Katya Gorchinskaya and Stefan Korshak   Kyiv Post   01-Jul-1999   Rabinovich kicked out of Ukraine
Rabinovich spent nine years in a Soviet prison in the early 1980s.  He was convicted on a charge of theft of state property, but was released early.  Later, the violation was erased from his record.
Observers of the Ukrainian scene may well wonder how it can be possible for a man to spend nine years in a Soviet prison, and upon emerging to quickly become Ukraine's wealthiest man and an Israeli citizen to boot.

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Rabinovich kicked out of Ukraine

Government cites his ties to crime, harm to economy

Post Staff Writers

01 July 1999

Ukraine's State Security Service [SBU] barred controversial businessman Vadim Rabinovich from entry to Ukraine for five years on June 24.  Rabinovich, an Israeli citizen, was banned for hurting the Ukrainian economy and he was linked to a reputed organized-crime figure.

That person, Israeli citizen Leonid Borisovich Wolf, has been banned from Ukraine since December, authorities said in announcing the Rabinovich ban.  The government called Wolf a suspect in several unsolved killings and cited his suspected ties to organized crime.

Rabinovich, 46, who was not formally charged, is generally considered Ukraine's leading media magnate.  He has extensive holdings in local press, radio and television.  The Ukraine-born tycoon is also active in the nation's Jewish community.

The SBU press release accused Rabinovich of involvement in "activities doing considerable damage to Ukraine's economy."

Rabinovich told the Unian press agency, which he owns, that the SBU decision was "either an unfortunate mistake, or a provocation."  He left Ukraine during the morning of June 24, the day the government order became effective.  Ukrainian authorities did not hinder his departure.

Stolichnye Novosti, also Rabinovich-owned, issued a press release on the same day condemning the SBU's decision: "The so-called decision against the head of the United Jewish Council, president of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress and well-known businessman Vadim Rabinovich is a provocative action, and the country's government has nothing to do with it."

Speaking at a June 30 press conference in Tel Aviv, Rabinovich identified Volodymyr Horbulin, the powerful head of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council and one of President Leonid Kuchma's closest associates, as having engineered his dismissal.

"There are irreconcilable differences between Horbulin and me," Interfax reported Rabinovich as saying.  Rabinovich identified three potential points of conflict.

One, Rabinovich has alleged publicly that he was forced out of the lucrative Studio 1+1 television station by Kuchma supporters.  Two, he said that Ukrainian Jewish organizations, possibly linked to Horbulin, are using donations from international Jewish groups illegally.  Three, he said that Horbulin is trying to gain control of Ukraine's Jewish community and the national mass media, while "forcing Vadim Rabinovich out of it."

Rabinovich also denied any links to organized crime or contract killings, and pleaded to return to his native Ukraine, even if it means facing possible charges from the Security Service.

"These absurd charges in the statement by the press-service of the Ukrainian Security Service do not correspond to fact," he said.  "I am ready to testify to the facts on that issue any time in Ukraine's territory."

"People involved in the activities of Mr. Wolf, who is mentioned in the [SBU] statement, are present in Ukraine's territory today.  Moreover, they are relatives of Mr. Horbulin," Rabinovich added.

Horbulin declined to respond to Rabinovich's allegations in detail, saying, "It is ridiculous for me to enter into a debate with a foreign citizen."  However, Horbulin - President Kuchma's foreign-affairs specialist and one of his most trusted friends told Interfax on June 30, "I can hardly imagine a situation, where the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council can be in conflict with a foreign citizen."

Other sources mention other possibilities for the government's actions.  A June 26 Zerkalo Nedeli article reported Rabinovich told a foreign intelligence agency that Ukraine was preparing a shipment of heavy weapons to Yugoslavia.

This isn't the first time Rabinovich has been kicked out of a country.

The U.S. government revoked his visa in 1995 and placed him on the list of undesirable foreigners for his alleged connections with the Swiss-Austrian firm Nordex, which was accused by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency of illegal arms trading and money laundering.  Rabinovich denied the allegations at the time, saying he only participated in one Nordex deal as a Ukrainian subcontractor.

Rabinovich spent nine years in a Soviet prison in the early 1980s.  He was convicted on a charge of theft of state property, but was released early.  Later, the violation was erased from his record.

Rabinovich is considered one of Ukraine's wealthiest men.  Rabinovich himself has described his wealth as a "mere one or two million."

His businesses include fur, jewelry and cosmetics trading, banking, investment and advertising.  He also owns or is involved in a TV station, several newspapers and a news agency.  The Associated Press estimated Rabinovich's annual gross income at $1 billion.