The Pandora Papers have shed light on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky offshore assets. While Zelensky came to power on promises of cleaning up Ukraine, the papers reveal that he along with his close circle have benefited from a network of offshore companies, with assets which include expensive real estate in London.
The following are the key findings revealed by the Pandora Papers on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky offshore assets.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his comedy production partners owned a network of offshore companies based in the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus, and Belize.
- The offshore network included Zelensky’s current chief aide, Serhiy Shefir, as well as the head of the country’s Security Service.
- Shefir and another business partner used offshore companies to purchase expensive London real estate.
- Around the time of his 2019 election, Zelensky transferred his shares in a key offshore company to Shefir, but the two appear to have worked out a deal for Zelensky’s family to continue receiving payments from the offshore.
- Volodymyr Zelensky, is a Ukrainian comedy actor. In 2019, he stormed into power on a wave of public outrage against the country’s political class, including previous leaders who used secret companies to hide their wealth overseas.
Leaked documents now show that Zelensky and his inner circle had their own offshore company network. Two of the president’s partners’ funds were used to purchase expensive real estate in London.
This information comes from the Pandora Papers, which contain millions of files from 14 offshore service providers that were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared with partners all over the world, including OCCRP.
According to these documents, Zelensky and his partners in a television production company, Kvartal 95, established a network of offshore firms as early as 2012, when the company began producing regular content for TV stations owned by Ihor Kolomoisky, an oligarch accused of multibillion-dollar fraud. Zelensky associates also used offshores to buy and own three prime properties in central London.
The documents also show that, shortly before his election, he gave his stake in a key offshore company, the British Virgin Islands-registered Maltex Multicapital Corp., to a business partner who would soon become his top presidential aide. Despite giving up his shares, the documents show that an agreement was quickly reached to allow the offshore to continue paying dividends to a company that now belongs to his wife.
Zelensky, who rose to prominence in the 2000s, began his political career a few years after starring in the political satire “Servant of the People,” which debuted on the oligarch’s network in 2015. Zelensky portrayed a humble history teacher whose anti-corruption rant in class is filmed by a student, goes viral online, and propels him to national office.
In a case of life imitating art, Zelensky won the real-world Ukrainian presidency with more than 73% of the vote just three and a half years after the show’s debut.
Zelensky capitalised on widespread anti-corruption sentiment, but his 2019 campaign was marred by questions about his anti-corruption credentials, given that his campaign was bolstered by media owned by Kolomoisky — who is accused of stealing US$5.5 billion from his own bank and funnelling it offshore with his partner, Hennadiy Boholiubov.
During the campaign, a political ally of incumbent President Petro Poroshenko shared a chart on Facebook purporting to show that Zelensky and his television production partners benefited from a web of offshore firms that allegedly received $41 million in funds from Kolomoisky’s Privatbank.
Volodymyr Ariev, did not provid evidence, and his accusations were never proven, until now. The Pandora Papers shed some light of his dealings in this alleged scheme, proving some of the allegations to be accurate. The leaked documents contain information on ten companies in the network that correspond to the structures depicted in Ariev’s chart.
The new documents show that Fidelity Corporate Services, an offshore consultancy that was one of 14 firms whose documents were leaked as part of the Pandora Papers, helped manage a portion of the network. According to the documents, Zelensky and his partners used companies in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Belize, and Cyprus.
Two of Zelensky’s offshore network associates, who were also part of his TV production company, now hold powerful positions. Serhiy Shefir is Zelensky’s top presidential aide, and Ivan Bakanov is the head of Ukraine’s Security Service.
These powerful positions are not without risk. Shefir narrowly escaped an apparent assassination attempt on September 22 when his car was fired on outside Kyiv. He was not hurt, but his driver was.
Zelensky has repeatedly stated his intention to rein in oligarchs. The day after the attack on Shefir, the country’s parliament passed legislation prohibiting oligarchs from funding political parties or participating in privatisations. According to Zelensky, the assassination attempt on Shefir’s life will be met with a strong response and will have no bearing on his fight against vested interests.
Zelensky’s spokesman declined to comment. Shefir and Bakanov remained silent when questioned.
Borys Shefir, Serhiy Shefir’s brother and a part-owner of Maltex Multicapital Corp, said he was unaware of the details of the offshore arrangement, which was largely the work of Ukraine’s now-Security Service chief, Bakanov.
“Bakanov was our financial director, he set up the financial schemes of our company. Speaking honestly, I’m not ready to respond to you,” said Shefir.
He went on to add, such offshore arrangements were necessary because of threats from “authorities and bandits”.
Members from Kvartal 95 were working to divest themselves of offshores, but the process of difficult and slow.