Hiding offshore –
Ukrainian Media Secrets
The ownership analysis of the largest Ukrainian media companies reveals that almost all of them include companies registered in offshore havens, like for example Cyprus, Belize, and the British Virgin Isles. One can only guess the true motivation behind these structures as they might be heterogeneous and differ from one case to the next. As an intended result, however, this makes identifying the true owner more complicated and demonstrates the peculiarities of the nontransparent business conduct by corporations, of which a Ukrainian media outlet is a part of.
To begin with, not all media holdings are formally registered companies. For example, what is known in Ukraine as “1+1 Media” is not a single legal entity. The holding is composed of several companies united under the shared administration and owners. Channel 112 is in fact six companies that broadcast under the same logo, and Radio Rocks is 13 companies. This makes identifying the individuals, who own a specific media outlet, and their share in it so much harder.
In case of “1+1 Media”, under the law on transparency of media ownership, the TV channels willingly disclosed the structure of their ownership, including offshore companies. Specific individuals were listed among the owners: in particular, Ihor Kolomoiskiy and Hennadiy Boholiubov, as well as Ihor Surkis. Yet, these people own only 70% of the 1+1 channel via the company from the Netherlands ‘SME Ukraine Holding II B.V. Another 30% of the media outlet is owned by ‘Caddoa Limited’ from Cyprus, which is owned in equal shares by five citizens of Cyprus, who, at first glance, have no connections with Ukraine at all.
The structure of the UMH holding is even less transparent: this holding is affiliated with business entities connected to Serhiy Kurchenko. Practically in all companies included into the holding’s structure – press, radio and even press distribution – the indicated ultimate owner is the citizen of Belize Mathew Bradley Adrian. This individual is mentioned as the head of over 30 other offshore companies. This calls for an assumption that this person is used as a front to conceal the real owners. Based on the documents, Serhiy Kurchenko is not the owner, although in his public statements he does not try to hide that he is affiliated with the holding.
In the structure of the radio companies “Tavr Media”, which, according to the Media Ownership Monitoring research, are affiliated with Pinchuk’s empire, officially the ultimate owner is not Pinchuk. In various radio companies that are a part of the holding, varying shares belong to discreet trusts that are owned by Victor and Olena Pinchuk. Some names and companies lead to Pinchuk's holding EastOne. Yet, legally, Pinchik has a right not to indicate that he is the owner of radio or TV channels that he actually owns.
The least transparent is the structure of the company that owns Channel 112. Until recently, the only owner of all six companies of the channel was Andriy Podshchypkov. It was speculated that he is affiliated with the former Minister of Internal Affairs of Yanukovych presidency, Vitaliy Zakharchenko. Yet since summer of 2016, the structure started to change. Offshores were eliminated from the ownership structure, and the six companies became founders of one another. This way, they formed a circular structure, and, from the legal standpoint, do not have any individual owners.
This way, in addition to nominal anonymity, offshore holdings in the structure of mass media outlets make it virtually impossible to identify what individual shares co-owners of media outlets possess, and to establish an accurate conclusion about concentration of media outlets in the hands of one oligarch or another.