Between 2014 and 2016, Oleksandr Onyshchenko was former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's right hand man. When he began to pick up on the corrupt behaviour taking place in the president's office, Onyshchenko began secretly recording telephone conversations and making copies of potentially incriminating documents.
In 2016, after falling out with Poroshenko and leaving the administration, Onyshchenko was brought up on charges of tax crimes, corruption and embezzlement, forcing him to leave Ukraine, first to Spain, and then Germany. The businessman insists the charges are politically motivated. Kiev has sought an international arrest warrant against him for years, with little luck. Then, on November 28, 2019, just three days before he was set to travel to the United States to present explosive new evidence of potential corrupt dealings between Poroshenko and senior Obama administration officials, the millionaire was inexplicably arrested in Germany.
During his detention in Oldenburg Prison in Lower Saxony, Onyshchenko was given a medication which he believes was meant to cause heart failure. The businessman needed an operation, and, in May of this year, to try to save his own life, sent part of the compromising information he had on Poroshenko to Washington and Kiev. A week later, on May 27, he was released from custody.
By his own admission, Onyshchenko's job in the Poroshenko administration included bribing lawmakers for votes and concluding economic deals to enable the president to further enrich himself.
Onyshchenko says the recently released recordings of telephone conversations between Poroshenko and former Vice President Biden, which detail Biden’s efforts to pressure Kiev into dropping a criminal investigation into his son Hunter’s work with a Ukrainian energy company, are his handiwork, and are only part of the trove of information he has in his possession.
In an exclusive interview with Sputnik Deutschland, just a day after his release from jail, Onyshchenko opened up on a range of topics, shedding light not only on the complex inner workings of Ukrainian politics and the German judicial system, but on a political scandal only beginning to brew in the United States regarding what exactly the Biden family got up to in Ukraine in the aftermath of the February 2014 coup d’etat in Kiev.
Imprisonment in Germany Days Before Washington Press Conference
Sputnik: Let’s go back a bit to your arrest in November. How did it take place?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: It was a crazy thing. I had apparently been entrapped by the attorney general from Lower Saxony. They fabricated a business deal and sent over people who made me a business offer. I bought racehorses from them which I never received. I reported this to the police, and they called me in to testify.
At that moment I was in Spain at the Oliva Nova equestrian competition. A letter was sent to my stud farm in Herzlake, asking me to come to the police station on November 28 at 10 am. So the day before, I flew in. On the 28th I came to the Achim police station. But they did not want to talk about my testimony. Instead, they said ‘We have a warrant for your arrest from July 2019 and must arrest you’. There was one thing I didn’t understand: I was living in Germany…I was always home. Why didn’t they just come to my home at the time? I also flew a lot to Germany in those months, starting in July, and was always checked by police, who didn’t do anything to me. I don’t understand why I was arrested then – three days before I was supposed to fly to America for a press conference in Washington, where I was planning on presenting the Biden recordings. [Trump lawyer Rudy] Giuliani invited me. I was supposed to be in Washington on December 1, 2019. But three days before that, I was called to this police station and arrested.
Recalling the six months he was made to serve in prison, Onyshchenko described it as a difficult but bearable ordeal. At the same time, he admitted that he was mistreated, in one case not having access to water for almost a day, and another incident where he was forced to take a shower while his arms and legs were left cuffed after being sent to hospital for a heart operation. Onyshchenko says his lawyers filed about 10 complaints in total. According to the businessman, he’s tired of fighting and will need to recover before even considering filing any cases with the German authorities, saying he plans to stay in the country for rehabilitation, and has applied for political asylum.
Sputnik: Why did you, a sportsman, need an operation on your heart while in prison? What happened?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: Yes, this was one of the biggest problems, because for the first two months I was regularly given medication of anti-depressants or sedatives.
Sputnik: Why? Were you depressed?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: No. They just gave it to me and said ‘we have to give you something to calm you down a bit, then you’ll be able to sleep normally’. But these drugs turned out to be extremely addictive. Two months later, I began experiencing big problems with my blood pressure. Then the prison’s medical department said I had developed hypertension. They sent me to the hospital at the Lingen Detention Center. They told me: ‘You took these pills regularly, so your blood pressure increased when you stopped taking them’. I had to stay at the center for a month and a half to get rid of this problem. After that, I started having heart problems.
Sputnik: Did you experience heart troubles before?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: No, never. It started with the increase in blood pressure due to the medication. I often called prison officials at night due to heart pain and shortness of breath. They took me to the cardiology department at Oldenburg’s hospital. It was a real circus: they brought me there with twenty heavily armed policemen. I was in hospital for seven days and received surgery. I got a stent implanted.
