Jewish-owned Austrian Bank Accused of Massive Fraud in Ukraine

Ukrainian police accuse Meinl Bank of defrauding the state and helping local businesses launder money for use in the EU.

Meinl Bank headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
Meinl Bank headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Wikimedia Commons

An Austrian bank owned by a prominent Jewish businessman has been accused of massive fraud and money laundering in Ukraine.

Meinl Bank is owned by Julius Meinl, 56, who in 2014 was elected president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, one of five regional affiliates of the World Jewish Congress.

According to Ukrainian police investigators, the bank defrauded Ukraine out of more than $750 million between 2011 and 2015 and laundered the money for use in the EU.

In a statement to a Kiev district court last month, police said the fraud had been perpetrated by “a criminal group of unidentified persons who represented Meinl Bank together with beneficiary owners of a number of Ukrainian banks.”

The case was exposed by the Ukrainian news website Glavcom last week.

In response to the allegations, Meinl Bank spokesperson Thomas Huemer told JTA in an email that the bank “does not comment on rumors. The bank reiterates that all its activities are undertaken within the framework of all relevant laws and regulations.” The bank, he added, “strongly rejects any allegation of wrongdoing.”

Ukrainian police have been investigating the bank since February this year. They told the court that actions by “unidentified persons led to the non-payment of taxes to the budget of Ukraine on a large scale, bringing banks to insolvency, bankruptcy and shifting the obligation to compensate commercial banks from the Deposit Guarantee Fund.”

Glavcom described a system through which Meinl Bank allegedly gave Ukrainian entities back-to-back loans, with collateral offered by third parties that were registered outside Ukraine, but still had ties to the lending entities. The lending companies then transferred tens of millions of dollars out of Ukraine to offshore accounts with Meinl Bank’s help, according to the fraud squad. Next, the lending firms declared insolvency, allowing Meinl Bank to cash in on the collateral.

The purpose of this alleged circular deal was to get money out of Ukraine and launder it for use in the European Union and beyond, according to the investigation, which is ongoing.