How the ex-head of Naftogaz ended up on the bench of the defendants and why NABU decided to return to the case of the Kobolev bonus is being investigated EP.
For the first time since the beginning of the war, the former head of Naftogaz, Andriy Kobolev, decided to return to Ukraine and immediately received suspicion from the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office of embezzling almost UAH 230 million.
This amount is part of the award for winning the Stockholm arbitration over the Russian “Gazprom”, which he allegedly issued to himself, at the same time misleading the supervisory board of the largest state-owned company.
The accused himself believes political matter, but at the same time notes that he trusts independent anti-corruption bodies and believes that he will be justified. On January 23, the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court already sided with him, refusing prosecutor’s office in the arrest of Kobolev.
Why does the former head of Naftogaz “shine” from 7 to 12 years in prison and how does he plan to defend himself?
The case, in which the former head of NJSC Naftogaz Andriy Kobolev was accused of embezzling UAH 229 million, concerns bonus payments for the victory in the Stockholm Arbitration over Gazprom in 2018.
Then the Ukrainian company sued the Russian gas monopolist for $4.6 billion under a transit contract. In the same year, the supervisory board of the state-owned Naftogaz approved the decision to pay bonuses to the board of NAK.
It was assumed that the amount of remuneration will be 1% of the winnings, that is, 46 million dollars or about 1.27 billion hryvnia. Subsequently, Kobolev will declare that he received only the first part of the payments, and the rest were seemingly frozen due to political pressure.
At the same time, there are no questions about the first tranche, out of a total amount of $21 million, the then head of Naftogaz was paid UAH 261 million, which at the then exchange rate exceeded $10 million.
In the same 2018, at the request of Vasily Nimchenko, a people’s deputy from the HSE, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) opened criminal proceedings, but Kobolev will receive suspicion in this case only on January 19, 2023.
What is he accused of?
How Kobolev rewarded himself
By versions NABU detectives Andriy Kobolev issued an illegal order to reward employees, on the basis of which he himself received UAH 261 million.
This amount seems to exceed the normatively determined size of such payments at UAH 37.48 million. Thus, according to the investigation, Kobolev, contrary to the law, was overpaid almost UAH 230 million.
NABU detectives note that the key problem is violation Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers, which limits the amount of the annual bonus of the head of the company to 24 salaries. No more. The amount is 261 million hryvnia. not decently multiple of the allowable level of remuneration.
Kobolev’s lawyers are confident that he did not violate the said resolution, since the document in that version contained a clause that allowed remuneration to be paid out of the company’s net profit, if such a decision was made by the supervisory board of the state-owned company.
The defense of the former head of Naftogaz notes that the accusation that he himself issued a bonus to himself is also untrue.
Kobolev refused to provide EP with any comments on the case, “so as not to harm the investigation and himself.”
Supervisory Board on the side of Kobolev
“In fact, the Naftogaz Supervisory Board made the decision on this. Kobolev, as chairman of the board, only submitted a request to the supervisory board to consider the issue of accruing bonuses, but he could not make an independent decision.
The Supervisory Board had independent legal advisers, enough time and competence to make an informed decision in line with international practices,” the defendant’s lawyers say.
After serving suspicion stood up for Kobolev and former Naftogaz supervisory board members Claire Spottiswoode, Bruno Lescua and Ludo van der Geyden refuted the thesis that the former head of the board misled them.
In their statement, they stressed that the award was issued in accordance with global corporate governance practices.
Naftogaz: how reformers quit because of reforms
“These awards were approved unanimously by the entire council, including both independents and members appointed by the government of Ukraine, representing its interests.‘, their statement says.
As a result, the prosecution and defense parties were able to present their arguments when choosing a measure of restraint for Kobolev in the form of detention. The case was considered by the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court (VAKS) on January 19 and 23.
The prosecutor of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAP) asked to arrest Kobolev or set a bail of UAH 365 million, but VAKS sided with the accused and let him go home.
SAP has already said they plan to appeal this decision, because they believe that Kobolev, who is at large, can interfere with the investigation or even leave the country.
Why Kobolev returned to Ukraine
During the court session, it became known that Kobolev had been abroad since at least February 2022 and returned to Ukraine only in January 2023. A few days later, he received a suspicion from NABU and SAPO. Why did he decide to return?
Kobolev himself claims that he knew about the case and seemed to have come to avoid speculation and defend himself in court.
“Realizing that suspicion was being prepared, I immediately returned to Ukraine so as not to give rise to accusations that I had fled somewhere or was hiding,” wrote He is on his Facebook page.
However, his unexpected return for many gave rise to a number of conspiracy theories. Like, he was specially “lured out” to send him to jail. One of them is that the Office of the President (OP) is behind this.
According to the EP, after his arrival in Ukraine, Kobolev did have meetings with representatives of the Office of the President, and at them, as one of the interlocutors close to the OP notes, the possibility of involving him in the team of Deputy Prime Minister for the Restoration of Ukraine Oleksandr Kubrakov was discussed.
How Kobolev ended up in the dock
The ex-head of Naftogaz was seen in this process as responsible for the energy sector. It is difficult to say in what form this could be implemented and was implemented at all. However, after receiving suspicion and the start of the trial, it certainly makes no sense to talk about this.
What could be the role and interest in giving suspicion to the employees of the OP? Supporters of Kobolev supposethat the deputy head of the Office of the President, who did not participate in the meetings and could act for personal reasons, may be involved in the case.
We are talking, in particular, about the curator of the law enforcement sector, Oleg Tatarov, whose goal in this process, it seems, may be to discredit two reforms that society considers successful.
Like, if Kobolev’s guilt is proven and he is imprisoned, this will mean the failure of corporate reform. This will confirm that the supervisory boards in state-owned companies are ineffective, since “hundreds of millions of hryvnias were stolen from them under their noses.”
If Kobolev wins, this will indicate the failure of the anti-corruption reform and the incompetence of NABU and SAP. “This is a win-win situation in any case,” says an EP interlocutor close to the ex-chairman of the NAC.
In support of this version, he cites the fact that the suspicion to the Naftogaz excavator was signed not personally by the head of the SAPO Alexander Klymenko, but connected with Tatarov, Deputy Andrey Sinyuk.
This version is public promote fans of Kobolev and his defenders. However, the reality may be much simpler.
After his appointment, Klymenko revived a large number of high-profile cases that did not move under his predecessor. This also applies to the investigation according to the formula “Rotterdam+”, the cases of the former head of the NBU Kirill Shevchenko and others. According to this principle, NABU decided to return to the Kobolev case.
It is curious that Kobolev’s side believes in the impartiality of the VAKS, NABU, SAP and plans to prove their case in court.
There is another scenario that looks ideal for Kobolev. Purely theoretically, the head of the SAPO could initiate the closure of the case if he suddenly plunges into its essence and comes to the conclusion that there is not enough evidence of guilt.
However, judging by the intentions of the prosecutor’s office appeal the decision of the court as Kobolev is being suppressed and seeking his arrest, such a scenario looks unlikely. At least for now.
Nikolai Topalov, translation Skeleton.Info