Does Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky Own a $35 Million Villa in Florida?

At the heels of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 4, 2022, some social media users circulated posts alleging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy owned a $35 million home in Florida.

The posts were shared in an attempt to criticise Zelensky as he became the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance against the Russian offensive.

Zelensky's Billion Dollars in Offshore Accounts and a Villa in Miami

Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Volodymyr Zelenskyy

For example, the conspiratorial website "shtf" (its domain is registered in the tiny Polynesian island country of Tuvalu) ran a headline in March 2022 stating, "Zelensky found a billion dollars and a villa in Miami."

As its source, the website cited Ilya Kiva, a Ukrainian legislator who was stripped of his lawmaking status by the Ukrainian Parliament for parroting Russian propaganda talking points. The article claimed Zelenskyy of accumulated $1.2 billion in offshore accounts during his presidency and managed to "buy a villa in Miami for $34 million, as well as several sets of jewelry for $5.6 million."

Zelensky's Panama Papers Revelations

Fact-checking website Snopes said it could not corroborate this claim but noted that when the above accusation was made, Ukraine was in the midst of a war with Russia and Zelensky had become an international hero after a display or courage by staying in Kyiv and leading from the front despite reports that Russian assassins were trying to kill him.

In October 2021, Zelenskyy's financial dealings did appear in a series of documents leaked as part of the so-called "Pandora Papers." The papers consist of nearly 12 million files that were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), sourced from companies that "provide corporate services in offshore jurisdictions," according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

The trove of files made public in late 2021 revealed some of the secret financial dealings of world leaders and celebrities, including Zelenskyy. The Guardian, which analyzed the files as part of a global investigation, reported in an Oct. 3., 2021, article that Zelenskyy had a previously undisclosed stake in an offshore company that he "appears to have secretly transferred to a friend weeks before winning the presidential vote."

According to the Guardian article, his other disclosed assets included cars, property and three of the co-owned offshore companies. One, Film Heritage, which he held jointly with his wife, Olena, and another, Kvartal 95, registered in Belize.

Zelensky apparently failed to disclose that Film Heritage had a 25% stake in Davegra, a Cyprus holding company. Davegra in turn owns Maltex Multicapital Corp, a previously unknown entity registered in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands. Zelenskiy, the Shefir brothers, and Yakovlev each held a 25% stake in Maltex.

Shortly before the Ukraine election in 2019, Zelenskyy quietly gifted his stake to his business partner and soon-to-be top presidential aide Serhiy Shefir. The revelations were embarrassing for Zelensky as ran for presidency on an anti-corruption campaign. That said, as of publishing, there is no evidence or indication to suggest that Zelensky owns a multi-million dollar property in Florida.