Ukrainian Tycoons Selling U.S. Property Amid Foreclosure Proceedings, Court Documents Show
December 29, 2020 17:46 GMT – By Todd Prince – RFE/RL
Optima Ventures, the U.S. real-estate holding company owned by two Ukrainian tycoons under FBI investigation for money laundering, has filed a motion in a court in the U.S. state of Delaware to sell two more buildings in the city of Cleveland amid foreclosure proceedings.
Optima Ventures, once the largest commercial real-estate operator in the Midwestern city, is seeking to sell 55 Public Square, a 22-story skyscraper, as well as its stake in the Westin Cleveland Downtown hotel, according to court documents filed on December 24.
The holding company, which is controlled by Ukrainian billionaires Ihor Kolomoyskiy and Hennadiy Boholyubov, owes about $50 million on the two properties and has failed to make payments in recent months, according to separate lawsuits filed in Cleveland.
The United States has accused Kolomoyskiy and Boholyubov of buying U.S. assets, including real estate and metals plants, with hundreds of millions of dollars laundered from their Kyiv-based lender PrivatBank.
Kolomoyskiy, who owns media, energy, and metals assets, is one of the most powerful magnates in Ukraine. He and Boholyubov deny the charges and claim they bought the U.S. assets with money received from the sale of a steel business.
Ukraine nationalized PrivatBank in 2016 and pumped $5.5 billion into the lender to stave off its bankruptcy. PrivatBank in May 2019 then filed a civil lawsuit in Delaware against the billionaires to recoup the money it claims they stole. The motion to sell the two Cleveland properties was filed as part of those proceedings.
The FBI confirmed on August 4 that it was investigating the two tycoons for embezzlement and money laundering. That probe is continuing, the FBI told RFE/RL earlier this month.
Separately, the Justice Department is seeking the forfeiture of two commercial buildings owned by Optima Ventures in Louisville, Kentucky, and Dallas, Texas.
Optima Ventures had owned nine commercial buildings in the United States at its peak, including five in Cleveland, making it temporarily the largest commercial real-estate owner in the city. The holding has sold off several of the buildings in recent years.
Upon completion of the two sales, Optima Ventures will own just one building in Cleveland as well as the two buildings currently facing forfeiture.