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President's millionaire son doubles wealth on Ukraine rich list

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The eldest son of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has doubled his wealth in the past year, bucking Ukraine's economic problems and bolstering his position among its top two hundred richest men, according to a new rich list published this week.

The Ukrainian weekly Focus said that Olexander Yanukovych -- who founded the construction and banking group Maco Holding -- saw his wealth double to $196 million in the past year.

His dynamic rise is one of the most interesting shifts in a list whose top places remain dominated by familiar and still topped by mining magnate and Shakhtar Donetsk football team owner Rinat Akhmetov with an estimated fortune of $16.8 billion.

A dentist by training who never talks to the press, Olexander Yanukovych, 39, has become an almost mystical figure in Ukraine since emerging as one of its richest men after his father was elected head of state in 2010.

Ukrainian independent media had in 2012 and 2011 estimated his fortune to be around $100 million. But in February, Maco said that its assets as of 2011 were estimated to 1.7 billion hryvnia ($200 million) by PWC auditors.

The group also said it had 16 businesses in Ukraine, the Netherlands and Switzerland as of end 2011.

Olexander Yanukovych is according to the Focus list the 76th richest man in Ukraine. He is also seen as a key figure in the elite of close allies that surround the president and are known as "the Family".

Focus also placed him number three in its top most influential Ukrainians list published in December, just behind his father and Akhmetov.

Several young figures seen as close to Olexander were appointed by his father to key posts in the government, including most notably Deputy Prime Minister and former central bank chief Sergiy Arbuzov.

"Every person has a family -- I have one and the president does and you do too," Arbuzov tetchily told reporters in rare comments earlier this month.

"There is no need to create fear and put what you want in the place of what is true," added Arbuzov, seen by some as a possible candidate to replace Mykola Azarov as prime minister.

The Swiss newspaper Le Matin earlier this year dubbed Olexander Yanukovych "the king of coal" claiming that he sold coal for millions of dollars ever month via a secretive firm quietly based in Geneva.

Ukraine's opposition media have repeatedly raised suspicions over how Olexander became rich so rapidly. The president evaded direct answer to a question about his son at a news conference in early March.

"You have the chance to ask him yourself about this," the president told the reporter, without explaining how this questioning might be arranged.

"He (Olexander) is used to working a lot. The main thing that I ask him is that everything is done transparently because the media is putting him under the microscope."

Akhmetov, whose Donetsk-based SCM conglomerate groups interests in energy, finance, telecoms and property, remains by Ukraine's richest man, according to the Focus list.

Far behind in joint second place are Igor Kolomoisky and Gennady Bogolyubov, who jointly founded the Privat metals and banking group, with around $3.65 billion apiece.

Focus said that an astonishing 26 Ukrainian parliament deputies from Yanukovych's ruling Regions Party had made its list of Ukraine's 200 richest individuals with a total fortune between them of $9.5 billion.

Critics led by jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko accuse Yanukovych and his party of cronyism, nepotism and corruption, allegations denied by the government which insists it is cracking down on graft.

"Businessman close to the authorities are building up their assets. Those not linked to the authorities are putting their money into the shadows, avoiding tax and publicity," said Focus.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130331/presidents-millionaire-son-doubles-wealth-ukraine-rich-list