Controversial oligarch Firtash allegedly opened illegal accounts through shady German bank

Fugitive Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash is at the heart of yet another international scandal, German media Stern and Capital reported on Jan. 27. 

According to internal emails obtained by Stern and Capital, Firtash had a series of accounts in Wirecard, an insolvent German bank, whose top staff was arrested or implicated in criminal proceedings last year.

German officials are investigating Firtash’s accounts for reported money laundering and other dubious transactions. 

Wirecard collapsed in June 2020 after disclosing a gaping hole in its books, which audit firm Ernst & Young attributed to global fraud. When the bank fell apart, it owed creditors more than 3.5 billion euros. 

Firtash has been hiding in Vienna since 2014 to escape extradition to the U.S. on charges of bribing Indian officials with stolen funds for a lucrative titanium mining deal in March of the same year. 

His name recently appeared on the so-called “Marsalek list,” a list of clients that  Wirecard’s fugitive ex-manager Jan Marsalek recommended to the bank.

Firtash’s holding company Group DF denied wrongdoing but admitted it had opened accounts in Wirecard.

“Any attempts to link Dmitry Firtash to the problems around Wirecard are pure speculation and absolutely fake,” the company told the Kyiv Post in an email on Feb. 4. 

However, “the Companies of the Group did open bank accounts at Wirecard, but opening bank accounts is a common transaction involving a full compliance procedure,” Group DF added.

Several of Firtash’s Wirecard accounts were investigated for money laundering in Spring 2019, the Munich prosecutor’s office told German media outlets in possession of Wirecard’s internal emails. 

German financial regulator BaFin repeatedly received reports of suspicious transactions and money laundering by Firtash’s companies in 2019 but overlooked these reports. 

Both Marsalek and Firtash were living in Austria in 2019-2020. Marsalek went on the run in June 2020. Austrian authorities believe he took a private plane to Minsk, Belarus. Since then, he has been suspected of hiding out in Russia. 

Marsalek was put on Interpol’s most-wanted list for commercial gang fraud, breach of trust and other alleged economic crimes leading to 1.9 billion euros in losses.

The ‘Marsalek list’ also includes people involved in the adult film industry, illegal gambling, and wealthy Russian companies that are under international investigation or are on sanctions lists. 

Firtash also has extensive Russian ties. Ukrainian anti-corruption activists and Western governments believe he is connected to Russia’s organized crime. Firtash made his fortune by importing natural gas to Ukraine from Russia at an artificially low price. 

In 2013, the U.S. charged Firtash with bribing Indian officials for a lucrative titanium mining deal. Released on bail, Firtash has since fought extradition to the U.S. from his home in Austria.

Firtash reportedly provided documents that Rudolph Giuliani, the personal lawyer of then-U.S. President Donald Trump, used to attack the reputation of Joe Biden, Trump’s political rival and newly elected U.S. president. 

Giuliani had spread debunked claims that Biden sought to fire Ukraine’s chief prosecutor to protect his son, Hunter.

(c) KyivPost

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