Ukraine tycoon Kolomoisky is suspect in second criminal case - lawmaker

Ukrainian business tycoon and billionaire Kolomoisky arrives at court in Kyiv

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukrainian anti-corruption authorities suspect tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky of involvement in the embezzlement of $250 million, a lawmaker said on Thursday, dealing a potentially major new blow to one of the country's richest men.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) said in a statement that six people were suspected of embezzling 9.2 billion hryvnias ($250 million) from lender PrivatBank. It did not name them, but posted a blurred photo of a man resembling Kolomoisky.

Reuters could not immediately reach Kolomoisky or his lawyers for comment. But the move appears to be the latest salvo in a campaign by Kyiv to quash the political influence of wealthy businessmen widely known as oligarchs.

"Well there we go: NABU has informed Kolomoisky of a note of suspicion," said Yaroslav Zheleznyak, the lawmaker, citing the statement.

Kolomoisky is a former owner of PrivatBank, which was nationalised in late 2016 as part of a clean-up of the banking system.

He is among the tycoons who built their fortunes in the ashes of the Soviet Union and amassed political power in Ukraine's fragile democracy.

On Saturday, a court ordered Kolomoisky to be held in custody for two months on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. It gave him the option of posting bail, but his lawyers said he would not do that.

Kolomoisky is under U.S. sanctions and is a one-time supporter of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy whose election he backed in 2019.

The moves against him comes as Kyiv tries to signal progress during a wartime crackdown on corruption that is important to its hopes of joining the European Union.

Ukrainian officials have also said that "de-oligarchisation" is an important step to building a stronger state after the war with Russia.

In its statement, NABU said it had notified PrivatBank's "former ultimate beneficial owner" and five members of a group organised by him of suspicion of embezzlement.

It said the bank's ultimate beneficiary owner in January-March 2015 developed a plan to seize the bank's funds to further finance a controlled offshore company and increase his own share in the bank's capital.

To that end, the bank was artificially obliged to pay over 9.2 billion hryvnias to the controlled company under the pretext of allegedly repurchasing its own bonds at an inflated value, NABU said.

It added that it was the fourth "episode" in the case of misappropriation of PrivatBank's funds.

($1 = 36.9200 hryvnias)

(Reporting by Dan Peleschuk, writing by Anna Pruchnicka; editing by Tom Balmforth)