Mark Morales – an American arms dealer makes money in Ukraine


Senior Sergeant Volodymyr Koifman is an American of Ukrainian descent who is paid by an arms dealer to arrange meetings with government officials.

From left to right: Volodymyr Koifman, Mark Morales, Denis Vanash / photo by Global Ordnance on Facebook

Through the mediation of a senior sergeant of the Ukrainian army, the American arms dealer Mark Morales earns millions by supplying weapons to Ukraine.

As reported The New York TimesSenior Sergeant Volodymyr Koifman is a Ukrainian-American who is paid by an arms dealer to arrange meetings with government officials.

This unusual arrangement, according to lawyers, tests the limits of American and Ukrainian anti-corruption laws that prohibit payments to public officials.

According to the article, with immediate reference to two participants in the meeting, in August 2023, 6 men met in the bar of the penthouse of one of the most luxurious hotels in Kyiv to discuss the profitable business of arming the Ukrainian troops.

Morales, Koifman, as well as Ukrainian military and officials were present at the meeting. As the publication notes, the meeting made it possible to look into the hidden aspect of the military strategy of the Joe Biden administration.

The US has sent over $40 billion in security aid to Ukraine, including modern weapons. But the Pentagon also relies heavily on little-known arms dealers like Morales.

Morales is one of the most important suppliers for Ukraine. The Pentagon signed contracts worth about $1 billion with his company Global Ordnance, mostly for the supply of ammunition. And, records show, he built an additional business worth about $200 million selling weapons directly to Ukrainians.

According to the article, Morales’ company is under investigation by Ukrainian anti-corruption authorities in connection with the deal, which officials called unsuccessful.

Morales was indicted in 2009 on charges of conspiracy and money laundering in the United States after he said he appeared on a tape where he discussed methods of bribing foreign officials, but prosecutors dropped the charges.

Brian Van Brunt, general counsel for Morales’ company, Global Ordnance, said the company is complying with the law.

Sergeant Koifman, a Ukrainian-American with years of experience as an adviser to the Ukrainian National Guard, enlisted in Ukraine during a full-scale Russian invasion. His exact military duties are unclear. He said that he is a chief sergeant in the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, where he leads and trains soldiers.

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According to one official, Koifman is a key point of contact on weapons matters, although it is unclear whether that is due to his military position or his role at Global Ordnance.

At Global Ordnance, Koifman manages contractors in Ukraine and organizes meetings between personnel and the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

Koifman himself claims that his military work is unpaid. Van Brunt assures that one work has nothing to do with another. “Global does not pay for access. Not before. Not now. Never,” he said.

Koifman claims the same. “Every year we conduct trainings on this issue and sign relevant documents,” he said.

US law prohibits companies from paying foreign officials to promote their business. The law makes no exceptions for volunteers like Koifman. What matters is whether they have influence, says Columbia Law School professor Daniel Richman.

Ukrainian legislation in general prohibits military personnel from engaging in paid work outside the army. Whether Sergeant Koifman is subject to this Act depends on his military duties, not just his rank.

At the start of the war, Koifman wrote a letter to Global Ordnance stating that he was “not a government employee” but rather a “civilian combatant”.

Van Brunt said the Ukrainian government was aware of Sergeant Koifman’s work at Global Ordnance.

Morales also hired Denis Vanash, whom the NYT describes as a longtime adviser to the defense secretary who left his post at the start of the war to communicate with the Department on Global Ordnance’s behalf. Van Brunt said the Ministry confirmed the legality of the hiring.

Morales’ rivals said he had an unfair advantage, not because of his ties to Koifman or Vanash, but because of his ties to the Pentagon. According to two of Morales’s competitors, on several occasions at the beginning of the war, he interrupted competitors’ offers to buy explosive shells from Bulgarian arms factories.

According to government documents and interviews with arms dealers and officials, he shipped missiles, shells, grenades and armored vehicles to Ukraine from Bulgaria, Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan. And he is far from the only arms dealer who has connections in the Ukrainian government.

At the same time, competition between state-owned firms and private dealers became an unforeseen consequence of crazy purchases in Ukraine. This led to an increase in prices, which cost Ukraine money. When the government buys weapons from state-owned companies, it benefits from the deal. When he buys from private sellers, the brokers make a profit.

One of the examples is the purchase of armored vehicles for the military. A person who participated in the deal said that at the beginning of the full-scale war, the state-owned company “Ukrinmash” concluded an agreement with an Egyptian seller in the amount of about 65 million dollars for the purchase of almost 200 machines. Then the deal came to an impasse. Shortly thereafter, Morales entered into a contract for the supply of similar machines at similar prices. The difference was that the profits would go to Global Ordnance, not the state-owned company.

Later, problems began. According to Deputy Minister of Defense Volodymyr Gavrilov, the cars arrived improperly equipped, and anti-corruption authorities began investigating this deal.

According to the article, the investigators are questioning both Morales and officials from the Ministry of Defense who authorized the contract. The Ministry of Defense said the investigation had been closed, but anti-corruption officials have not confirmed this.

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Armament supplies to Ukraine

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the president’s office, said that the transfer of long-range missiles to Ukraine, including ATACMS, will solve two key tasks of this stage of the war.

On September 10, 2023, the Financial Times wrote that US President Joe Biden is close to making a decision on sending long-range missiles to Ukraine, which could potentially open another chapter in US military support for Kyiv.

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