Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov has had $820m of his assets frozen in a payment dispute over his purchase of the country’s largest fixed-line provider Ukrtelecom.
Akhmetov purchased the operator in 2013 with a $100 million upfront payment, but has since paid nothing. Since the country’s pro-democracy revolution in 2014, Ukraine’s economy has taken a hit and investigations and legal challenges have been launched into the dealings of some of its wealthiest business people.
Cyprus’s District Court of Nicosia took the decision to freeze the assets of Akhmetov and nine other parties. The claimant in the case is the Raga Establishment, which is controlled by former Ukrainian banker Denis Gorbunenko, and is aiming to obtain full payment for the sale of Ukrtelecom from Akhmetov.
Currently, the government of Ukraine is attempting to bring about the renationalisation of Ukrtelecom, arguing that Akhmetov’s obligations as a private owner have not been fulfilled. The company was first privatised in 2011, with the country’s government selling it to Austria’s Epic investment group for $1.3 billion.
After a lower court’s call for the renationalisation of Ukrtelecom was upheld by Kiev’s appellate business court, Akhmetov’s SCM Group has confirmed that it will appeal against the ruling.