Sennychenko’s corruption case involves Czech company from CJI’s investigation of ilmenite supply to Firtash’ titanium factory in Crimea

Dmytro Sennychenko, ex-Head of the State Property Fund of Ukraine, Photo:

NABU announced uncovering criminal group, presumably headed by Dmytro Sennychenko, the ex-Head of the State Property Fund of Ukraine. NABU detectives claim that the group has embezzled over 500 million UAH of state-owned JSC “Odessa Port Plant” and JSC “United Mining and Chemical Company” in 2019-2020. One of episodes of the case is related to the supply of ilmenite concentrate to titanium factory of Ukrainian oligarch Firtash in occupied Crimea through Czech intermediary company. It has been earlier investigated by the Center for Journalist Investigations (CJI).

It is reported by the CJI, referring to the press release of NABU, court order and its own investigation

The Anti-Corruption Bureau reported that the second episode of uncovered criminal activity was related to “United Mining and Chemical Company” owned by the state, i.e. the State Property Fund of Ukraine.

“NABU and Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office found out that the organizer of criminal group (presumably, Dmytro Sennychenko – ed.) appointed “loyal person” as the acting director of the Company (presumably, Artur Somov – ed.) in October 2020. Upon orders, this person has consciously concluded four contracts about the sale of Company’s ilmenite concentrate to Czech company controlled by Sennychenko’s advisor at reduced prices. Then, the concentrate was resold by Czech intermediary at higher market prices. As investigation found out ilmenite concentrate was supplied to Russian enterprises on the territory of temporarily occupied Crimea”, as NABU informs. 

Two Czech companies, ЕРI Group s.r.o. and Belanto trade s.r.o., are under NABU investigation, as CJI determined. 

On December 5, 2022, the Appeal Chamber of the High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine by its order refused to cancel an arrest of mobile phone Apple Iphone 13 Pro Max seized during a search of person under investigation. Detectives discovered in the phone correspondence with representatives of EPI Group. It has been about Belanto trade s.r.o., supply of ilmenite and its prices in 2021. 

In November 2021, the Center for Journalist Investigations published its investigation “Ilmenite Scheme” of Firtash: Czech Connection”. As we discovered, ilmenite concentrate enriched by Irshansk Mining and Processing Plant (part of “United Mining and Chemical Company”, UMCC) was supplied through Czech intermediary Belanto trade to titanium factory of oligarch Dmytro Firtash in occupied Crimea (the Armiansk branch of JSC “Ukrainian Chemical Products”). 

Belanto Trade was registered in Prague on February 25, 2014. Iveta Shylganova is indicated as the company founder and director since 2019. The company authorized capital is 120 Czech crowns (i.e. 142 UAH). The company specializes in the sale of the raw material for its further processing.

The Center for Journalist Investigations received data from the US database ImportGenius collecting information about sea export-import cargo transportation. UMCC shipped more than 78 thousand tons of the ilmenite ore concentrate to the Czech company within eleven shipments from November 11, 2020 to March 31, 2021. In accordance with customs documents, all shipments went to Turkey. Then, Russian ships delivered ilmenite concentrate from Turkey to Crimean ports or Kerch Strait. This most popular route of the “ilmenite scheme” has been active until 2022. 

Myroslav Shylgan (to the left) and Marec Shpok, photo:

General Director of Belanto Trade Myroslav Shylgan told the CJI that none of their contractors could supply the ilmenite to Crimea because it has been directly forbidden by contracts with them. However, he failed to present any documents supporting his statement. Despite his promises, he also did not give information about his contractors. 

In the middle of 2021 Belanto Trade was removed from the scheme involving United Mining and Chemical Company \ the State Property Fund of Ukraine to sell ilmenite at reduced prices, as follows from Myroslav Shylgan’s words. Firtash would be the main beneficiary of Czech company’s removal. 

“Motivation is to remove a competitor that is obtaining a greater market share in the ilmenite market. The more ilmenite Belanto ships to legitimate customers the less is available for Firtash’s Crimean Titan processing plant”, as said in the company’s statement.

Background facts: 

  • On December 20, 2021 the State Property Fund of Ukraine failed to conduct privatization auction of “United Mining and Chemical Company” for the third time. Company of oligarch Rinat Akhmetov has been the only company allowed to participate in the auction
  • Companies connected with Sergii Lyovochkin, parliamentarian from pro-Russian “Opposition Block – For Life”, and oligarch Dmytro Firtash tried to participate in the privatization auction of “United Mining and Chemical Company”
  • Investigation by the Crimean Center for Journalist Investigations “Ilmenite Scheme of Firtash: Czech Connection” is about supply of ilmenite concentrate enriched by Irshansk Mining and Processing Plant to the Crimean factory of Dmytro Firtash through Czech intermediary
  • On June 18, 2021, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine imposed personal sanctions against Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash for his supplies of titanium dioxide to Russian military companies