Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a law in March which imposed sanctions on five banks holding Russian funds, which prohibit capital outflow from Ukraine. However, these sanctions do not prevent Ukrainian customers from using their services and collecting deposits. It hasn't frightened some of the Ukrainian citizens who continue to make money in Crimea either, which was annexeted by Russia in 2014.
In particular, the solar power companies owned by the Klyuyev brothers were successfully re-registered on the peninsula. They are former influential representatives of the Party of Regions [the ruling party in Ukraine during Viktor Yanukovych presidency in 2010-2014] and close associates of the ex-president-deserter.
Meet Oleksandr Andrusenko from Crimea. Back in 2004 he bought photovoltaic cell solar panel on E-bay and installed them on a roof. That is how he covered ⅔ of power consumption. However, making money on that was a far-off dream. Corrupt bureaucracy, the lack of legislation, and are whole host of other difficulties are impossible for the average Ukrainian to get around.
“The solar-power stations in private households, which were set up on the rooves of houses or on the groung, according to that law, are prohibited from selling the power. The registration procedure was very tough. Just a few finished it…” says Oleksandr.
However, the ruling government made exceptions for some people. When Viktor Yanukovych came to office in 2010, his longtime associate, Andriy Klyuyev, became the First Deputy Prime Minister and he was presented with opportunities to develop the solar business. Ukrainian subsidiaries of Klyuyev’s Austrian company "Activ Solar GmbH" received thousands of hectares of land for the construction of power plants. The Council of Ministers of Crimea passed the first chunk of land to Klyuyev’s companies in 2012.
Dozens of subsidiaries of "Activ Solar" with similar names, addresses and founders quickly began operation in the Crimea, Mykolaiv and Odessa regions. After receiving a “green” tariff, under which they could sell solar energy for five-times the cost on the wholesale energy market, the Klyuyev brothers’ power plants were transferred to companies in Cyprus, Austria and the Netherlands.
Daryna Kalenyuk, Director of the Center for Combating Corruption, has been investigating the Klyuyev brothers’ assets for a long time.
“The solar empire of the Klyuyev brothers is an example of how to make money out of nothing. In fact, there was a large network of about 50 companies. They were located in different regions in Ukraine, and rented land on very favorable terms. Some of them received loans from state banks, and others benefited from the transportation of equipment from abroad,” she explains.
Andriy Klyuyev headed the Yanukovych administration at the time when the bloody events were taking place on the Euromaidan. He disappeared from the country on the 28th of February. He managed to do so freely, despite the suspicion of his involvement in the massacre.
The Russian occupation of Crimea also began around that time. It became dangerous for Oleksandr Andrusenko, who actively supported Euromaidan, to remain in Simferopol. He packed car with the basics and his musical instruments, and moved to Poltava with his wife and two sons.
The Kyiv "Activ Solar" company reported that its Crimean station stopped operation. However, after threats of “nationalization” were made by Sergey Aksyonov, who became the so-called head of Crimea after it had been annexed, the company registered in Russia and now produces a quarter of Crimean energy.
Meanwhile, investigation into the Klyuyev brothers’ business began in three countries - Ukraine, the Netherlands and Austria. Subsequently, "Activ Solar GmbH", the Klyuyev brothers' Austrian parent company , declared bankruptcy.
“According to our colleagues in Austria, the bankruptcy of "Activ Solar" was perhaps the biggest bankruptcy for a certain period of time in Austria,” said Daryna Kalenyuk. “This money [800 million euros], received from state banks, was spent on something. According to our information, about the same amount of money was withdrawn through "Activ Solar" structures in Cyprus and Austria".
The business assets of the fugitives Andriy and Sergiy Klyuyev aren’t being held in Ukraine. Instead, the Chinese are negotiating with the government on the registration of property rights. In November 2016, the Chinese state-company, CNBM International, received Klyuyev solar power plants in the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions in return for their 160 million euro commodity loan.
In December last year, 8 of them signed contracts with Russia on energy supply from plants in the villages in Crimea for almost $17 million (a billion RUB).
Three companies, connected with the Klyuyev brothers and registered in Cyprus, the Netherlands and Austria, are among the companies that win local tenders.
According to the EU’s sanction regime, opening or buying companies in Crimea, investing and providing any services in the energy sector in the occupied peninsula, is prohibited.
“Crimea is an occupied territory. Any activity in the annexed territory of another state is illegal. In terms of Ukrainian law, conducting any activity registered in the so-called jurisdiction of the so-called Crimea region of the Russian Federation is a violation,” explains Sergiy Vysotskyi, a member of the Ukrainian parliament.
Hromadske's investigative unit "Slidstvo.Info" reached out for comments to the company "Activ Solar", but the company’s website is offline, phone numbers are out of reach, and emails sent out bounce back.
Two years after moving from occupied Crimea, Oleksandr Andrusenko built a small solar power plant in Poltava. And it is a business now, as two-thirds of the solar energy produced is sold to regional energy production companies. The "Green" tariff has been reduced twice, so the profit is rather small.
/Investigation by Nataliya Kokorina. Translated by Olga Kuchmagra