Ex-director of biggest Ukrainian bank charged with fraud

Ukrainian officials on Monday forced a plane carrying a former director of the country’s largest bank to land in Kiev, where they arrested him on fraud charges.

An official statement did not identify the person, but local media named him as Volodymyr Yatsenko, former first deputy chairman of PrivatBank’s board.

Ukraine’s central bank accuses PrivatBank’s former owner Igor Kolomoisky of siphoning $5.5 billion from the country’s biggest lender, but no arrests had been made in the case until now. 

It has been followed closely however by Western backers who want Ukraine to make fighting corruption a priority.

The ex-Soviet country is one of the poorest in Europe.

A statement released Monday by the General Prosecutor’s office said a former first deputy chairman of the board of PrivatBank “tried to leave Ukraine on a private plane headed for Vienna”.

The person is suspected of abusing his former position to steal “a particularly large amount” of money from the bank, it added without providing a name.

If found guilty, the suspect faces up to 12 years in prison.

Ukraine nationalised PrivatBank in December 2016 to avoid a collapse that could have threatened the nation’s entire banking sector.

Kolomoisky has contested the nationalisation. 

Kiev has been pressured to act by donors such as the International Monetary Fund, which has withheld aid owing to a lack of reforms.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, elected in 2019 after pledging to root out corruption, said Monday he was “confident” the IMF will unblock aid to his country this year.

Zelensky won election with help from Kolomoisky’s media empire, but has since sought to distance himself from the controversial figure.

The Ukrainian president has been accused meanwhile of failing to find and prosecute people suspected of laundering PrivatBank funds.