Former Ukrainian Member of Parliament Oleksandr Onyshchenko is one of the latest names to be dropped in investigations regarding illegal gold trade in Africa and India. Over the years, many high-profile people have been mentioned in this valuable but risky trade, which usually starts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and stretches across the ocean to India.
The illicit gold trade is a heinous crime in the sense that it never moves alone. Usually, those involved in it also have to shoulder crimes like tax evasion, exploitation, murders, corruption, supporting rebel groups, warlords, cartels, and other crimes that undermine the sovereignty of nations. Take Onyshchenko for example.
The former politician was so influential in Ukraine, having served twice in the parliament in 2012 and 2014. He also worked as the Deputy Minister for Emergencies, holding large budgets to provide aid for victims of the historical Chernobyl explosion. Ukraine was indeed more than thankful to him for his influence in Equestrianism, where he led them to their first Olympic participation in Beijing 2008, while also influencing their further competition in London 2012 and Rio 2016. One could argue that he was carving out a glossy reputation for himself, until two events in 2016.
The first was a matter of severed ties. Onyshchenko was a close friend and political ally of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. When the relations between the two soured, Poroshenko was quick to accuse his Russian-born ally of crimes of corruption and treason, pointing strongly at a US$ 125 million fraud in the national gas sector. Onyshchenko returned these with his own allegations of corruption on Poroshenko and even went further ahead to claim that his former friend was scheming everything possible to have him dead. From friends, the two were turned into strong foes, and tensions between raised eyebrows as to whether Onyshchenko was true as rightful as he seemed to pose.
The second event was in 2016 when Onyshchenko fled Ukraine to settle in Germany for an apparent fear for his life. He became a citizen of the European Union, settling in Belgium and Spain as well. During this time, he became a wanted man for his alleged crimes, and many times the Ukrainian government through the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) tried to get him back into the country for trial. Of course, Onyshchenko vehemently denies any of these, saying it is all political games that are putting Ukraine at a loss. However, that is a difficult argument to defend when one single man has been on top of Nations wanted list for over six years, and even when he told the Kyiv Post in 2019 that he was ready to return for trial, hasn’t set foot in Ukraine since 2016.
As of January 2021, more reason to doubt Onyshchenko’s claim for innocence surfaced. He appeared on the Specially Designated Nationals list, a document compiled by the Office of Asset Control (OFAC) to track down people who have interfered with the sovereignty of the United States of America. In his controversial multi-million fraud case, it was found that Onyshchenko had employed Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, the eventual winner of the 2021 contentious American election. The Russian-born millionaire was accused of interference with the elections and has been placed under sanctions from the American governments since December.
As of now, he faces another possible sanction from the European Union where he has been harbored over the years, as investigations go on about his involvement in the gold trade, forgery and ties with warlords and cartels that pose a threat to world peace.