CLEVELAND, Ohio – Just days after federal agents raided a Cleveland office building linked to a Ukrainian oligarch, prosecutors Thursday sought to seize $70 million in property in Texas and Kentucky tied to the oligarch and his associates.
Prosecutors filed two civil forfeiture cases in U.S. District Court in Miami, Florida, that allege that office buildings in Dallas and Louisville bought with laundered money by Ukrainian billionaire Igor Kolomoisky and others.
The filings came two days after FBI and IRS agents in Cleveland seized boxloads of evidence at the offices of Optima Management Group in One Cleveland Center at East 9th Street and St. Clair Avenue. Investigators also searched a business in Miami.
Agents and federal prosecutors in Cleveland are leading the criminal investigation into the scheme, with help from the FBI’s international corruption unit.
The forfeiture cases and the investigation involve a large-scale money laundering operation involving Kolomoisky and others. The civil cases allege that Kolomoisky helped siphon $5 billion from PrivatBank, a Ukrainian bank that he and Gennadiy Boholiubov opened in 1992.
They fleeced the bank out of loans from about 2008 to 2016, repaid the loans with other loans and then funneled some of the money they received into U.S. real estate, according to the documents filed Thursday.
“Over the course of more than a decade, Igor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov used their control of PrivatBank to steal billions of dollars of the bank’s funds,” the lawsuits said.
“The magnitude of the fraud and theft was so great that [the National Bank of Ukraine] was forced to bail out the bank by providing $5.5 billion in order to stave off economic crisis for the whole country.”
The documents said that Kolomoisky and Boholiubov, with the help of associates in Miami, bought land across the country, including more than 5 million square feet of commercial real estate in Ohio. They also bought the 19.5-acre CompuCom Campus, an office park in Dallas, and the PNC Plaza, an office tower in Louisville. The government is seeking to seize both of those through forfeiture.
“The basic idea was simple: Kolomoisky and Boholiubov requested money from PrivatBank, which, based on their control and ownership, they always received and rarely paid it back, except through new loans,” federal prosecutors said in the lawsuits.
Once the men obtained the loans, they or their associates laundered the funds through “a vast network of companies,” the lawsuits said. They then shipped the money throughout the world.
Kolomoisky is a leader of the Privat Group, a large Ukrainian business that the lawsuit says “controls businesses in many sectors of the Ukrainian economy, including metals, energy and media, under the umbrella of the ‘Privat Group.’ “
Some of Kolomoisky and Boholiubov’s associates formed Optima, which was used for real estate, according to the lawsuits.
In Cleveland, Optima Management Group had a large presence in Cleveland’s real estate a few years ago. Today, the company has One Cleveland Center, where the raid took place, 55 Public Square, an office building, and a stake in the Westin Cleveland Downtown. It also had a steel mill in Warren, which has since closed.
Kolomoisky has gained attention in the United States for other reasons than his role in the money-laundering investigation.
Last year, The New York Times reported that Kolomoisky refused to set up a meeting with President Trump’s ally, Rudy Giuliani, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an attempt to find political dirt against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Kolomoisky’s attorney, Michael Sullivan, said his client denies the allegations in Thursday’s filings.