Officers of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) on November 10 questioned employees of the country’s snack giant S.Group Corporation, which belongs to MP Serhii Rybalka from the Radical Party of Ukraine (RPU). Two top managers were also detained and financial documents seize.
The reason: Rybalka is accused for cooperating with the separatists and doing business in the occupied territory.
The SBU raid came one day after Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, sacked Rybalka from his post as the head of the parliament’s financial committee. A majority (255 of the 450 deputies) voted for his dismissal, which was put forward by RPU leader Oleh Liashko.
“To avoid any political grounds for unjustified accusations and insinuations, I ask the Parliament Speaker to consider this issue,” said Liashko addressing the parliamentary session.
Reacting critically to his dismissal, Rybalka said: “The parliament voted to discharge me from the position of the head of the committee on financial policy and banking operations. They voted with violation of the procedure – in my absence. Even though they knew I was in hospital for surgery, they did not even let me say a word. But this makes sense. I was very unwanted head of the committee for the authorities when they divided up and shared the banking system under the table and allowed to divert hundreds of billions of people’s money from banks.”
Rybalka, however, is widely known as one of the main sponsors of the RPU – a party using a strong patriotic rhetoric. In fact, the party’s leader is an ardent supporter of the Ukrainian military, engaged in military operations against the separatists at Donbas. He constantly upholds the interests of Ukraine in this conflict.
And then, rather suddenly, it turns out that Rybalka, the sponsor of “patriotism”, has been illegally doing business with the separatists in the occupied territories.
The MP is the de facto owner of the huge S.Group corporation, which he runs through his relatives. Officially, the business is headed by his brother Dmytro Rybalka.
The company’s facility in Dnipro produces napkins, soap, garbage bags, and other cleaning supplies, as well as a prominent line of snack foods – nuts, crackers, sunflower seeds, crisps, etc.
The company’s “Snack-Export” LLC division is responsible for the production and distribution of the snack foods. This division is headed by the MP’s father, Viktor Rybalka.
What is more, the Rybalko family transfers a portion of the corporate revenue to Cypriot firms. This is because almost all trademarks are officially registered to those firms. The list even includes the popular brand SEMKI TM.
This is how Rybalka removes a part of the profits – in the form of royalties – from the country.
Also, the investigation conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office and the SBU found evidence that Rybalka trades with separatists occupying the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and Crimea.
During their investigation, officers discovered that the company Snack Export belongs to S. Group, and that it entered additional production of its goods. The company employees concealed the actual production volumes from the regulatory agencies, selling the surplus to the territory of LDNR and Crimea.
Journalist blogger Denys Kazanskyi posted on YouTube a video of the “First Republican Supermarket” retail chain, which the separatists seized in the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic. The video shows shelves stocked with “Snack Export” products like salted nuts and chips.
Kazanskyi’s sources conducted test purchases of snacks in supermarkets in Donetsk, Khartsyzsk and Makiievka. They discovered that all the products sold were produced in Ukraine.
The company “Mak Invest” deals with delivery of “Snack Export” goods in the DNR. This is a rather big distribution company located in Makiievka. Before separatists seized ORDLO, “Mak Invest” had another name – “Sweet Life”.
After Ukraine lost control over a part of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, it was registered in the DNR under the new name. However, the whole structure and personnel structure remained the same.
Kazanskyi managed to get documents of another distributor – the Makpromtorg company – that sells products of “Snack Export” in the separatist territory.
According to reports, the snacks produced by Rybalka’s corporation in the Ukrainian territory are traded in significant volumes in the separatist territory.
Journalists found the products of “Snack Export” in the territory of occupied Crimea as well. In Sevastopol, a small pack of “Kozatska Slava” snacks are sold for RUB 23 (less than UAH 10).
In Ukraine, many people refer to Rybalka’s business as a “blood business”. ATO veterans, namely members of the Mykolaiv-based organisation of invalids of ATO participants, addressed Rybalka with a demand to stop trading with those whom Ukraine is at war.
“Mr Rybalka is a liar, because he says one thing and does another. And now, when we proved clearly that Mr Rybalka is trading directly with LDNR, that he cashes in on blood of our guys, and from this money finances his party and spends it on prostitutes in Europe,” said veteran Oleh Kravets.
“We address him today, and he changes his phone numbers… Moreover, we turned to Oleh Liashko, the leader of the Radical Party, to hear his reaction to deeds of his deputy. We also addressed other MPs to hear their reaction, how acceptable it is for them to sit next to a man who funds terrorism. How can anyone sit in the same room with the scoundrel who finances terrorism?”
In response, Liashko told reporters he would not interfere with Rybalka’s case until the investigation is over. If Rybalka’s is found guilty, Liashko has promised to ensure he receives a life sentence.
“The investigation into this case is underway now. It is conducted by the SBU. I do not interfere for now because I want everything to be in accordance with the law,” said Liashko. “If facts are confirmed, I do not care what is the last name of the person who trades with the occupied territories. This is a crime. This person must be held responsible. Rybalka claims he did not. But I will repeat once again I do not interfere with the situation. I demand from the law enforcement agencies to investigate into this case. If anyone trades with the occupied territories, he should be imprisoned for the rest of his life. Since this trade is the trade on blood.”
In addition to trading with the separatists, Rybalka’s reputation is tarnished by his lifestyle. For instance, he behaves as if he were a Hollywood star or a drug lord. He also owns an entire fleet of luxury cars, including a Ferrari458 Italia, an Aston Martin Rapide, a Rolls-Royce Wraith, and a Brabus GV12 800 Widestar. The cars are worth a whopping $3.5m.
As for how the MP spends his free time, he is constantly being shot by the paparazzi at the most expensive resorts in Europe and Asia. It has been reported that he spent some $1.5m on holidays and entertainment in 2015.
Even though Rybalka was dismissed from parliament’s committee, and despite the fact he is embroiled in scandals and has traded with the separatists, he still retains his parliamentary immunity. His companies continue producing goods and the prohibited trade with ORDLO.
Rybalka is covered by the mass media, and he is free to comment. Also, judging by his behaviour, he is also not afraid of the consequences. Neither criminal, nor political.