New Ukreximbank CEO and Supervisory Board let corrupt officials evade responsibility

The new management of Ukreximbank permitted Compliance Control Director Zhanna Yelagina to get off scot-free. She was quietly let go, although, before that, Yelagina was under internal investigation: she was caught facilitating the legalization of criminally obtained money for several companies.

She was quietly let go without any repercussions for her track record or reputation in general. Yelagina left the state-owned bank ‘upon the mutual agreement of the parties’, which essentially means with a clean slate and a possibility of future employment. Earlier, it was Aleksandr Gritsenko, CEO of the state-owned bank, who covered up for Yelagina; in fact, he was detained by the Security Service of Ukraine officers in November 2019 on suspicion of setting up a criminal organization (misappropriation, abuse of office, money laundering). Today, Ukreximbank Supervisory Board, under the capable guidance of the National Bank of Ukraine, “picked up the baton”. The board allowed the corrupt manager to leave the bank’s building without being held criminally accountable. This goes to show that NBU Deputy Governor Kateryna Rozhkova, and also Olyana Gordienko, the newly elected chair of the state bank’s supervisory board, continue to cover up for Yelagina.

On April 24, 2020, Compliance Control Director Zhanna Yelagina was dismissed from the state-owned Ukrainian Export-Import Bank upon the mutual agreement of the parties under the recommendations of the Basel Committee, NBU Resolution No. 64). Her associates and accomplices who were also dismissed:

  • Compliance Standards Department Chief – L. Burim;
  • Head of “Know Your Client” of the Financial Monitoring Department – L. Kravtsova;
  • Several mid-level managers.

As a result, Yelagina was exempt from all responsibility for criminal schemes and quietly left the bank.

Meanwhile, the trail of her crimes is rather long:

  1. Prior to coming to Ukreximbank, Yelagina worked as a Financial Monitoring Department Chief at Ukrsotsbank. After she left Ukrsotsbank, NBU conducted an audit there and charged the bank with a UAH 40 million fine for violations in financial monitoring;
  2. In 2019, Zhanna Yelagina became a person of interest in the cases of grand tax evasion and legalization (laundering) of criminally obtained money. This is evidenced by the judgment of Shevchenkovskiy District Court dated June 27, where several offshore companies, which used Ukreximbank, were the key figures. At the same time, Pechersk District Court issued a search order for the office of Yelagina at Ukreximbank to establish and seize and seizing objects, documents, in regards to the activity of some companies of fictitious nature, within the framework of the criminal case No. 420017111200000142 dated March 17, 2017;
  3. In 2019, an employee of Ukreximbank responsible for financial monitoring carried out a regular check-up, discovering financial transactions of a group of clients – non-residents, which were very suspicious and could create compliance risks in financial monitoring for the bank. The companies were involved in the transfer of funds of illegal origin abroad, with their further laundering. Compliance Control Director Zhanna Yelagina was fully instrumental in this, for which she received a reward. Under the Procedure for Internal Investigation in Ukreximbank System dated February 26, 2010 No. 102, CEO Aleksandr Gritsenko was forced to open an internal investigation on May 28, 2019, involving the employees of internal audit, bank’s subdivisions and also the official in charge of prevention of corruption. Gritsenko did everything in his power to delay the inspection and refused to sign the findings of the audit. This could only testify to one thing – the former CEO covered up for Yelagina and was in on everything. If it hadn’t been for the information that surfaced in mass media, Yelagina would have been appointed the head of internal control for the second term.

Yevgeniy Metzger, the new CEO, who was appointed in February 2020, has dismissed Yelagina. However, as it has already been said, the dismissal was upon the mutual agreement of the parties, and, accordingly, the compliance control director was not criminally prosecuted.

The members of the supervisory board, the NBU Financial Monitoring Department and the NBU leadership all had the report on the internal investigation of the bank in regards to Yelagina in their possession but failed to take any action.

Today, we have many questions to all current members of Ukreximbank Supervisory Board (Strakhova, Butsa, Menu, Konovets, Chichlo, Urban) and others, who knew what was happening at the bank and did nothing:

  • Why did they not listen to the report of the board member responsible for financial monitoring on compliance of the incident at the bank and the official in charge of prevention of corruption at the board meeting?
  • Why did they not listen to the report of the auditors, which was completed, but still continuously supplemented/delayed based on the wishes of Yelagina and Gritsenko?
  • Why did Yelagina, who was suspected of setting up a criminal scheme at the bank, continue to work and was not suspended for the period of the investigation?
  • Why did Compliance Control Director Yelagina continue to come to work, manage, receive a salary, and bonuses after the completion of the investigation and confirmation of all facts?

From the outside, the situation is clear, as on February 23, 2020, Olyana Gordienko was appointed the chair of the Ukreximbank Supervisory Board. Prior to the appointment, Gordienko was the Corporate Governance Director at the ICU Group. Former NBU Governor Valeriya Hontareva, who brought in NBU Deputy Governor Kateryna Rozhkova, was one of the co-owners of ICU. Hontareva uses Rozhkova to basically control the NBU now. There is no use in telling about the criminal schemes of Hontareva in detail, however, her company, ICU serviced both Yanukovych and Poroshenko. At that, before the appointment of Hontareva as the NBU Governor, Poroshenko invested nearly $2 million into ICU.

Besides, Tatiana Butkovskaya, the godmother of Zhanna Yelagina’s child, is a deputy department director – chief of the system analysis department at the very same NBU Financial Monitoring Department, who, in February 2020 alone, officially earned more than UAH 430,000.

As one can see, Yelagina’s ‘back’ was covered from all sides and the new CEO Metzger could only dismiss the corrupt manager upon mutual agreement of the parties, without bringing her to criminal account.

It is not entirely clear, whether he did it of his own accord or under pressure. It remains a fact, however, that one of the key criminals of a state-owned bank did not incure punishment.

The members of the supervisory board could not have been unaware, but they could have been subject to pressure by Olyana Gordienko and turned a blind eye. There are not very many options: either the members of the supervisory board are absolutely incompetent, or allowed themselves to be scammed, or are in the league working in compliance with the lawbreakers.

Ukreximbank CEO Metzger did not comment on the situation, and neither did the NBU officials. It would have been right for the law enforcement agencies but not for the representatives of the public to ask for the explanations. Their interest in the violations in the financial monitoring of the state-owned bank is long overdue.