LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - PNC Plaza in downtown Louisville is one of two U.S. office buildings believed to have been secretly bought by Ukrainian oligarchs using stolen money, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The DOJ filed forfeiture claims this week alleging the 30-story tower and an office park in Dallas were the key properties in a global money-laundering scheme perpetrated by billionaires Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov.
>> Scroll down to read the full lawsuit
Kolomoisky and Boholiubov are accused of stealing billions of dollars from PrivatBank, one of the largest banks in Ukraine, roughly 90 percent of which was owned by the two men.
“Over the course of more than a decade, Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov used their control of PrivatBank to steal billions of dollars of the bank’s funds,” the 46-page lawsuit said. “The magnitude of the fraud and theft was so great that (National Bank of Ukraine) was forced to bail out the bank by providing $5.5 billion in order to stave off economic crisis for the whole country.”
Two Miami-based associates of the oligarchs, Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber, established a network of shell companies, “generally under some variation of the name ‘Optima,’ to acquire businesses and real estate in the U.S. using the misappropriated money from PrivatBank,” the lawsuit alleges.
Optima, according to the lawsuit, owns 95 percent of PNC Plaza’s parent, PNC Corporate Plaza Holdings. And according to its website, Optima owns Optima Business Park in Dallas, as well as two office towers in Cleveland.
“Optima Specialty Steel, Inc. (“Optima Specialty”) was a wholly owned subsidiary of Optima Acquisitions created in 2008,” and was the parent of several industrial facilities, including a Kentucky steel plant, the complaint said.
“The name games were designed to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of PNC Plaza and the funds that had been used to purchase, restructure, and run it,” the lawsuit read.
A Bloomberg.com report on Thursday indicated that “the forfeiture lawsuits come just days after the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided offices in Miami and Cleveland whose addresses corresponded with those of Optima Management Group, the company U.S. prosecutors say facilitated the oligarchs’ money laundering and investments.”
Micheal J. Sullivan, a lawyer for Kolomoisky, told the Washington Post in an email that his client “emphatically denies the allegations.”
Through their Miami partners, Kolomoisky and Boholyubov, the fourth- and fifth-richest men in Ukraine, were poised to sell the PNC Plaza as recently as July 23 for $22.25 million, a far cry from the more than $77 million it cost them in 2011, according to the complaint.
Kolomoisky has often been linked to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenksy; both men’s names were pulled into the impeachment of President Donald Trump last year.