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Over 150 MPs Sign Petition to Venediktova to Defend Ukrlandfarming from Persecution against Bakhmatyuk

151 MPs sign a petition to Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova in support of a protest by the employees of the Ukrlandfarming group of companies against the criminal investigation that has been pursued for five years against the CEO and founder of the group, Oleg Bakhmatyuk, by the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine

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This is according to a report by Interfax Ukraine, as published by DS. 

We are seriously concerned about the five-year-long persecution by NABU of the company without a shred of evidence of any wrongdoing by either the company or its founder, reads a copy of the petition shared with the news agency Interfax Ukraine and signed by both opposition MPs and members of the ruling party, Servant of the People.

It mentions two cases; one is against the agricultural holding company Avangard, a subsidiary of Ukrlandfarming, alleging fraud in obtaining VAT refunds when building the egg farms Avis and Chornobayivska, and the other case concerns refinancing by the NBU of VAB Bank that Bakhmatyuk once owned. 

The document reveals that the first case was initially closed by the Specialised Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) to be later reopened by Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka and then closed again as lacking merits, while the other case has been closed five times by various investigative authorities and courts on the same grounds.

Since throughout this time both Ukrlandfarming and the government have been sustaining losses, both financially and reputationally, MPs urge the prosecutor general to personally oversee the observance of the law in those cases and comply with the ruling of the Pechersk District Court dated 21 January 2021 compelling her to grant a motion by Bakhmatyuk’s counsel requiring NABU to hand over the VAB Bank case.  

As reported earlier, in November 2019, the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine put Bakhmatyuk and his sister, Nataliya Vasylyuk, CEO of Avangard, on the wanted list, as part of the case involving a stabilisation loan extended by the NBU to VAB Bank. NABU detectives earlier issued a notice of suspicion against the former first deputy governor of the NBU Oleksandr Pysaruk, member of the Council of the NBU Mykola Kalenskiy and head of bank supervision Alla Shulga, as well as four other individuals related to the bank and Ukrlandfarming.  These individuals have been released on bail. 

In their turn, Bakhmatyuk and Pysaruk, have denied all allegations and condemned the case as a fabrication. According to Bakhmatyuk, its purpose is to disrupt agreements with creditors and it is marked by a conflict of interest involving NABU Director Artem Sytnyk. The businessman has petitioned President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urging him to intervene. 

Ukrlandfarming is one of the largest agricultural corporations in Eurasia. It specialises in grain farming, cattle breeding, and distribution of agricultural machinery, fertilisers and seeds. Avangard, a subsidiary of Ukrlandfarming, is Ukraine’s largest producer of eggs and egg products.  

According to Bakhmatyuk, over the past 1.5 years, Avangard has cut egg production by half, down to 170 million eggs per month, and reduced egg exports 8 times to 20 m eggs per month, while its herd of cattle has dropped 3.3 times, down to 15.7 thousand head, with its total staff decreasing from 30 thousand employees to 17.3-17.5 thousand. He’s indicated that Ukrlandfarming is struggling to retain its chain of grain elevators and its portfolio of leased farmland at 470-475K ha after losing some 170K ha.

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