What the current Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine Kyrylo Shevchenko tried to hide, but failed: the billions of hryvnias that disappeared in Austria were actually directly associated with the "successful bank" created by Kyrylo Shevchenko together with ex-members of the Party of Regions and financial fraudsters.
Our investigation started with one missing detail in Kyrylo Shevchenko’s biography, who was appointed NBU Governor in the summer of 2020. On the Internet, there is a lot of information about all the aspects of his life up from his childhood. A number of advertising websites praise the experience and state approach of the banker. However, the official biography on the NBU website did not mention the time when Kyrylo Shevchenko owned and managed Terra Bank. It caught our attention and that is why we started our six-month investigation. During this time, someone realized that it was pretty suspicious to hide Terra Bank from the official biography, so later, they included it in Kyrylo Shevchenko's official website as an experience to be proud of. But it was too late.
Some details of the scheme related to Terra Bank had been known before. But only with the so-called "Panama Papers"—a large-scale data leak from the law firm Mossack Fonseca—it became clear: Terra Bank was part of a large scheme to launder billions of hryvnia depositors. Moreover, there is every reason to believe that in 2012, the bank was sold for funds laundered from it.
Terra Bank was part of a large scheme to launder billions of hryvnia depositors.
The editorial office has copies of a number of court decisions and case documents related to the investigation of the criminal scheme. Most of the official documents were seized from Terra Bank, the NBU, and the Deposit Guarantee Fund. It was done by the State Bureau of Investigations (DBR) under the leadership of Iryna Venediktova shortly before this post was taken by Oleksiy Sukhachev. However, based on official sources, registers, and media reports, we have managed to recreate the picture of what happened at Terra Bank during 2010-2012.
How Kyrylo Shevchenko and the members of the Party of Regions were managing Terra Bank
Terra Bank depositors' withdrawal scheme. Infographics: The Page
In 2010, Terra Bank was bought by a group of people, the most notable of whom were Kyrylo Shevchenko (then Deputy Chairman of the state-owned Ukrgasbank) and Vadym Kopylov (Deputy Minister of Finance in Mykola Azarov's government). The buyers gained control over the bank through getting control over Ukrainian Strategic Group PJSC, or USG (Ukr. «Ukrainska Stratehichna Hrupa»), which owned 99.21% of Terra Bank shares.
Shevchenko openly owned 33% of the shares of USG. Kopylov, as an official related to the Party of Regions with an ambition to get the post of Minister of Finance, got the shares via other people: his wife Maryna Lening, who formally owned his business, and Viktor Barsuk, who represented Kopylov's interests and owned 29.9% of USG shares. Maryna Lening headed the Supervisory Board of Terra Bank, Victor Barsuk was a member of the Supervisory Board. At the same time, business media directly linked purchasing the bank with Kopylov, and not with the people affiliated with him.
With the help of members of the Party of Regions, Kyrylo Shevchenko took the post of Chairman of the Board and held it from April 14, 2010, to April 11, 2011. During that time, he staffed the bank with people from "his team", with whom he had worked together, including people from Ukrgasbank. Profile media were also writing about it. Here, the name Oleg Savoshchenko is of particular interest to us.
In April 2011, there were personnel changes in the bank. Volodymyr Kotsyuba, a close friend of Kopylov and Shevchenko, replaced Kyrylo Shevchenko as Chairman of the Management Board.
At this time, Shevchenko moved to the Supervisory Board of the bank and became Chairman of the board of USG until December 2011. Kyrylo Shevchenko de-facto headed the main shareholder of Terra Bank and retained the influence and control over the bank. Thus, the Shevchenko-Kotsyuba castling looks pretty much like simply changing people that are connected by friendly and business relations. Later, it will become clear what this was for.
In 2010-2011, the bank "was thriving". Following the results of this period, the bank won Ukrainian banker awards 2012 in the nomination "The most dynamic banks." And, strange as it may seem, literally a few months after the awarding, in 2012 Kopylov and Shevchenko sold their shares in Terra Bank. The buyer was Ruslan Tsyplakov, who was associated to Viktor Yanukovych's son. He held the bank for a little while, but it is nevertheless worth remembering this name as it will become a key name later in this story. After all, the key handover from one owner to another was part of a plan.
