I am a cross-border investigative journalist covering Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries, interested especially in crime, corruption, money laundering in Eastern Europe. I also post occasional articles and comment at my blog ‘East of Europe’.
On this site you can find the whole story as it stands on the corrupt acquisition by Ukrainian officials in 2011 of nearly $1 billion worth of drilling rigs and vessels for gas production in the Black Sea, and how funds siphoned from the deal were laundered right up through 2013.
Aside from corruption turning Ukraine’s Black Sea energy plans into a financial black hole, the case is interesting scientifically because the same bent deal with procurement of drilling rigs took place twice, each time using different methods to launder the funds, allowing comparison. Ukraine acquired the first rig via a general-purpose money-laundering platform, typical of the post-Soviet shadow economy, with sham firms, shell companies and boutique Latvian banks. The second rig was acquired six months later using an improvised network of ‘real’ companies and a major Italian-Austrian bank.
The first method looks incredibly suspicious, but makes the flow of money untraceable, because pooled with other grey and black funds. The second approach looks outwardly more respectable, but makes it easier to follow the money. I tracked nearly $50m paid from the deals to a golf-playing ship repairman in Istanbul who treated me to dinner.
I also look at domestic schemes for siphoning off funds from Ukraine’s state energy company Naftogaz and the people involved.
This investigation sparked further reports by Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Network, Baltic Centre for Investigative Journalism, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists / Sunday Times, Private Eye, Norway’s Dagens Naeringsliv, and Belgium’s financial intelligence unit. Much of it originally appeared at Business New Europe.
It took me to all the corners of Europe – Oslo, Dublin, Riga, Istanbul and of course Ukraine, and its cast of characters range from Norway’s richest man, a notorious Vienna-based gas oligarch, a baby-faced ‘billionaire’ frontman, to an Istanbul con merchant, a basketballer from Riga, and a vendor of fencing rapiers from Lugansk.
Contact me at graham.stack (at) gmail.com, skype: graham.stack
Ukraine’s murky rig deals squander the Black Sea’s riches