Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Ukraine stunned as vast cash reserves of political elite are made public

November 1, 2016 (The Gardian) Two years after angry Ukrainians deposed Viktor Yanukovych and broke into his vast, opulent residential compound outside Kiev, revelations thrown up by a new system that requires government officials to declare their wealth and property online have led many to suspect the new elite are no better. The declarations, which all officials were required to file by Sunday evening, have made public many curiosities, including politicians who own multiple luxury watches, Fabergé eggs and large collections of weapons. One politician declared that he owned a personal church. By far the biggest shock, however, has been just how much money Ukraine’s politicians seem to stash away in hard cash.

The Ukrainian prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman.
Photograph: Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images

The prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, declared $1.2m (£980,000) and €460,000 (£410,000) in cash, as well as a collection of luxury watches. Many other officials declared hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cash. “Everyone is amazed that there is so much cash in our country,” said Kristina Berdynskykh, an investigative journalist who has written extensively on corruption among the elite. Mikhail Dobkin, an opposition MP, declared 1,780 bottles of wine, while Roman Nasirov, the head of the state fiscal service, declared that together, he and his wife owned Swiss watches, diamonds, fur coats and held more than $2m in cash. Observers have pointed out that when the head of the national bank keeps his savings in dollars, it can hardly fill the population with confidence about the prospects for the hryvnia, Ukraine’s national currency. Other curiosities found among the declarations included a Nazi SS dagger and medieval religious icons. Anatoly Matviyenko, the deputy leader of the presidential faction in parliament, declared ownership of a church.
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