The plan was directly linked to the unique competencies of Ruslan Tsyplakov, a businessman from Donetsk who was close to the Yanukovych family and was known as the owner of Pivdencombank. According to the OCCRP investigation, under Tsyplakov's leadership, $38 million were sent offshore from Pivdencombank's accounts, and armed "titushki" (pro-government provocateurs) who attacked Maidan in 2014 were financed from the bank on a large scale.
The next official owner of Terra Bank was Serhiy Klymenko, who became the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the bank in December 2013. The final beneficiary was the People's Deputy from the Party of Regions, former Vice-Rector of the National Aviation University Maksym Lutsky, a relative of the odious Dmytro Tabachnyk, the Minister of Education under Yanukovych’s presidency.
$38 million were sent offshore from Pivdencombank's accounts. The bank also financed "titushki".
It is interesting that in 2014, Klymenko appointed Oleh Savoshchenko Chairman of the Board. Shevchenko and Kopylov invited him to their team in Terra Bank back in 2010, and since then, Savoshchenko held senior positions in the bank. Meanwhile, in March 2014, Kyrylo Shevchenko returned to Terra Bank as President. This job position was created especially for Shevchenko and its functionality was not clear.
Thus, although control of the bank allegedly passed from hand to hand, it always remained in groups of related persons.
The collapse of Terra Bank and its liquidation
Since 2014, the National Bank of Ukraine has liquidated more than a hundred banking institutions (insolvent and unscrupulous banks). On August 22, 2014, the National Bank declared Terra Bank insolvent. On December 9, 2014, the bank was liquidated by a decision of the NBU, and its banking license was revoked. On its basis, it was created a new "synthetic" bank "Crystalbank." This bank is headed by Kopylov's wife Maryna Lening. Thus, control over the bank's assets and documents remained in the hands of the same group even after the bank’s liquidation.
From the outside, it may look like since Shevchenko and Kopylov sold Terra Bank in 2012, the situation in the bank has started to deteriorate catastrophically. And that the actions of the latter led to the liquidation of such a successful bank as Terra Bank was in the days of Kopylov-Shevchenko.
However, the documents published as part of the Panama Papers project lead us to completely different conclusions. Bringing the bank to disaster looks like a planned action by Shevchenko and Kopylov.
Scheme with the Austrian bank Meinl
Meinl Bank is an Austrian bank that was an instrument of a very common scheme for laundering depositors' funds from Ukrainian banks. For this, in 2019, it lost the license of the European Central Bank and its leaders became the subjects of an investigation.
The scheme was the following: a Ukrainian bank opened a correspondent account in Meinl bank. Then, an offshore company owned by the same people as the Ukrainian bank applied Meinl Bank for a loan. Money of depositors of the Ukrainian bank was used as collateral for the loan (with the consent of the bank’s owners, the bankers-beneficiaries of the scheme). When Meinl Bank was accepting documents from the Ukrainian bank and the offshore institution, the depositors' money in the bank's correspondent account was appropriated by the scheme organizers, because at that moment the amount in the correspondent account became considered encumbered. At any time, if the offshore institution did not pay on the loan, Meinl Bank could write off the money from the correspondent account of the Ukrainian bank, even without additional confirmation.
According to reports, the NBU considered that money belonging to the Ukrainian bank, as it had no evidence about the agreements with Meinl Bank. At the same time, the European Central Bank considered the same money belonging to Meinl Bank, as Meinl Bank provided it with a pledge agreement with the Ukrainian bank.
Then, Meinl Bank withdrew the written-off money of depositors in favor of Ukrainian bankers (whose offshore institutions, of course, were not going to repay the loans), and the latter, in turn, enriched themselves. After that, the banks went bankrupt and Ukraine returned the money to depositors.
The role of Kyrylo Shevchenko in laundering money from Terra Bank
Key facts and dates of withdrawing the depositors' money (in favor of Shevchenko, Tsyplakov and Kopylov). Infographics: The Page
Ruslan Tsyplakov is a man who bought the bank from Kyrylo Shevchenko and Vadym Kopylov in 2012. The same person is mentioned in Panama Papers.
