LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – PNC Plaza, one of Louisville’s biggest downtown office buildings, was secretly purchased in 2011 by Ukrainian oligarchs using millions of dollars stolen from a Ukrainian bank, the U.S. Department of Justice alleges in a lawsuit filed Thursday.
The federal government is looking to seize ownership of the 30-story tower, saying it’s part of an international money-laundering scheme. The feds also filed a forfeiture action on an office park in Dallas tied to the same network of Ukrainians, according to court documents.
The Ukrainian oligarchs, Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov, stole billions of dollars from PrivatBank, one of the largest banks in Ukraine, and then worked with U.S. associates in Miami to launder the stolen money into assets, such as PNC Plaza, according to court documents.
The government alleges that stolen money was used in the $77 million purchase of PNC Plaza in 2011 and in a 2018 restructuring of the building’s ownership that wiped out about $40 million in debt owed to U.S. Bank, which had filed to foreclose on the building.
Kolomoisky and Boholiubov’s alleged U.S. co-conspirators used a variety of business entities – usually some variation on the name “Optima” – to hide the oligarchs’ ownership in PNC Plaza and other assets, according to the government.
“The name games were designed to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of PNC Plaza and the funds that had been used to purchase, restructure, and run it,” according to the complaint.
The Ukrainians were on the cusp of converting their ill-gotten gains back into cash, the government alleges, by agreeing on July 23 to sell PNC Plaza to an unnamed buyer for $22.25 million, a fraction of the original purchase price.
The case was filed in federal court in Miami, the principal place of business for the oligarchs’ U.S. associates, Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber, according to the government.
Don Cox, an attorney whose firm Lynch, Cox, Gilman & Goodman has rented the 21st floor of PNC Plaza for at least a decade, said Friday that it was "very dispiriting" to learn of the federal forfeiture action.
He said the owners have recently replaced the elevators -- an expensive undertaking -- and had signaled that updates like a fitness center and meeting rooms were in the works.
"We’re in limbo; we have no idea whether the improvements to the building are going to be made, we have no idea who our landlords are going to be," Cox said.
The complaint gives no indication what the government plans to do with PNC Plaza if it's successful in seizing the building, other than saying it would be "disposed of in accordance with existing laws."