KYIV – The alleged mafia-linked mayor of Odesa, Hennadiy Trukhanov, was given five days by the High Anticorruption Court (HACC) on October 11 to post bail worth the equivalent of more than $1 million on one of three most recent criminal charges he now faces in the Black Sea port city.
He faces up to 12 years in prison related to allocating land for construction at inflated prices involving alleged kickbacks and money laundering in 2016-2019 worth a total of nearly $25 million.
Chief Prosecutor Iryna Venediktova had signed off on the charges on October 6. Those charges include two other counts related to involvement in organized crime and abuse of office.
Two days later, her office also pressed new charges of treason and terrorism financing in a separate high-profile case involving chief suspect Viktor Medvedchuk. The pro-Russian lawmaker with direct ties to the Kremlin is already under house arrest on a previous treason charge that a court had upheld in May.
Mr. Trukhanov, 56, has denied any wrongdoing and called the latest allegations “speculations and assumptions,” while telling local journalists in Ukraine’s third-largest city that he plans to appeal the case.
Fifteen other accomplices were charged on various counts in this case.
The Special Anticorruption Prosecutor’s office (SAP) also said it will appeal the ruling from the bail hearing, as SAP officials asked for a higher bond of $4.5 million.
Regarding the charge of being a member of an organized crime organization, the mayor equated the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), which investigated the case, with the mafia.
“Odesa survived the NKVD – it will survive the NABU, too,” he said in reference to the Stalin-era predecessor agency of the KGB.
If he doesn’t post bail, SAP can initiate another hearing in the matter to remand the city manager into custody.
Mr. Trukhavnov served as the mayor of Odesa since 2014 and had his own property development interests. His detractors have accused him of treating the city as his local fiefdom, and local reporters and activists have faced threats and attacks when either reporting on or calling out alleged corruption schemes that pointed to the mayor’s office.
He was also a former member of parliament in 2012-2014.
Two earlier criminal cases in which Mr. Trukhanov is a suspect are still in pre-trial investigation and also relate to land embezzlement and for filing two false asset declarations in 2015-2016 that didn’t list the equivalent of $1.9 million of holdings. Both will be heard by the HACC.
Mr. Trukhanov has denied these allegations as well.
Italian law enforcement and investigative journalists have reported on the mayor’s alleged mafia ties dating to the 1990s and they allege he is a citizen of Russia, which would violate Ukrainian law.
A national Italian police report from October 1998, titled “Ukrainian Organized Crime,” alleges that Mr. Trukhanov was a member of Oleksandr “Angert’s Gang” in Odesa.
The local mafia group allegedly “diverted fuel sales from a reliably corrupt Odesa refinery, extorted local businessmen” and even arranged the murders of local enemies and politicians.
Mr. Trukhanov is the “only visible legacy” of that group, since it had apparently dissipated, according to a 2018 report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Project (OCCRP).
However, two separate leaks on the details of offshore accounts – known as the Panama and Paradise papers – where the super-rich and other individuals hide their money in secrecy, reveal the underworld ties that exist on paper.
The daughter of Mr. Angert, whom the BBC referred to as the “Don of Odessa,” is the registered owner of three luxury properties in London tied to the gang. In 2018, one penthouse had an estimated value of 12.5 million pounds.
The Odesa gang was “extremely violent,” Italian state police Deputy Commissioner Nunzia Savino told the BBC three years ago.
The same report, citing the Italian police official, said that Mr. Trukhanov’s role in the gang was to train “members … in hand-to-hand combat and sniper shooting with high precision weapons.”
According to his biography listed on the Odesa city government website, Mr. Trukhanov had served in the North Caucasus Military District of the USSR Armed Forces starting in 1986.
In the so-called Panama Papers, a copy of the mayor’s Russian passport features among the trove of documents derived from a Panamanian law firm.
“In that data, reporters found connections between the mayor and several companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, an offshore tax haven. Most were involved in the construction business in … Kyiv and Odesa,” OCCRP reported.
Mr. Trukhanov used a Russian passport to register the companies, the report stated, citing the leaked documents.
The Russian Consulate General in Odesa subsequently said the mayor had “not acquired citizenship of the Russian Federation, and he is not a Russian citizen.”
Ukraine’s domestic spy agency, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), also said it found no proof of Russian citizenship in its investigation.
In the event Mr. Trukhanov is removed from office for the duration of the consideration of the cases in court, the secretary of the City Council, Ihor Koval, will serve as acting mayor.