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On Aug. 4, agents with the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service raided offices in Miami and Cleveland that belong to Optima Management Group LLC. Optima is partially owned by principals of the Privat Group, a large business group based in Ukraine.
One of those principals is Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, who has been the subject of an FBI investigation for more than a year. The Justice Department has accused him of an international money laundering scheme.
The sons of Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Joe Biden and Mitt Romney are unrelated to the investigation.
A recent FBI raid in Ohio inspired a rash of social media posts repromoting a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine and several prominent politicians.
One post was published by a Facebook page called Q Pin on Aug. 5. "Q" is a reference to QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory that claims the Trump administration is investigating members of the "deep state" for their involvement in pedophile rings.
The post includes a screenshot of a tweeted video that shows FBI agents going through boxes in an office.
"The FBI raiding a Cleveland office linked to Ukraine," reads a caption on the video. "(Joe) Biden, (Nancy) Pelosi, (John) Kerry and (Mitt) Romney all had sons getting tens of millions of dollars from no-show jobs in Ukraine."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) It has been shared more than 17,000 times, and we found similar versions shared by other QAnon-related accounts.
(Screenshot from Facebook)
The footage in the video comes from news coverage of a recent FBI raid in downtown Cleveland. But what does that have to do with Ukraine? And how are American politicians involved?
In short: They aren’t. Let’s break it down.
First: the raid.
On Aug. 4, agents with the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service raided offices in Miami and Cleveland that belong to Optima Management Group LLC. Optima is a Miami investment company that has properties across the country.
The raid was part of a money laundering investigation that’s been going on for more than a year.
"The affidavit is under seal so I cannot provide any specifics regarding the investigation," FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson said in an email. "I can say no one was taken into custody. This continues to be an ongoing investigation."
Next: the Ukraine connection.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Optima is partially owned by principals of the Privat Group, a large business group based in Ukraine. One of those principals is Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky
In the early 1990s, Kolomoisky founded PrivatBank. It became a key banking institution in the country, serving about half of Ukraine’s population.
In 2016, the government nationalized the company, claiming that it did not have enough capital to support its loan portfolio. The Financial Times reported that PrivatBank lent billions of dollars to Kolomoisky associates.
In April 2019, the Daily Beast reported that the FBI was investigating Kolomoisky — who no longer owns PrivatBank and reportedly lives in Israel — for potential financial crimes, including money laundering. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Ohio was also part of the investigation since Kolomoisky has investments there.
In early August, the Justice Department accused Kolomoisky of stealing billions of dollars from PrivatBank and using an array of companies around the world, including some in the United States, to launder the money. Kolomoisky’s lawyer has denied the allegations.
But how is all that related to Ukraine more broadly?
President Volodymyr Zelensky is a former comic, and Kolomoisky owns the TV station that used to air his show. Kolomoisky is considered to be a Zelensky ally.
Which brings us to the third part of the Facebook post: the connection — or lack thereof — to American politicians.
In 2019, a phone call with Zelensky was the subject of President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The investigation was prompted by a whistleblower’s complaint about the July 2019 call, during which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the Biden family’s dealings in Ukraine.
Hunter Biden served as a board member for Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, from 2014 until the spring of 2019. He did so when his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, was representing U.S. policy on the country.
There’s no evidence to suggest that the sons of Kerry and Romney ever held similar positions. We rated a similar claim False in October 2019.
Pelosi’s son, Paul, once served on the board of an American energy company, Viscoil, that dissolved and re-formed in Singapore under a different name. It’s unclear to what extent the company has done business in Ukraine, but Paul Pelosi had no part in the new entity.
Back to the Facebook post.
It’s correct to say that a company linked to Ukraine was recently raided by the FBI. But there is no evidence that the sons of Biden, Pelosi, Kerry and Romney got "tens of millions of dollars from no-show jobs in Ukraine." They are all unrelated to the ongoing investigation of Kolomoisky’s alleged money laundering.
The post is inaccurate. We rate it False.
CBS News, "Federal agents raid offices of company tied to Ukrainian oligarch," Aug. 4, 2020
Cleveland.com, "FBI raids offices at downtown One Cleveland Center building tied to Ukrainian oligarch," Aug. 4, 2020
Cleveland.com, "The most important guy you've never heard of: Chaim Schochet, 25, builds downtown Cleveland empire," Feb. 5, 2012
CNBC, "A bank scandal, an oligarch and the IMF: Ukraine’s president has a lot to deal with right now," Sept. 20, 2019
The Daily Beast, "Billionaire Ukrainian Oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky Under Investigation by FBI," April 8, 2019
Email from FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson, Aug. 12, 2020
Facebook post, Aug. 5, 2020
Facebook post, Aug. 6, 2020
The Financial Times, "Serious intent underpins Ukraine’s comic candidate"
The Financial Times, "Ukraine takes needed steps to clean up its banks"
Forbes, #1990 Ihor Kolomoyskyy
Kyiv Post, "UPDATE: Government nationalizes PrivatBank, guarantees deposits," Dec. 18, 2016
OpenCorporates, OPTIMA MANAGEMENT GROUP LLC
OptimaManagementGroup.com, accessed Aug. 12, 2020
PolitiFact, "Pelosi, Romney and Kerry don’t have sons working for companies linked to Ukraine," Oct. 10, 2019
PolitiFact, "QAnon and Donald Trump rallies: What's that about?" Aug. 3, 2018
PolitiFact, "The silence of the year: What did Hunter Biden do for Burisma?" Dec. 16, 2019
PolitiFact, "Timeline: The Trump impeachment inquiry," Oct. 3, 2019
The Washington Post, "Ukrainian who made appearance in Trump impeachment saga accused by U.S. of stealing, laundering billions," Aug. 6, 2020
YouTube video from WKYC, Aug. 4, 2020
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