Published Feb. 13, 2017
An audio recoding released last week by fugitive lawmaker Oleksandr Onyshchenko purportedly implicates ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, tycoon Rinat Akhmetov, and Russian mafia boss Semion Mogilevich in alleged shady dealings between Onyshchenko and representatives of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
In the audio, a person identified by Onyshchenko as ex-lawmaker Mykola Martynenko appears to confirm Onyshchenko’s claim that Poroshenko had extorted money from Akhmetov.
Martynenko did not respond to repeated requests for comment, while Akhmetov has previously denied Onyshchenko’s allegations.
This is the second recording released by Onyshchenko. In December he published the first one, in which he and People’s Will lawmaker Oles Dovhiy, whom the fugitive member of parliament described as representing Poroshenko, discuss the possibility of Onyshchenko reaching a plea bargain. Dovhiy has confirmed the authenticity of the recording, but said he had represented the People’s Will rather than Poroshenko.
The Presidential Administration has denied all of Onyshchenko’s accusations and accused him of cooperating with Russian intelligence agencies and getting a Russian passport, which he denies.
Onyshchenko has been charged with stealing Hr 1.6 billion ($64 million) from state-owned gas producer Ukrgazvydobuvannya, which he denies. He fled Ukraine before he was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in July.
He said on Dec. 1 he had given the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation information alleging corruption of Poroshenko and his inner circle. The Department of Justice has indirectly confirmed that its representatives had met with Onyshchenko.
In the audio, the person whose voice resembles Martynenko agrees with Onyshchenko’s earlier claim that Poroshenko had extorted $180 million from Akhmetov for unfreezing the assets of his oil and gas firm Naftogazvydobuvannya. Martynenko, an associate of ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and a suspect in several corruption investigations, resigned from parliament under public pressure in 2015.
When asked by Onyshchenko whether he knew that Poroshenko had been extorting money from Akhmetov, the person alleged to be Martynenko said: “I know it’s true. But you know that Rinat will never confirm this. Do you understand?”
Onyshchenko has also claimed that Poroshenko had extorted a $80 million payment from ex-Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky.
Akhmetov and Zlochevsky have denied the allegations.
If authentic, the recording also implicates Poroshenko and his allies in interference in the judicial system in an effort to reach a deal with Onyshchenko.
Under the deal proposed by Martynenko, Onyshchenko would pay Hr 400 million to Hr 500 million to the Ukrainian budget. Akhmetov would pay part of this amount in exchange for Onyshchenko transferring some of his assets to him.
Suspected accomplices of Onyshchenko are expected to be released, according to the deal.
Onyshchenko said that Andriy Tsygankov, as a representative of Poroshenko’s top ally and lawmaker Oleksandr Hranovsky, had asked Onyshchenko to pay him a $2 million bribe to have a court give him back his immunity.
In the audio, the voice alleged to be that of Martynenko admitted that Hranovsky was involved in the negotiations, but urged Onyshchenko not to interact with him, calling him a “scumbag.”
Hranovsky and Tsygankov have denied negotiating with Onyshchenko on behalf of Poroshenko.
Onyshchenko and Martynenko also said in the recording that Poroshenko’s representatives had suggested that Mogilevich, the boss of bosses of the Russian Mafia, who is on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations’ list of the top 10 fugitives, and his partner Igor Fisherman act as intermediaries in their negotiations.
The recording also implicates ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in the negotiations.
When asked by Martynenko who could be an intermediary in the payment of the $2 million bribe for giving him back his immunity, Onyshchenko said that Tymoshenko and her son-in-law Artur Chechetkin could do so.
Tymoshenko’s spokeswoman Maryna Soroka did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Meanwhile, Radical Party leader Oleh Lyashko has accused Tymoshenko of nominating Igor Shevchenko, a protégé of Onyshchenko, for the job of ecology minister in exchange for money. Tymoshenko previously denied allegations by Lyashko and Onyshchenko.