Disgraced Ukrainian MPs withdraw funds from Belarusian bank?

Ukrainian MPs with Russia links Taras Kozak and Viktor Medvedchuk / collage by Euroradio​

Absolutbank ranks 20th among Belarusian banks in terms of assets. Relative to the market, it's small. However, the bank got really lucky with its clients. Some time ago, Ukrainian MPs Taras Kozak and Viktor Medvedchuk were among Absolutbank account holders. The latter is often called Putin's cousin. But today, he is accused of treason.

Ukrainian politicians became clients of the bank when Medvedchuk began working with Belarusian businessman Mikalay Varabey, the owner of Absolutbank, whom the press calls the wallet of the regime. After falling under European sanctions, Varabey registered the bank on top managers of his other companies. However, has the businessman stopped formally controlling it?

In 2019 and 2020, Medvedchuk and Kozak increased the size of their "stash" in the Belarusian bank. At the end of 2020, Medvedchuk and his wife kept about 9.5 million euros in Absolutbank, while Kozak kept about 8.8 million euros and another 8.2 million dollars. There's no information about how much money they had in the bank in the first half of 2021. But we do know that from January 1 to April 1, 2021, the clients' funds in Absolut Bank increased by another 70 million rubles.

However, in the next six months, clients withdrew two-thirds of their money out of Absolutbank. As of October 1, 2021, the clients' funds amounted to only 73.3 million rubles. Compared to April 1, they decreased by 120 (!) million rubles.

The amounts of clients' funds as of April 1, 2021 (above) and October 1, 2021 (below) / balance sheet of Absolut Bank

If Medvedchuk and Kozak had not increased their savings in the Belarusian bank by a penny since the end of 2020, then, as of today, it is more than 72 million rubles. In this case, the Absolut Bank has only two clients, and both of them are Ukrainian MPs. It is more likely that they have withdrawn not all of their money from the bank, but most of it. Hence the noticeable changes in the balance sheet.

The bank itself cannot disclose any information about its clients, so it is impossible to confirm this version today. However, in 2022 the tax returns the MPs for the current year will be published. Their money, including in Belarus, will be reflected there.

Covering their tracks with money?

In early 2021, Ukraine imposed sanctions against Kozak and Medvedchuk. The deputies are accused of aiding Russian militias in Donbass, and Medvedchuk was recently charged with high treason for trading Donbass coal. Their accounts in Ukrainian banks have been blocked. The appeal of Belarus was that local banks were not obliged to comply with the Ukrainian authorities' decisions to freeze funds.

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