The documents indicate that Ruslan Tsyplakov and his accomplice Lidiya Livadna are the owners of the offshore company MU UNITED LIMITED (BVI 1600737) in the British Virgin Islands. The offshore company is accompanied by the law firm Global group of Lawyers Ltd., its interests are represented by Mossack Fonseca (that is why the information about MU UNITED LIMITED became public). Here is a link to confirm this information. The offshore company MU UNITED LIMITED is listed as the owner of the Cypriot company Tosalan Trading Limited (HE284760).
Here are the events associated with Terra Bank that are happening simultaneously. As the events happen so fast and at the same time, it can not be a mere coincidence.
On April 6, 2011, Ruslan Tsyplakov and Lidiya Livadna register Tosalan Trading Ltd. in Cyprus.
Two days later, Kyrylo Shevchenko resigned as Chairman of the Board of Terra Bank.
Three days later, instead of Kyrylo Shevchenko, the Board of Terra Bank is headed by his comrade Volodymyr Kotsyuba. At the general meeting of shareholders of Terra Bank PJSC, it is decided to appoint Shevchenko a member of the Supervisory Board of the bank.
Two and a half months later, on June 22, 2011, Terra Bank opens correspondent accounts in Meinl Bank.
A month later, on August 22, 2011, Volodymyr Kotsyuba, as the Chairman of the Management Board, writes a letter to Meinl Bank about granting a loan of 40 million dollars (at the current rate 1.1 billion hryvnias) to Tosalan Trading Ltd. and signs a pledge agreement under which Terra Bank undertakes to hedge this loan to Meinl Bank.
This way, in just four months, with clockwork precision, they conducted a scheme that cost Terra Bank depositors 1.1 billion hryvnias.
This information became known from the case №757/55573/19-к in the proceedings №62019100000000092 and from the decision of the investigating judge Bortnytska V.V. in the Pechersk district court from October 31, 2019.
In August-September 2011, Meinl Bank transferred, in four payments, $39,490,208.33 of credit funds aimed to Tosalan Trading Ltd. to the accounts of the Ukrainian company Praimeri Tekhnoresurs LLC (37201690) that were opened (note!) in Terra Bank. These data from the decision of the investigating judge in case №757/55573/19-к are confirmed by the monthly balance sheet of Terra Bank for 2010-2012, which is available to the editorial office.
All these documents were signed by the bank director Kotsyuba, which changed Kyrylo Shevchenko in this position. It seems that Kotsyuba was simply a signatory to take responsibility for the implementation of the billion-hryvnia scheme. The experience of a "silent signatory" helped Kotsyuba in the future.
NOTE: After his dismissal from Terra Bank, through Kopylov's influence, Kotsyuba got an appointment of Deputy Minister of Finance (Yuriy Kolobov). At that job, Kotsyuba's mission was to document the infamous $3 billion loan that was used by Putin to buy Yanukovych's loyalty during the Maidan. Kotsyuba became a signatory to that agreement.
According to the documents, the $40 million were credited to Terra Bank's correspondent account in Meinl Bank. But de-facto, that money went to the account of Praimeri Tekhnoresurs LLC, a client of Terra Bank.
But even though that money was the money of the bank's depositors, by that time it became already stolen, laundered, and legalized funds of the owners of Praimeri Tekhnoresurs LLC.
Kotsyuba's mission was to document the infamous $3 billion loan that was used by Putin to buy Yanukovych's loyalty.
And now, the most interesting aspect about the owners of Praimeri Tekhnoresurs. The ultimate beneficial owner of Praimeri Tekhnoresurs LLC is Sotnyk O.V., who previously worked under the leadership of Lidiya Livadna. SKAT-PKB LLC (code 34557959) is registered at the address as Praimeri Tekhnoresurs LLC in Mariupol. Among the founders of SKAT-PKB LLC, there is Tsyplakov Serhiy Petrovych who has the same surname and patronymic as Tsyplakov Ruslan Petrovych, so they might be siblings.
What's it got to do with NBU Governor Kyrylo Shevchenko?
It means that almost a year before selling Terra Bank, the bank management controlled by Kyrylo Shevchenko and Vadym Kopylov laundered $40 million from the bank through Tsyplakov's offshore company. Later, that money was credited to the account of a fictitious firm owned by Tsyplakov opened in Terra Bank. And after that, the money was shifted from there.
