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Meet Leonid Sedov, the young lawyer behind Ukraine’s corruption

by: Oleg Karpov
Thursday July 16, 2015 - 19:27
1 comment
JPEG - 31.8 kb

It is hard to believe that a country so beleaguered by political unrest and separatist war should be a member of the allegedly civilised European Union. But Ukraine today finds itself stuck in the middle between Europe’s self-serving indifference and Russia’s territorial ambitions – and a new generation of oligarchs, lawyers and public servants are taking over the sorry tradition of corruption in the former Eastern Bloc state. 

Take the case of Leonid Sedov. The young Russian lawyer is a close ally of Serhiy Kurchenko, who in turn is close to Oleksandr Yanukovych, the 42-year-old son of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yankovych, and to Artem Pshonka, son of former Prosecutor General in Ukraine. A highly paid and successful lawyer at first sight, Sedov was instrumental in facilitating corruption at the highest level in Ukraine under Yankovych’s rule. Yet, despite his high-ranking political dealings, he managed to stay out of the spotlight and was never entered on the US/EU list of asset freezes.

On the face of it, of course, Sedov is simply a very successful legal eagle. His law firm, Sedov Yampolskiy in Moscow, is the result of a 2012 merger with another law firm to create a “highly experienced legal team” that has a track record in the “successful sale and asset restructurings in Russia and abroad”, according to its website. Sedov trumpets his knowledge in oil and chemical industries and the creation of complicated trust structures. Nowhere on the firm’s website does it mention the co-founder’s closeness to Ukraine’s former first family, whose patriarch sought closer ties with Russia and was accused of fraud and voter intimidation that sparked the Euromaidan protests last year and his ultimate downfall. 

After Yankovych was toppled, the corruption he oversaw in his country started to become clear. Sedov’s name, however remains buried in a long list of lawyers seeking to protect Yankovych’s racket. An investigation by the Washington-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) in conjunction with the newspaper Kyiv Post revealed that two members of the ‘criminal gang’ of 29-year-old billionaire Kurchenko were detained by the Security Service in Ukraine, while Kurchenko remains on the run. The gang is charged with embezzlement and theft of public funds, causing damage to the Ukrainian state worth billions, mainly through tax evasion and effective theft of natural resources. Kurchenko’s group Gas Ukraine is said to control 18% of the liquified gas market in Ukraine with a yearly turnover over around $10bn.

Kurchenko is accused of being a frontman for Yanukovych. Shredded – and restored – documents at Kurchenko’s office revealed his impressive army of 102 lawyers, 70 of which employed by his energy holding company VETEK. Papers show they were retained to legitimise illegal business practices and even prepping their client for interrogations by prosecutors. So far, however, the general prosecutor in Ukraine has not questioned any of these lawyers. 

Sedov’s firm supplied 13 of these lawyers through the Sedov-Dovbenko department, tasked with supervising the ‘clean’ assets, such as petrol stations network Spika, in Kurchenko’s empire. Crucially, they also managed the legal requirements of the Odesa Oil Refinery, media holdings – and Kurchenko’s personal affairs. 

Analysts of the Kurchenko documents point out that, while all group leaders held the title of head of department, Sedov was a director for legal support. But when, after the impeachment of Yanukovych in 2014, 17 individuals close to Kurchenko were subjected to a European Union asset freeze, Sedov was not on the list – despite being the de facto personal lawyer for Kurchenko, who remains in an unknown location while being investigated for failing to pay $130m in taxed and stealing $180m from financial investors. 

Furthermore, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine uncovered evidence against the group headed by Kurchenko, stating on its website the group “illegally seized large volumes of liquefied gas which belonged to public joint-stock company Ukrgazvydobuvannia and OJSC Ukrnafta via the purchase of gas at special auctions at prices that were lower than the market prices set only for the cases of selling liquefied gas for the needs of households, although gas was sold to commercial structures via the network of companies under control and illegal profit was received”. 

It doesn’t take investigative powers to connect the dots. A young, ambitious Muscovite lawyer with expertise in oil and complicated corporate structures in Eastern Europe and Russia is the legal director of a department that sits between a pro-Russian, now-ousted Ukrainian president and the frontman of a conglomerate that stole assets worth billions from Ukraine. 

Sedov represents the new generation of corrupt players that will continue to exploit the network of power and money to enrich themselves with the proceeds from natural resources. His network of fugitive oligarchs and sons of civil servants in countries rife with Nepotism makes him guilty at least by association, if not in law as well.

Why the Public Prosecutor in Ukraine has not questioned him yet and why the European Union and the US have left him off the asset-freeze list remains unclear. In the interest of moving Ukraine away from the brink of Russian corruption and closer to the European principles of transparency, authorities would be well advised to investigate Sedov. 



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Meet Leonid Sedov, the young lawyer behind Ukraine’s corruption
Tuesday July 28 - 16:21 - Posted by Natacha - f3e87208c59c072ddc1c54efd7fdd2d6...

Enough of crooks stealing money from poor citizens, why is Interpol not putting this Leonid Sedov on their wanted list? Scandalous!







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