Pro-Russian Ukrainian MP Taras Kozak earned over $50 million on the sale of a Russian oil company, reports OCCRP

12 January 2022, 02:41 PM

Taras Kozak, a Ukrainian MP from the pro-Russian Opposition Platform-For Life party, has been revealed to have previously owned a Russian oil company through an offshore firm, according to an investigation conducted by the OCCRP.

OCCRP or the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project is an investigative reporting organization spanning over 60 countries.

According to the OCCRP, in August 2021, Belarusian state-owned oil company Belarusneft announced it was buying the Russian firm Purneft, which controlled 69 oil wells south of the Arctic Circle. Purneft’s estimated profit in 2020 was at least $10 million.

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At the time, some Belarusian media outlets reported that Purneft’s owner, unknown at the time, may have earned at least $50 million on the sale. The OCCRP reports that an obscure British Virgin Islands company, Brimpana Trading, was behind the deal. However, the organization claims that Brimipana was merely a smoke screen.

The Pandora Papers leak, a release of nearly 12 million documents from offshore service providers, enabled OCCRP journalists to trace the ownership of Brimipana back to a Ukrainian-born Hungarian citizen Aleksandr Kiszel.

The OCCRP discovered that Kiszel has never owned a business in his name before, and officially resides in a modest house in a Hungarian village. His social media profile and family photos did not give the impression of a successful businessman to OCCRP investigators, who believe that Kiszel is a trusted go-between for pro-Russian MP Kozak.

As leading anti-money laundering expert Martin Woods once said, “Follow the money, not the paperwork.”

Kiszel is linked to companies owned by Kozak and his wife, Nataliya Lavreniuk.

According to the Pandora Papers leak, Brimipana was one of the main sources of funding for Cyprus-based company Soferco Trading Ltd., owned by Lavreniuk. The same documents show that Kiszek had been granted power of attorney over a Kozak-owned offshore company, Hakail Ltd. Kiszel is also on friendly terms with another of Kozak’s proxies, Wlodzimierz Salamacha, a Ukrainian-born Polish citizen. The Hungarian is also linked to Kozak through Ian Marchenko, Kozak’s former parliamentary assistant. Both Kiszel and Marchenko are connected via Cyprus-based company Pilawer Ltd.

Kozak’s former boss and long-standing ally is notorious Ukrainian politician and godfather to one of Vladimir Putin’s daughters, Viktor Medvedchuk, who is currently under house arrest on charges that including treason against the Ukrainian state.

 Kozak is also facing treason charge. However, most of Kozak’s assets, according to the OCCRP, seem to be owned via proxies like Kiszel, so they cannot be seized through a court order.

 Both Kisel and Kozak have declined to comment on the allegations made by OCCRP journalists.

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