Sputnik: Were you ever afraid of being attacked in prison?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: Not really. Of course, if I had been extradited to a Ukrainian prison, then yes, that would be dangerous. But in Germany I think authorities pay more attention to ensure everything goes well.
Sputnik: Now that you are free, are you afraid for your life in the coming months?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: Yes, I am afraid, but my people and I try to ensure maximum safety. I try to be extremely careful.
Biden-Poroshenko Tapes: Money Laundering for Clinton’s 2016 Campaign
Sputnik: Let’s talk about the telephone recordings between Petro Poroshenko and former Us Vice President Biden. Ukrainian lawmaker Andrei Derkach released them to the public last week. Since then, everyone has been wondering how these recordings were made. What do you know about them?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: I was the one who passed them on. These are the recordings I actually wanted to present at the press conference in the United States [in December]. During my imprisonment, I decided to send the recordings to Derkach for him to present to the press.
Sputnik: How did you do this from prison?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: I handed them over through my Ukrainian lawyer.
Sputnik: So your lawyers had the recordings all this time? Are there any more of them?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: Yes, my lawyers had these recordings. Yes, there are more. The Trump administration will make use of them again in September. Because of the coronavirus they are waiting. But in September, closer to elections, they will begin to use them more.
Sputnik: So the Trump administration has received the tapes as well?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: Yes. They have also received many financial documents about various financial transfers from America and Europe to Ukraine. The money was laundered through a private company belonging to Poroshenko. In turn, the money was returned from Ukraine to the US, where it was used for [Hillary] Clinton’s election campaign. These monies went through Biden’s son and Burisma. When [former Ukrainian Prosecutor Viktor] Shokin launched an investigation against Burisma, he was sacked. Under the new prosecutor, the case was closed.
Sputnik: Burisma was used to raise money for Hillary Clinton’s campaign?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: Yes.
Sputnik: And that’s why Biden’s son Hunter was put on the board of the company?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: Exactly. This was payback for American financial assistance to Ukraine at the time. You can hear very well [in the tapes] how Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion [in loan assistance] if Attorney General Shokin was not dismissed. I wrote about the affair with Burisma in my 2017 book ‘Petro the Fifth’. I already had all the evidence in this case back then. I had served as Poroshenko’s right hand man for two years, I knew about all his conversations, about everything he was doing. I personally controlled a lot of these things myself along with the special services.
Sputnik: So you personally recorded the telephone conversations between Poroshenko and Biden in Poroshenko’s office?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: Yes.
Sputnik: These recordings are likely to have an explosive impact in American politics. Are they therefore dangerous to you?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: Yes. The Americans had exerted strong pressure to get the recordings, but I did not give them to them straight away, because I wanted to reach a protection deal first. It was supposed to happen [last] November. I was meant to transfer everything I had to the US judicial system, and in exchange they were to guarantee my safety and protect me from political persecution, give me asylum, give me a US passport.
Sputnik: Who prevented this? Who could have behind your arrest shortly before your trip to the US?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: I think the measures were taken by the Democrats in the US. Relations between the Democrats and German authorities are still very strong. They don’t like Trump here. In the local media he is mostly portrayed as an idiot. The Democrats are still very influential in Germany, in the US and, of course, in Ukraine. There the Trump administration still has no influence. In Ukraine the Democrats are still in charge of things through the Soros Foundation. The US consulate in Ukraine is directly connected to [George] Soros. He has many points of influence in the Ukrainian government.
Sputnik: You met with the FBI in 2017. What did you discuss with them?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: At that moment I was already facing political persecution and offered them the same deal – the recordings in exchange for protection. But they refused because the FBI was still closer to the Democrats than to the Trump administration. The FBI’s Karen Greenaway was then tasked with investigating corruption between the US and Ukraine. But she was also connected to the Democrats. We met and I told her what I had. They promised to help, but then did nothing. Only when the Trump administration found out about this did they take action.
When I was arrested, the months passed and the day approached when they could extradite me to Ukraine, so I decided to release most of the records and send them to the US. And then everything began moving very quickly and I was released.
Sputnik: Why didn’t the Trump administration intervene on your behalf sooner?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: I don’t understand this either. Perhaps because I was arrested in late November, when Biden’s rating was still low, so he didn’t pose a threat to Trump. In February, Biden suddenly became Trump’s main rival, and this made my materials interesting to the Trump team.
