aggregate liquidity ratio among the 35 largest banks was 15.2 percent, although seven of these domestic privately-owned banks had liquidity ratios below 5 percent.” Privat and Credit Dnepr, the Kolomoisky and Pinchuk pocket banks, aren’t identified.

(…) The new staff report claims it has been decided to continue making “provision related loans in full and transfer them into a specialized unit inside the bank in case it is needed to ensure medium-term financial viability of any resolved SIB. [And] inject public funds in the SIBs only after shareholders have been completely diluted and non-deposit unsecured creditors are bailed in.” This looks like the IMF has decided to oust Kolomoisky from control of Privatbank. It may be advance warning for him to empty the bank’s pockets into his own before the dilution and other conditions take effect. That would make Gueorguiev and his IMF colleagues complicit in the money laundering schemes the Justice Department is investigating – if evidence turns up that they knew, or ought to have known, of transfer schemes intended to defraud the bank, its collateral shareholder NBU and lender IMF, by hiding the cash offshore under Kolomoisky’s personal control.

Jerome Vacher

(…) Vacher (right), the Fund’s resident representative in Kiev, may be of greater interest to US investigators because he appears to have been exchanging valuable favours with Pinchuk. Questioned about his trip to Venice in May to attend a Pinchuk art show and political rally, Vacher is admitting through the Fund’s press office that he wasn’t on official duty at the time. But did he stay on board Pinchuk’s motor yacht Oneness, which port logs show to have been in Venice between May 4 and May 8? Vacher and his superiors in Washington are withholding their answer. For more details of Vacher’s relationship with Pinchuk, read this. For the impact of the IMF loan programme on Credit Dnepr Bank, click here.

Reporting to Managing Director Lagarde as chief spokesmen for the Fund’s Ukraine operations are Rice, a British national, and Simonetta Nardin, an Italian. She claims to have been a journalist in Italy before joining the IMF in 1997. In a forum sponsored by the US Government’s National Endowment for Democracy, the Czech Foreign Ministry, the European Commission, and a Taiwan government office in Prague, she also claimed her role is “to make the IMF responsible and accountable for what it does.” (Read more: John Helmer, 9/03/2015)    (Archive)

(Republished in part, with permission)