Ukraine Builds Tax Case Against Billionaire

KIEV, Ukraine -- Will Rinat Akhmetov follow in the footsteps of Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky?

Ukrainian authorities are losing patience with billionaire Akhmetov, whose shares in steel mill Kryvorizhstal were recently renationalized and set for rebid with renewed interest from London-based Mittal Steel.

Billionaire Rinat Akhmetov

A month after Akhmetov's July 18 no-show for a Q&A with law enforcement officials, authorities in Donetsk raided offices of Luks, a company allegedly controlled by Akhmetov. Ukrainian papers reported prosecutors are building a tax evasion case against the oligarch. In a statement, Luks denied it had violated tax laws, adding that the investigation was an “act of pressure directed at the biggest Ukrainian businessmen.”

An Akhmetov spokesperson says the tycoon is on holiday out of the country. Back in April, Akhmetov was suspected of leaving Ukraine to avoid a potential arrest like that of close associate Boris Kolesnikov. who faces charges of extortion. Akhmetov stated he had traveled on routine business. His uncertain whereabouts put a damper on a proposed consolidation and possible IPO announced by the general manager of Akhmetov's holding company System Capital Management in July.

Investigations into how Akmetov built his business empire have intensified since the new administration (one which Akhmetov did not favor in last year's heavily contested elections) led by President Victor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko came to power. Looks like Akhmetov is trying hard not to follow in the infamous footsteps of Russian billionaire Khodorkovsky who was arrested after several raids on his company Yukos. Khodorkovsky was convicted in May and sentenced to nine years in jail.

Source: Forbes