Sputnik: And then you were contacted again?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: Yes, Giuliani and his people wrote to my lawyers again. We had already been in contact before, everything had already been prepared for the press conference back in November. My lawyers and Giuliani’s team exchanged hundreds of emails. They were planning to come to Germany in February to the prison where I was held with a delegation from the US consulate and representatives of the press. But then I ended up in hospital, and after that the coronavirus pandemic happened and everything was canceled.
Zelensky vs. Poroshenko Power Struggle
Sputnik: Your extradition warrant was issued by the Ukrainian state, where Volodymyr Zelensky, not Poroshenko, is in charge. What benefit would Zelensky have in seeing you behind bars?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: The extradition order was signed in 2016. In 2017 I already had a court hearing where Ukraine’s request for extradition was rejected. I have this decision in writing from Koblenz’ Supreme Court, which says that my case is one of political persecution, and that therefore I cannot be either arrested or extradited. What’s interesting about this new arrest warrant from July 2019 is that the initiative came from Germany, not Ukraine. Germany wrote to Ukraine and asked if they were still interested in Onyshchenko. This was in May 2019, when Zelensky wasn’t president yet, and of course Kiev replied that they were still interested. It’s noteworthy that shortly before that, in April, Poroshenko paid a visit with [Chancellor Angela] Merkel. Apparently, my case was discussed, because a few weeks later, Germany renewed the request. This means it came from the very top. In July, the warrant was issued, but by that time Zelensky was president.
Sputnik: Why would Zelensky participate in this? Poroshenko is his political rival after all.
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: He had talked about this from the beginning. In his election program, he even promised to put Poroshenko in jail, because he, according to Zelensky, was the most corrupt person in Ukraine. Then, after becoming president, Zelensky was forced to come to the realization of who was really in power in Ukraine. Zelensky and the state have no money. Poroshenko has a great deal of money. I believe in Ukraine alone he has about $5 billion. And in Ukraine money can buy anything. At the moment, for example, there are 17 different legal cases against Poroshenko, but nothing is happening. He just buys people. He can easily spend a billion on his political games and do what he wants.
It’s likely that Zelensky has come to understand that he cannot continue without Poroshenko and his votes [i.e. Petro Poroshenko Bloc lawmakers in parliament, ed.]. This was shown with the law on land reform. At that time, Zelensky’s party needed the votes of Poroshenko’s party, and they came to an agreement. Since then, the proceedings against Poroshenko have failed to progress.
Sputnik: So you believe Poroshenko continues to be the most powerful person in Ukraine?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: Yes, of course. This can be seen from the way that Zelensky squirms when the subject of Poroshenko is brought up. In his campaign a year ago, during the debate with Poroshenko in the stadium, Zelensky told him ‘I will be your judgement’. Now, when several weeks ago he was asked at a press conference why Poroshenko was not in prison yet and still has so much power, he simply crumpled. He reacted in the same way to my recordings of the conversations between Biden and Poroshenko, saying he supposedly does not know, has to check first, that he has nothing to do with it and that the prosecutor general’s office should deal with this.
Commenting on the oligarchic power games behind the scenes in Ukraine, Onyshchenko suggested that Zelensky has proven in his first year an office to be unable to achieve any of his key election promises, including ending the civil war in Donbass, jailing Proshenko and putting an end to corruption.
Sputnik: Zelensky recently hired former Georgian ex-President Mikhail Saakashvili as a consultant. What do you think about this?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: This means that Soros and, consequently, the Democrats in the US are again dragging their people into the government, as happened before.
Ready to Go Back to Ukraine
Sputnik: If the charges against you are dropped, will you return to Ukraine?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: Yes, of course. But it would be even better if I just won my court case. After all, it began in my absence. The allegations are untrue, and I can prove it. From 2012, when I became a lawmaker, I gave up all my business activities. The only thing I did besides my work as a member of parliament was organizing and preparing for horseback riding tournaments. I have already spent a lot of time in Germany. So if I am accused of stealing $20 million in 2015, this is absurd. And even if this were true, in 2016 the state confiscated all my companies in Ukraine. These alone are worth about $300 million.
Sputnik: If you do not foresee returning to Ukraine in the near future, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: First, as I’ve said, to improve my health, and then win the legal process in Ukraine. I am glad that the hearing has finally begun. I’ve been waiting for four years to prove my innocence. And then all of Ukraine will see that from the beginning that my case was political persecution ordered by Poroshenko.
Sputnik: But you will not attend the hearings personally?
Oleksandr Onyshchenko: If the public prosecutor office will guarantee not to arrest me, I would be happy to take part in person. My lawyers are currently discussing exactly that with the prosecutor general.