Ukraine's central bank files Swiss court claim against PrivatBank's former owner

KIEV, Dec 19 (Reuters) - The Ukrainian central bank has filed a claim in Switzerland against the former major shareholder of Ukraine’s largest lender PrivatBank, it said on Wednesday, seeking compensation for loans made to the bank before its nationalization two years ago.

The central bank said in a statement that it “aims to collect Ihor Kolomoisky’s debt as the guarantor to the NBU (National Bank of Ukraine) under private sureties issued in 2016 in respect of five agreements to provide refinancing loans to the bank.”

It said it had failed to reach an out-of-court agreement with the second wealthiest person in Ukraine, who is being asked to repay 6.64 billion hryvnias (about $238 million).

A law firm representing the billionaire did not immediately comment on the claim.

The case filed to the Tribunal de Premiere Instance in Geneva is part of a protracted legal battle between the Ukrainian government and PrivatBank’s former owners after it was forcibly nationalised in December 2016.

The government nationalised PrivaBank with a $5.5 bln gap in its capital in a bid to protect millions of hryvnias in customer deposits, part of a clean-up of the country’s banking system backed by the International Monetary Fund.

In early December a London court ruled that it had no jurisdiction in another case pitting PrivatBank against its two former main shareholders, a setback in efforts by the bank to claw back about $2 billion it says was lost to fraud. The former owners strongly deny wrongdoing.

The central bank said the new claim had been filed “according to the place of residence of the former shareholder”.

PrivatBank has already said it would appeal the judgment, which also set aside a freezing order on the assets of Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov.

Recovering some of the PrivatBank money the government claims was lost would help to shore up Ukraine’s finances, with the government facing peak debt payments during presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019.

Kolomoisky has also instigated a number of lawsuits and wants to regain control of the bank. (Reporting by Natalia Zinets; additional reporting by Dasha Afanasieva in London)