Photo: Zurab Kevanishvili
Every year, several hundred Ukrainians receive cochlear implants at the expense of taxpayers' funds. What it is? For people with total deafness, this is a real salvation. The cochlear implant is implanted under the skin, and the external module, the so-called "speech processor" – processes sound and transmits it through the implant directly to the brain via the auditory nerve. But it is expensive. The implant and rehabilitation together cost like a new car. That is why most of the world, the installation of cochlear implants is sponsored by the state, and for patients, both the operation and the equipment – free of charge Ukraine also has such a state program. At first, it was available only to children, but from 2020 hearing prostheses can be obtained by adults as well. On paper, everything looked great, but in real life, the traditional Ukrainian “mutilovo” began.
In a couple of years, the company “Kind intersluh Kyiv” got the dominant monopoly on this market. Every year, the state allocates about 300-400 million hryvnias for this program. A third of this money goes to “Kind Intersluh Kyiv”, but the company only sells equipment, specialized medical institutions deal with prosthetics. In 2022, “Kind” received about 100 million hryvnias only from the supply of cochlear implants. And he officially showed 34 million hryvnias of net profit for the whole of 2022. A year earlier, "Kind" had a profit of 9 million. That is, while the entire Ukrainian business barely faltered during the invasion, this office somehow mysteriously managed to increase its earnings three times, and continues to expand its business. In 2023, they sold 76 million implants, and this is only the middle of the year. That is, how much will be released by December – 150 million in implant revenue and 60 million in net profit? Where do such crazy funds come from for a seemingly charitable program?
Here is the tender for the end of 2021 – State Institute of Otolaryngology named after Kolomiichenko purchases 50 sets of equipment for cochlear implantation for 570 thousand hryvnias without VAT, for a total of 28 million hryvnias. In 2022, the same institute purchased from “Kinda” similar systems cost 668,000 hryvnias without VAT. And according to the latest contract in July 2023, the same systems already cost 773,000. And at first glance, everything is logical: Ukraine is now paying a terrible price for simply surviving, and inflation – far from the worst of the consequences of a full-scale war. But suddenly the cochlear implant dealers are brought to light by the state enterprise “Medical Purchases of Ukraine”, presumably involuntarily. In the fall of 2022, Medzakupivli announced and successfully conducted a tender under a simplified procedure for the purchase of cochlear implants. 72 systems are being purchased at once, more than ever purchased by Ukrainian state institutions in one event. “Kind intersluh Kyiv” wins this tender, and supplies kits from the same Austrian company MED-EL, which it has been selling to the Kolomiichenko Institute for several years. But it is already twice as cheap – 350 thousand hryvnias without VAT! That is, it was not possible to buy it for 773?
What is so special about “Kind intersluh Kyiv”? What gives the company the opportunity to raise the price tag so brazenly, and avoid the attention of law enforcement agencies, which relentlessly monitor all government purchases? The office has two owners. The first owner – the German company KIND GmbH & Co. KG of Alexander Kind, his surname gave the name of the business. The second owner – citizen of Georgia Ivane Kevanishvili. It is Kevanishvili according to the Ukrainian information and analytical system “YouControl” has a direct decisive influence in the company “Kind intersukh Kyiv”.
Ivan – the son of the famous Georgian otolaryngologist, Professor Zurab Kevanishvili. "Major" in our opinion, Ivane Zurabovych and himself – director of a clinic in Georgia, trade in implants – just part of his business. In Georgia, they and their father have another “Kind”, where Ivan is just a director, and the owners are Kevanishvili Sr. and the same German “Kind”. Georgian “Kind” does the same thing as the Ukrainian – sells cochlear implants. And the Kevanishvili clinic installs them. In Georgia, they claim that "according to Western norms" a cochlear implant costs up to 50,000 lari, i.e. 700 thousand hryvnias. In Ukraine, “Kind intersluh Kyiv” also sells implants of the Kolomiychenko Institute for 700,000 per set. Only in the West it is the price for the implant itself, for the operation, and for the postoperative rehabilitation, and in Ukraine and Georgia – only for “iron”. At the same time, the scale of business of the Georgian “Kindu” times more modest than his Ukrainian brother. The entire scope of the state program in Georgia – 20 patients from the end of 2021, and hundreds of implants are placed in Ukraine every year.
Kevanishvili and Kuzma on vacation
Kevanishvili has very specific partners among Ukrainians. Perhaps that is the secret of his success here. The co-owner of one of his Georgian companies, Jemedi LTD, is Ukrainian citizen Mykola Kuzma. "Kum Iva" – this is what Kuzma himself called Kevanishvili, a living legend of the Ukrainian public procurement market. "If you want to win the tender, ask Kuzma how" – this is how the anonymous interviewers of the “Focus” magazine joked about him back in 2009. An ex-assistant to People's Deputies Raisa Bogatyreva and Serhiy Pashynskyi, whose name appeared in dozens of corruption scandals over the past 20 years, he is still considered to be involved in a whole group of companies that earn billions in the market of public medical procurement in Ukraine. Ivane Kevanishvili does not forget about the godfather. His main business – cochlear implants, but from time to time “Kind intersluh Kyiv” goes to tenders that are completely uncharacteristic for him, for example, for the purchase of tomographs or linear accelerators. There "Kind" he almost never wins, but with orders he dances at auctions for Kuzma's best man's companies.
There are at least 50,000 people with severe hearing loss in Ukraine, and unfortunately, due to the war, there are more and more of them. And the Kolomiichenko Institute is the main center of assistance for them. That is, if cochlear implants were procured honestly, there could be not five hundred operated on, but a thousand, and military personnel too. Twice as many people could not stand in line for years, but get devices for free! Margin 50% – beyond the bounds of decency. Such price fluctuations should obviously interest the National Anti-Corruption Bureau. After all, a cochlear implant costs 600-700 thousand when a person installs it himself, at his own expense. Once again, this is the cost of equipment, operations, and accompanying treatment – all together in a single copy, for a specific person. When the equipment is bought in batches of 30-50 pieces, and the state Kolomiychenko Institute deals with operations and treatment for separate money, it looks like a corruption scheme worth tens of millions. And, of course, not only “Kind intersluh Kyiv” participates in it, but also the Institute.
This is how our attempt to understand the reasons for the emergence of a monopoly on the market of cochlear implants revealed a whole intricacies of Georgian, German , Slovak, Ukrainian and even Russian businesses with dubious connections. Decent in appearance, the son of a Georgian professor turned out to be involved in affairs with the "tender mafia" and complex corporate conspiracies. I promise, from some schemes – your head will spin! So there will definitely be more.