The controversial demarche of Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius and the accusations that he brought against then first deputy head of Petro Poroshenko Bloc, Igor Kononenko, of lobbying those "overlooking" most profitable state-owned companies exposed a moth-eaten problems.
After the new government started working, ministers promised to look into the old schemes that were widely used at various state-owned companies during Yanukovych's presidency. Spokespeople for Ministry for Economy told Segodnya.ua website that during Aivaras Abromavicius' stay in office, the heads of 42 key state-owned companies had been replaced. However, the scandal that sparked between Abromavicius and Kononenko mentioned the names of other state-run companies, such as Naftogaz, Ukrhimtransammiak and Powder Metallurgy Factory. The head of the latter was replaced only a couple of months ago.
Yet, the notorious CEO of Ukrhimtransammiak is still working. Abromavicius had been trying to dismiss corruption inductee, former member of Party of Regions, Viktor Bondyk, for more than six months. Bondyk has been serving as the head of Ukrhimtransammiak (UHTA) for nearly a decade - the Ministry for Economic Development says so, at least.
It appears that Bondyk is not concerned about what is happening. He continues working and even maintains close cooperation with the Yanukovych family. There are several criminal cases pending against Bondyk currently.
Bondyk has been heading UHTA since 2007 and has outlived seven relevant ministers. There are legends about his discreditable practices at the state-run enterprise. The acquisition of pumps and lifts for liquids for 55.4 million hryvnia in 2013 was quite a story. It seems all fine and dandy, but the same equipment with identical technical specifications cost the company 15.2 million hryvnia in 2010. The company's move to raise two loans totaling $42 million from Amsterdam Trade Bank NV and Alfa-Bank became the most high-profile scandal.
According to People's Front deputy, Tatiana Chernovol, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine opened an investigation for acts of power abuse and inappropriate use of credit funds committed by Bondyk. Tatiana Chernovol told Segodnya.ua that the Office of the Prosecutor General filed the cases against Bondyk only after her personal plea.
"Moreover, it was only after a personal conversation that Arseniy Yatsenyuk had with Abromavicius, when the Ministry for Economic Development raised the tariff for the transit of ammonia via Ukraine by nearly 30 percent in September 2015. See for yourself: in 2010, pumping one ton of ammonia was $2/100 km, while during Bondyk's stay in office the price was $0.5/100 km. Bondyk had lobbied such tariffs at the Economic Development Ministry for taking bribes from the Russian co-owner of JSC Togliattiazot, Sergei Makhlai, who transits his ammonia via Ukraine," sources at the Cabinet told Segodnya.ua. Sergei Makhlai is a prominent representative of the international criminal world. He was born in Russia, but duly obtained several US passports for Serge Makligh and George Mack. In the US, where there are tough practices used against tax evaders, fraudsters and corrupt individuals, Makhlai is most likely known as a respectable businessman. This is because Makhlai prefers to run real business in his homeland - Russia, from where he moved to the United States in 1994.
At long last, Russian law enforcement agencies evinced interest in the shadowy schemes to withdraw $1.5 billion in money and assets from Togliattiazot.
In December 2012, a criminal case was filed under Article 159.4 of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation - large scale fraud. By decision of a Russian court, Makhlai and several of his associates had been arrested in absentia and put on Interpol's wanted list. Yet, Togliattiazot continues to operate, albeit not at full capacity. Its only export channel, the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline, is controlled by Ukrhimtransammiak. This is the reason why Makhlai spares huge money to bribe Bondyk.
Non-governmental organization Maidan Anti-Corruption Committee took efforts to put Bondyk to grass at some point. At around the same time, an attempt was made on the life of the vice chairman of the organization, Ruslan Kalashnikov. The activist stayed alive, but the criminal case was swept under the carpet.
Minister Abromavicius was unable to dismiss Bondyk as well, as he would constantly be either on holiday or on medical leave. Abromavichus decided to change the head of UHTA, at least officially, in early September, when he posted on Facebook: "Ukrhimtransammiak CEO has outlived seven ministers. And there is a plethora of questions to him. More than a month ago, I asked him to write a resignation letter (i.e, it was July - Ed.). He's gone on vacation."
According to sources at the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, Victor Bondyk was repeatedly seen at the presidential administration, although it remains unknown what he was there for. Here is another equally curious fact: the disgraced Victor Bondyk is the compadre of the sitting head of the Security Service of Ukraine, Vasily Gritsak.
As long as the heads of Ukrainian state-owned enterprises act as links at international corruption chains, chaired by criminals such as Makhlai, any attempts to take companies out of shadow are doomed to failure and so are the efforts to hold fair and transparent privatization.