Louisville high-rise was purchased by Ukrainian embezzlers, feds say


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Federal prosecutors are suing to grab management of the constructing in downtown Louisville previously generally known as PNC Plaza, alleging it’s secretly owned by billionaire Ukrainian oligarchs and used to launder billions of they plundered from a financial institution they owed within the japanese European nation. 

In a lawsuit filed this week in Miami, the federal government says the oligarchs and their operatives in the USA purchased the 29-story workplace tower — in addition to property in Dallas and Cleveland — with cash “traceable to a world conspiracy to launder cash embezzled and fraudulently obtained from the financial institution.” 

The scheme was run in the USA by Ukrainians working out of a 55th-floor penthouse workplace in Miami utilizing firms with some variation of the identify “Optima,” in keeping with the lawsuit. 

The Louisville tower at 500 W. Jefferson St. was bought in 2011 by Optima Administration Group LLC for $77 million, however it bumped into exhausting occasions after the biggest tenant, PNC Monetary Companies, moved out. 

The 580,000-square-foot constructing was bought out of receivership final 12 months by New York-based Somera Street Inc., in keeping with an article in Enterprise First, however the authorities’s forfeiture swimsuit says 95% continues to be owned by an Optima affiliate. 

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Jefferson County property data present the proprietor is listed as 500 West Jefferson Avenue LLC, and company data present the only real proprietor of the corporate is Ruairidh Henderson, who works for Somera Street in New York. 

However in a phone interview Friday, Henderson stated he had by no means heard of the constructing and didn’t know something about it. 

In a follow-up interview, when a reporter identified that Somera Street was listed as the customer in a broadcast account — and that a plaque with its identify is posted within the foyer — he declined to remark additional. 

Hope Wheeler, a spokeswoman for Somera, stated in an interview Saturday that Somera Street owns 5 p.c of the constructing however is below contract to purchase the steadiness from Optima. She stated Henderson is Somera’s director of operations.

She additionally stated that Somera’s stake isn’t the topic of a federal investigation however that the corporate will cooperate.

Louisville lawyer Don Cox, whose regulation agency has been within the constructing for about 10 years, stated he was shocked to study concerning the background of its secret proprietor. 

The federal government stated that over the course of greater than a decade, billionaires Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov used their management of PrivatBank to steal billions of of its funds.  

The losses have been so nice that Ukraine needed to bail out the financial institution by offering $5.5 billion to stave off an financial disaster for the nation.   

In 2017, Kolomoisky, one of many world’s richest males, went into self-imposed exile in Switzerland after which Israel after the federal government seized his prize asset, Privatbank, and accused him of embezzling billions of , The New York Instances reported.

He returned to Ukraine after the comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a former enterprise accomplice of the oligarch, was elected president final 12 months. 

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FBI brokers this week raided Optima properties in Cleveland and Miami, in keeping with press studies. 

The swimsuit says dozens of Optima entities within the U.S. have been managed by a person named Mordechai Korf, often known as “Motti,” a Miami-based enterprise affiliate of Kolomoisky and Boholiubov.  

Cox stated he noticed Korf within the constructing and he seemed to be managing it.

The federal government stated PrivatBank accounted for about one-fourth of the banking sector in Ukraine and one-third of the particular person deposit accounts, however that after Kolomoisky and Boholiubov looted it, it was nationalized in 2016. 

Prosecutors say the essential concept of the scheme was easy. Kolomoisky and Boholiubov requested cash from PrivatBank, which, based mostly on their management and possession, they at all times acquired.

They not often paid the loans again, besides by new loans, the swimsuit says. 

The mechanics of the scheme have been complicated, in keeping with the federal government. Kolomoisky and Boholiubov used a substantial assortment of firms they owned or managed to use for loans from PrivatBank.

A military of functionaries at PrivatBank then papered and processed the loans as in the event that they have been respectable. 

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A “particular” credit score committee on the financial institution authorised the loans, regardless of misrepresentations within the purposes. 

When the loans got here due, different loans have been used to repay the previous loans, or, in some circumstances, they have been repaid with revenue from the funding of the misappropriated cash, the swimsuit says. 

Kolomoisky’s Boston-based lawyer, Michael Sullivan, didn’t instantly reply to a request for a remark. 

Marc Kasowitz, a New York lawyer for Korf and Laber, stated in an announcement that they’re each “Americans who’ve performed a key function within the revitalization of depressed industrial belongings in West Virginia and Kentucky, and actual property in Cleveland” and that the allegations in opposition to them are false and utterly with out advantage. He stated the claims are a part of an “orchestrated political assault” by a Ukrainian financial institution in opposition to Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov, whom he described as enterprise associates of Korf and Laber.”

Bloomberg reported final November that Kasowitz, who has often labored for President Donald Trump through the years and helped him coordinate his response to the U.S. particular counsel’s Russia investigation, not too long ago signed on to defend Kolomoisky’s U.S.-based enterprise companions. 

Attain Andrew Wolfson: 502-582-7189; awolfson@courier-journal.com; Twitter: @adwolfson. Assist robust native journalism by subscribing immediately: courier-journal.com/andreww

Editor’s observe: An earlier model of this story misstated the house nation of Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov. They’re Ukrainian.  

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