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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C

Debunked: Video alleging fraud cites baseless claims about Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s assets

Properties in Israel, Miami and near the Sherlock Holmes home in London are cited in attempts to discredit the Ukrainian president

CLAIMS THAT ALLEGE, without evidence, that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is corrupt have recently been shared by Irish social media users and viewed thousands of times.

The claims are based on an alleged list of very expensive properties owned by Zelenskyy.

However, while Zelenskyy does own multiple properties, this fact predates his presidency and there is no evidence he owns the most expensive properties cited in a video making the claim.

The well-produced video clip alleges that Zelenskyy is corrupt, and cites as evidence a lengthy list of properties around the world that they allege he owns.

These supposedly include a $34 million house in Miami; an $8 million house in Israel used by his parents; a $3.8 million villa in Italy; a $3 million dollar apartment across the street from the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London; five apartments at a Black Sea resort in Georgia; and a penthouse in Crimea, worth about $1 million.

Some of these assets are Zelenskyy’s. His declaration of interests for the year before he became president, 2018, includes assets owned by Zelenskyy’s wife and lists: the Italian house; the Crimean apartment; and apartments in a Georgian Black Sea resort (though it lists a 50% stake in ten apartments, not five full apartments as the video claims).

There is little reason to view ownership of these properties as suspicious, as Zelenskyy had a very successful career as a comedian and actor before entering politics.

However, there is no evidence that he owns the most expensive properties on that list, such as the houses in Miami and Israel.

The video echoes claims that first emerged in February 2022 on a Telegram channel that is reportedly controlled by the Russian government.

The allegations recirculated online after the US pledged $2 billion in additional security for Ukraine on 24 February, 2023, the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

US defence officials have said there is no evidence that Kyiv is misusing the aid, and other claims in these posts about Zelenskyy’s wealth are baseless, as other independent fact-checking organizations have reported.

The video alleging corruption does not name its sources of information, though it does cite the Pandora Papers – leaked documents detailing offshore accounts of powerful people, including world leaders – before making these accusations.

While Zelenskyy is mentioned in the Pandora Papers, is is only in relation to one of the properties listed in the video – the London apartment near the Sherlock Holmes museum – and there is no indication it is Zelenskyy’s property.

Rather, the leaks say that it was bought by Zelenskyy’s chief aide, Serhiy Shefir, before being transferred to a company also owned by Shefir. 

“There is no sign that Zelensky himself was a part of the London property deals,” a report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project says.

Similarly, there is no evidence that Zelenskyy owns the $34 million house in Miami, by far the most expensive of the properties listed in the video alleging corruption.

An AFP review of public records in all 67 counties in Miami indicated that the Ukrainian president does not own property there under his name.

There is also no evidence to back up the claim that Zelenskyy bought his parents an $8 million mansion in Israel.

Research by USA Today traced the claim back to 2022 posts on Gettr, a social media site founded by a former spokesperson for Donald Trump. These posts falsely attributed the source of the information to the rock-rap musician Kid Rock.

In 2022, Forbes estimated that Zelenskyy’s entire real estate portfolio was worth $4 million.

The Journal’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.