Ukraine’s recently resigned central bank governor was alleged to have fled the country this week as anti-corruption investigators served “a notice of suspicion” at the National Bank of Ukraine’s headquarters for a senior official matching his career description.
Investigators at Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Bureau did not specifically name Kyrylo Shevchenko, who resigned two days ago citing ill health. But they said on Thursday that they served the notice to the former head of the national bank. They added that the individual they sought had been the chair of the board at state-owned Ukrgasbank from 2014 to March 2020. The notice related to a $5.6mn scam at the state-owned bank.
That matches Shevchenko’s work at Ukrgasbank, where investigators allege the ex-chair, alongside two deputies, siphoned off 206mn hryvnia ($5.6mn) by authorising payments to intermediaries for bringing new clients to the bank.
The statement said the ex-chair’s whereabouts were unknown. A person familiar with the matter claimed Shevchenko, 49, had travelled to western Europe around the time of his public resignation.
Shevchenko said in a Facebook post that he had resigned on health grounds.
“Dear friends, due to health-related issues that cannot be ignored any longer, I made a difficult decision. I am resigning from my position as the National Bank of Ukraine governor,” he wrote in the post. “The war was yet another difficult test for our team and for me personally. I think we have passed it with dignity.”
The allegations come at a crucial time for Ukraine’s central bank. It has printed money to help finance the war effort against the Russian invasion, stoking inflation as the country awaits a steady flow of western financial aid. The bank kept interest rates at 25 per cent at its most recent meeting to rein in consumer price inflation, which accelerated to 23.8 per cent in August.
For western donors, Shevchenko’s senior position in the government, and the fact that he managed to escape questioning in a criminal investigation, will raise serious questions about Ukraine’s anti-corruption credentials, especially at a time when the country is entirely dependent on donors.
Investigators said they had built their case by “questioning witnesses, searches, temporary access, information received from the bank’s clients, computers and checking mobile devices that included detailed emails between participants of the scheme and documents”.
The accused — the ex-chair and two of his deputies — were informed that they were suspected of embezzlement, abusing their official position and of “official forgery”, according to a statement on Thursday from the Kyiv-based offices of the Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
The scheme described by the investigators involved more than 1,000 transfers to 52 “pseudo intermediaries” that were supposed to have brought new business to the bank.
Shevchenko became governor of the central bank in July 2020.
It is unclear how the former governor left Ukraine, since men between 18 and 60 are barred from leaving the country without official government permission.
The Financial Times could not locate a lawyer for Shevchenko. The central bank spokesperson did not reply to a message seeking comment.