And this leads to an even more shocking conclusion: in 2012, Shevchenko and Kopylov sold Terra Bank to Tsyplakov for the same money they took out of the bank a year earlier. That is, they got the money on a legal basis. It was the last stage of the scheme that is a one-on-one duplicate of Tsyplakov's scheme that helped to launder $38 million from Pivdencombank. But in the case of Terra Bank, Tsyplakov asossiated with Kyrylo Shevchenko's group.
The current NBU Governor Shevchenko claims that he has nothing to do with the scheme associated with Meinl Bank because shifting funds from the correspondent accounts of Terra Bank to Meinl Bank was after the Ukrainian bank was liquidated from the market in 2014. But we have explained that the shifting money is just the end of the scheme, and its organization started in 2011 when Kotsyuba signed a loan hedging agreement for Tosalan Trading Ltd.
Could Shevchenko be unaware of signing such an agreement? It is not possible. Even if Kotsyuba, a friend of Shevchenko and Kopylov, had decided to hide it, he would not have succeeded. Large-scale agreements (it was about 320 million hryvnias at the exchange rate at that time) should be agreed upon with the Supervisory Board, and most likely with shareholders as well. At the time of signing the agreement, Shevchenko was both a member of the Supervisory Board and the Chairman of the Management Board of USG PJSC, the main shareholder that owned 99.21% of Terra Bank shares.
Even if we assume that the Supervisory Board could have overlooked the placement of $40 million in foreign correspondent accounts without economic necessity, the appearance of that amount of money on the bank’s balance could not be ignored. After all, that money appeared in the account of Praimeri Tekhnoresurs, opened in the same Terra Bank.
Thus, it turns out that the document couldn’t be signed without the consent of Kotsyuba's employers — and his employers were Shevchenko and Kopylov at those times. Moreover, the time of his appointment indicates that he was appointed specifically to sign an agreement with Meinl Bank.
As for Mr. Shevchenko, he denied once again being involved in this scheme. When commenting on , he noted: "Dear Mr. Andriy! I couldn’t help noticing that in the wording of the questions you have provided, there is a pre-formed position regarding my allegedly negative role in the Terra Bank case. I have already given answers to questions on this topic in the media earlier. I note once again that I have nothing to do with any illegal schemes."
Instead of a conclusion
In the case of №62019100000000092, opened against the managers and owners of Terra Bank, the DBR, that at that time was led by Iryna Venediktova, seized almost the entire array of documents in the case. It is possible that the criminal case №62019100000000092 was only an excuse to seize the original documents from Terra Bank, the Deposit Guarantee Fund, and the National Bank of Ukraine in order to hide them.
Meanwhile, the people involved in the case, Ruslan Tsyplakov and Lidiya Livadna, are in hiding: Tsyplakov is in Russia and Livadna is in Crimea annexed by Russia.
According to the documents available to the editorial office, the total losses from the schemes in Terra Bank reached 6.4 billion hryvnias, including the transactions related to Meinl Bank of 1.1 billion hryvnias.
One may think that another billion-scale theft from bank depositors in our country is an annoying yet common incident of corruption. However, the participation of the NBU Governor in the scheme changes everything as it affects the whole state.
Kyrylo Shevchenko controls all banks in the country and regulates the banking industry—he heads the National Bank of Ukraine. It is obvious that he has a conflict of interest: in this position, Kyrylo Shevchenko in theory should defend the interests of the state in the case of Terra Bank, but de-facto, he is interested in clearing all the related documents and avoiding the responsibility. That is why he requires monopoly control over the NBU. Is it possible that the grand efforts of Kyrylo Shevchenko to take control over decisions and information in the NBU are the consequences of his desire to hide the past?
Second, the business reputation of the NBU Governor is an essential requirement for successful work at the international level: a corrupt person involved in money laundering schemes cannot sign billion-dollar loan agreements with the IMF and other institutions.
Third: there is a danger of conducting the same scheme with public and private banks regulated by the NBU. A person who has monopoly control over the NBU and understands the schemes has every opportunity to launder billions from any bank and hide it or ignore it as the NBU Governor. The consequences of such a danger are billions in losses, which are later partially compensated to depositors by the state with the funds of taxpayers.
Terra Bank depositors still do not know where their money has gone.