Yevhen Cherniak, the founder of Ukraine’s Global Spirits alcohol producer, on Dec. 30, denied Security Service (SBU) charges of sponsoring Russia’s war.
The day before, SBU and Prosecutor General’s Office said they believe Global Spirits has not ceased business operations with Russia after Feb. 24, 2022, when Russia started a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, paying around $157.8 million (Hr 6 billion) in taxes in Russia in 2022.
Cherniak and six top managers of Global Spirits were charged with “assisting the aggressor state,” with the maximum sentence of 12 years in prison.
Cherniak, one of the richest Ukrainians, said his companies are not doing business with Russia. Global Spirits said it had revoked its product and distribution licenses in Russia after Moscow unleashed its full-scale invasion in February 2022.
“Neither I personally nor the company I founded have violated anything, but like many Ukrainian businesses, we find ourselves in a situation that I sincerely hope is a mistake rather than an attempt to pressure businesses with the goal of a raiding attack on the market leader,” Cherniak said.
According to the SBU, Cherniak's enterprises in four countries in Central Asia and South Caucasus have been purchasing large volumes of alcohol from Russia.
Cherniak said that he and his company's management don't have anything to do with the companies in mentioned in the case.
“I have never been and am not currently the owner or official of these enterprises, have never leased them, and no one from the company's management is an official or beneficiary of these companies and plants mentioned in the case,” he said in a Facebook post on Dec. 30.
According to the SBU, these enterprises allegedly purchased industrial volumes of alcohol and other related products from Russia for the production of alcohol that was exported to Russia and the U.S. Cherniak denies it.
Cherniak now faces charges both in Ukraine and in Russia.
In July, Russia’s Investigative Committee launched an investigation into Cherniak on charges of sponsoring terrorism and has added him to its wanted list on suspicion of financing Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
Russia’s law enforcement agency also said it was looking to seize Russian assets “in the nearest future,” where Cherniak is the beneficiary. Russia’s investigative committee hasn’t specified the names of companies.
In 2021, before the full-scale invasion, Forbes Ukraine ranked Cherniak as the country’s 19th wealthiest businessman, with an estimated net worth of $470 million.
His company, Global Spirits, is best known for its flagman vodka brand, Khortytsia.