KYIV, Ukraine, May 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --
Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) has conducted an investigation at the central Kyiv office of the Ukrainian subsidiary of UniCredit Bank. This is part of the anti-terrorist measures aiming to cut off the illicit financing of pro-Russian militants fighting against the Ukrainian Army in the eastern part of the country, commented SBU spokesperson, Olena Gitlyanska.
According to SBU, the money was allegedly transferred to individual bank accounts disguised as financial assistance. These funds were then cashed out and delivered to pro-Russian militants soon afterward. The maximum amount of a single cash withdrawal was about UAH 150,000 (up to USD 7,000).
The law enforcement agency claims that an organized crime group conducted a series of operations in 2014-2015 worth billions of hryvnias, transferring money to individuals and legal entities in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as to businesses in Kyiv and the region that have branches in the militant-controlled territories.
Olena Gitlyanska, SBU spokesperson, commented: "Appropriate procedures are conducted against legal entities and individuals who bankroll terrorists. We want to stop financial schemes that support "LPR" and "DPR"." According to SBU, individuals guilty of financing terrorism are liable to prison sentences of 10 to 12 years.
Ms. Gitlyanska emphasized that the security services did not suspect the bank itself to be involved in this kind of criminal activity.
Tamara Savoshchenko, the bank's First Deputy Chairperson, noted that the bank has provided all requested information and cooperated with the investigators, yet it was appalled by the methods used by the law enforcement agency.
"Today, the General Directorate of Security Service of Ukraine conducted a search and seizure of documents related to some customers and partners of UniCredit Bank," noted Savoshchenko. She reported that the search was initiated by the ruling No. 757/17064/15-k of the Kyiv Pechersk district court.
SBU's probe comes as part of the Ukrainian government's effort to drain militants' sources and penalise supporters of separatist forces.
Notably, UniCredit Bank is one of the ten largest banks with western capital, operating in Ukraine. The owner of Ukrainian UniCredit Bank is the Bank of Austria Creditanstalt, which belongs to the Italian banking group UniCredit Group.