Justice Department Seeks Forfeiture of Third Commercial Property Purchased with Funds Misappropriated from PrivatBank in Ukraine

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil forfeiture complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida alleging that commercial real estate in Cleveland, Ohio, was acquired using funds misappropriated from PrivatBank in Ukraine as part of a multi-billion-dollar loan scheme. 

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kevin Driscoll of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan for the Southern District of Florida, U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman for the Northern District of Ohio and Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith of the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office made the announcement.

In August 2020, two other civil forfeiture complaints were filed in the Southern District of Florida involving properties in Louisville, Kentucky and Dallas, Texas, in which it was alleged that those properties were also acquired using funds misappropriated from PrivatBank in Ukraine.  All three properties are alleged to be subject to forfeiture based on violations of federal money laundering statutes.

The three complaints allege that Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov, who owned PrivatBank, one of the largest banks in Ukraine, embezzled and defrauded the bank of billions of dollars.  The two obtained fraudulent loans and lines of credit from approximately 2008 through 2016, when the scheme was uncovered, and the bank was nationalized by the National Bank of Ukraine.  The complaints allege that they laundered a portion of the criminal proceeds using an array of shell companies’ bank accounts, primarily at PrivatBank’s Cyprus branch, before they transferred the funds to the United States.  As alleged in the complaint, the loans were rarely repaid except with more fraudulently obtained loan proceeds.

As alleged in the complaints, in the United States, associates of Kolomoisky and Boholiubov, Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber, operating out of offices in Miami, created a web of entities, usually under some variation of the name “Optima,” to further launder the misappropriated funds and invest them.  They purchased hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate and businesses across the country, including the properties subject to forfeiture: the office tower known as 55 Public Square in Cleveland, Ohio, the Louisville office tower known as PNC Plaza, and the Dallas office park known as the former CompuCom Headquarters.  The buildings have a combined value of more than $60 million.

A complaint is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 

FBI’s Cleveland Division is investigating the case with support from FBI’s International Corruption Unit, IRS Criminal Investigation, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  International Unit Chief Mary K. Butler, Senior Trial Attorney Michael C. Olmsted, Trial Attorneys Shai D. Bronshtein and Peter Steciuk, and Law Clerk Robert Blaney of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Adrienne Rosen of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida are handling these cases.  The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs has provided substantial assistance in the investigation.

The Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative is led by a team of dedicated prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies, and often with U.S. Attorney’s Offices, to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and, where appropriate, to use those recovered assets to benefit the people harmed by these acts of corruption and abuse of office.  In 2015, the FBI formed International Corruption Squads across the country to address national and international implications of foreign corruption.  Individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through the United States should contact federal law enforcement or send an email to kleptocracy@usdoj.gov (link sends e-mail) or https://tips.fbi.gov/.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

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