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Viennese fugitive Oleg Bakhmatyuk controls one of the large vodka factories in Ukraine?

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Oleg Bakhmatyuk and the National Bank are persistently suing over the distillery

The scandal surrounding one of the largest distilleries in Western Ukraine is approaching its climax. The National Bank is trying to sell the Ivano-Frankivsk distillery of the odious businessman Oleg Bakhmatyuk. But he was able to win over the police and the court. An interesting nuance: Bakhmatyuk has been wanted since 2019 and is hiding from Ukrainian justice in Austria.

This year, the National Bank of Ukraine is as close as possible to holding an auction for the sale of one of the largest distilleries in Western Ukraine - Ivano-Frankivsk. The owner of this enterprise with a capacity of more than 10 million liters of vodka per year is Stanislavskaya Trading Company LLC, owned by businessman Oleg Bakhmatyuk.

Bakhmatyuk is notorious as the former owner of VAB and Financial Initiative banks. The NBU declared them insolvent in 2014–2015. He is also known as the owner of the once largest agricultural holding in Ukraine, Ukrlandfarming, and the Avangard egg holding.

From 2014 to 2019, Bakhmatyuk went through a winding path from the richest latifundist with a fortune of almost $1 billion, to one of the largest debtors of the National Bank. In 2019, the NBU estimated Bakhmatyuk’s total debts to the state at almost UAH 30 billion. In the same year, Bakhmatyuk was put on the NABU’s wanted list in the case of the theft of UAH 1.2 billion of the National Bank’s stabilization loan issued to VAB Bank. Then it became known that the scandalous businessman left Ukraine in advance, settled in Vienna and from there runs the remnants of his business empire.

In October 2022, Bakhmatyuk received a new suspicion. This time in bribery of the former head of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine Roman Nasirov. According to NABU, Bakhmatyuk, through a controlled company, paid Nasirov about UAH 722 million in bribes in 2015-2016 for the priority reimbursement of almost UAH 3.24 billion in VAT.

Despite such problems with the law, Bakhmatyuk still remains a rich and influential person. He recently managed to convince Austrian judges that he should not be handed over to Ukrainian justice. Last year, the Vienna Criminal Court decided to refuse to extradite Oleg Bakhmatyuk to Ukraine in the VAB Bank case.

It was because of Bakhmatyuk’s banks that the conflict arose around the Ivano-Frankivsk Distillery. Back in 2015, the NBU decided to deprive Bakhmatyuk of the alcohol business. After VAB Bank was declared insolvent, the National Bank filed a lawsuit against the Stanislav Trading Company with a demand to foreclose on the plant and put it up for public auction. The fact is that this plant was transferred to the NBU as a mortgage under the same loan for UAH 1.2 billion. But the court was unable to make a decision quickly. In the case, through the efforts of Bakhmatyuk’s company, a forensic economic examination was appointed.

And this procedure lasted almost five years. So far, in 2019, the economic court of Kyiv did not make a decision in favor of the NBU. Despite the fact that this decision was upheld by the Supreme Court in May 2020, the plant was still not put up for auction. Because Bakhmatyuk’s company started a new lawsuit. This time with state executors who valued the market property of the Ivano-Frankivsk Distillery at UAH 41 million. The trials dragged on until the end of 2023 and ended in the defeat of Bakhmatyuk’s company.

However, he still found an opportunity to put a spoke in the wheels of NBU head Andrei Pyshny. As Telegraph learned, on May 15, the Shevchenko court of Kyiv seized the specified LAN in Ivano-Frankivsk with a total area of 12,300 square meters. “Prohibit officials of the State Enterprise “Setam”, as well as all their territorial divisions, any bodies of the State Executive Service of Ukraine and/or any private performers, including, but not exclusively, the Department of State Executive Service of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, from performing any actions aimed at selling the above property,” the court decision stated.

The initiator of the arrest was the Stanislav Trading Company. And this was done within the framework of criminal proceedings opened back in 2020 by the Shevchenko Police Department “On possible unlawful actions of NBU officials during the sale of property of Stanislav Trading Company LLC.” This proceeding was opened at the request of the Public Union “Association for the Protection of Depositors,” whose founder, Kiev lawyer Arsen Marinushkin, spent several years suing banks lost by Bakhmatyuk, defending their clients.

Why does Oleg Bakhmatyuk defend the plant so stubbornly? Firstly, the enterprise still remains well equipped (equipment for water purification and softening from the American company Gulligan, a bottling line from the Italian Simi Packaging Machines). Secondly, delaying the process plays in Bakhmatyuk’s favor. All the time while the litigation was going on, the plant was run by the Carpathian Vodka Company, which is close to Bakhmatyuk. It is registered to lawyer Taras Fatula, who worked as a member of the supervisory board of Avangard Bakhmatyuk. And vodka produced by the “Carpathian Vodka Company” at the facilities of the Ivano-Frankivsk Distillery (under the TM “Frankivskaya”, Frankoff, “Prikarpatsky Balsam”) can still be freely purchased.