In 2014, former President Viktor Yanukovych was removed from power in Ukraine via the Maidan revolution. Multiple sources report that Yanukovych may have stolen upwards of $40 billion, most of which was moved offshore to shady accounts in offshore financial jurisdictions.
Many of the bureaucrats and politicians that encouraged and endorsed Maidan are still employed by the U.S. government. Most of the money is still missing.
Now new information is being slowly released from that period via declassification in the United States, or through independent media investigations in Ukraine. Some media reports indicate corrupt U.S. State Department officials may have had a hand in securing that money offshore for self-serving reasons.
Some media reports also allege former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was involved in preventing the looted billions from returning to Kyiv. Obviously, current money laundering regulations and accepted best practices are not sufficiently protecting the American financial system from illicit transactions, which lead to funding crime, and even terror.
A compelling example of our systemic failure to track and stop criminal financial transactions and hold the perpetrators accountable comes from recent FinCEN leaks. The recent revelations via FinCEN documents showing flagged transactions indicating massive money laundering by Eastern European organized crime figures and foreign politicians has shed more light on those possibly involved in the Yanukovych missing funds and the multitude of potentially criminal movements of money.
One figure that links many of these threads together is a fugitive from Moscow who recently received a Ukrainian passport. His name is Pavel Fuks. Mr. Fuks is currently being protected by organized crime figures and corrupt law enforcement officials in Ukraine and is prominently flagged in the FinCEN revelations. In the recent past, Mr. Fuks has been featured in investigations and stories explaining his and his cohorts’ efforts to launder some of Yanukovych’s looted fortunes. OCCRP investigative journalist, Will Jordan, formerly of Al Jazeera, had done a deep dive into Mr. Fuks’ schemes to launder money.
The scandal involving the self-styled former Russian real estate developer (also occasionally spelled ‘Pavlo Fuchs’), who allegedly fled Russia to avoid paying multi-million-dollar debts owed to creditors with criminal and Russian government affiliations, is gaining momentum again as of last week. According to InoPressa, Mr. Fuks and his brother paid a bribe through U.S. banks to the former vice mayor of Moscow, Iosif Ordzonikitze, in connection with the failed Moscow City Development Project that Fuks was managing. The vice mayor was one of the expeditors Fuks used to resolve project bottlenecks.
The questionable transaction flagged by FinCEN was a payment from Roman Fuks for “consulting” in the amount of $1 Million. The payment came from BEM Global Corp. In 2019 the Fuks brothers ended up being international fugitives and fled to Ukraine to hide out in the city of Kharkov under the protection of a powerful mayor by the name of Gepa Kernes (currently reported to be in Germany being treated for severe COVID-19 complications). In November 2018 Pavel Fuks was listed as the subject of a criminal investigation under special economic measures in the Russian Federation Presidential Decree No. 592. In October 2019 a warrant was issued for Fuks’ arrest issued in absentia by Taganskiy District Court of Moscow on charges for extremely large-scale fraud. As the InoPressa story explains, Pavel Fuks is not only wanted in Russia, but also in Kazakhstan for stealing millions of dollars from the Kazakhstan BTA Bank, while constructing the Eurasia Tower in the Moscow City Development Project.
One such recent law enforcement inquiry reads in part that Mr. Fuks is aligning himself with criminal figures in Ukraine and laundering Yanukovych assets into the country. Other news reports have flagged Mr. Fuks in alleged facilitation of distribution logistics of heroine through Ukraine into Eastern Europe.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg’s Stephanie Baker, Fuks revealed his alleged connection to President Trump. According to him, he met Trump in New York and Florida back in 2005 and 2006 as a founder of the now failed Russian development company, MosCityGroup, to discuss potential projects.
In the interview, Fuks claimed to have later met with Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son Donald in Moscow. He allegedly offered to pay Trump $20 million in installments to use the Trump Tower brand on a Russian skyscraper. “He [Trump] said that $20 million is no good” Fuks claimed. According to him, they didn’t reach an agreement then, but remained friends – an unsupported claim, acknowledged Bloomberg.
Claiming a degree of separation from POTUS has long been a preferred method for those seeking attention, or fame, to take advantage of Trump’s celebrity. Now, it seems the technique has been borrowed by organized crime, even foreign bad actors such as Mr. Fuks.
When you combine the criminal financial machinations emanating from Eastern Europe, and especially Ukraine, with Hunter Biden’s dubious business dealings in that corrupt country, and his siphoning off millions from organized crime figures in Kyiv, such as the head of the natural gas holding company Burisma, the plot thickens. It is one thing for Russian and Ukrainian criminals to move dirty money around through U.S. banks, it’s quite another for politically connected family members to do so with impunity.
With the United States dealing with its own internal malfeasance in the State Department and its security services in the efforts to undermine the credibility of this administration, we don’t need foreign organized crime adding to our problems. It is high time the problem of money laundering is solved once and for all. Now, as the FinCEN leaks show, it’s just too easy.