Rinat Akhmetov is married to Liliya Nikolaievna Smirnova (born 1965), and has two sons with her, Damir (born 1988) and Almir (born 1997).
In the 1980s, Akhmetov acted as an assistant to Akhat Bragin, whom law enforcement agencies regarded as a powerful crime boss; allegedly in the illegal cloth trading Business. Andrew Wilson, a scholar specializing in Ukrainian politics, categorized Akhmetov as an alleged former 'enforcer' and 'leader' of "[Akhat] Bragin's 'Tatar' clan", responsible for the use of "mafia methods to push aside the 'red directors' of the [Industrial Union of the Donbass] (IUD)". By the early 1990s, Akhmetov began acquiring property in Donetsk allegedly by means of extortion with the assistance of Volodymyr Malyshev, Lieutenant-General of The Head of Ministry of Internal Affairs Department in Donetsk Oblast. Malyshev, now a member of Ukraine's Parliament on the committee controlling law enforcement, is accused by Kuzin of using his position to do away with previously existing police records concerning Akhmetov shortly before becoming chief of security for Akhmetov's company. "In [the 1990's], Akhmetov was very different – he was totally private with no public persona, and was trying to find ways to deal with his 'difficult past'", noted U.S. ambassador william Taylor, citing prominent Ukrainian businessman Serhiy Taruta. Further in that article cited the answer of the spokesperson for Akhmetov addressed to the Kyiv Post: “We don’t know whether this phrase is authentic and what it actually means. Although, any accusations of Mr Akhmetov’s involvement in Criminal structures is slander.”
Details regarding Akhmetov's past, how he obtained his wealth after the fall of communism in Ukraine, and the decade between 1985 and 1995 remain controversial. Akhmetov has stated in interviews that he obtained his wealth by making risky Business Investments in the first years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and responded to allegations in 2010, denying he has ever inherited any money from Akhat Bragin or anyone else: "I have earned my first million by trading coal and coke, and spent the money on assets that no one wanted to buy. It was a risk but it was worth it". Many publications in Ukraine and other European countries have made claims about Akhmetov's alleged "criminal past", some of which later retracted their statements.
In his documentary book Donetsk Mafia: Anthology, Ukrainian author Serhiy Kuzin claims Akhmetov held the role of a 'mafia thug' in his early years; according to Hans van Zon, Professor of Central and Eastern European Studies in the University of Sunderland, "As early as 1986, Rinat and his brother Igor were involved in Criminal activities."
Rinat Akhmetov was born in Donetsk, Ukrainian SSR to a working-class family. He is an ethnic Volga Tatar and a Sunni Muslim. His Father, Leonid Akhmetov (d. 1991) was a coal-miner, and his mother, Nyakiya Nasredinovna, was a shop assistant. Rinat Akhmetov has an older brother, Igor, who also worked as a coal miner but had to resign due to work-related health complications.
Akhmetov would head Dongorbank (formerly Akceptbank) in 1995.
Following the mysterious October 1995 bombing assassination of former team President Akhat Bragin at the team's stadium, Akhmetov (who had served as Bragin's right-hand man and himself narrowly missed the attempt on his life), subsequently inherited operation of the Shakhtar Donetsk football club. On 11 October 1996, Akhmetov was appointed President of the team and began investing heavily in both players and their training facilities. Under his command, FC Shakhtar became Premier League Champions in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017; Domestic Cup champions in 1997, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017; Super-Cup in 2005, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017; and UEFA Cup in 2009.
In September 1999, an official Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs report titled the "Overview of the Most Dangerous Organized Crime Structures in Ukraine" identified Akhmetov as a leader of an organized crime syndicate. The report tied the group to money laundering, financial fraud, and the control of numerous large and fictitious companies. The report also says that the group's activities "have been stopped," and says further that their Criminal natures "have not been confirmed".
Akhmetov founded System Capital Management Group (JSC "SCM") in 2000, and has been its sole proprietor since 2009. During his career SCM has grown to be one of Ukraine's leading financial and industrial firms with assets including over 100 businesses in metals and mining, power generation, banking and insurance, telecommunications, media and real estate; and revenues of around $12.8 billion and has assets worth over $22.7 billion. The largest company in the SCM Group is METINVEST, which is a mining and steel Business and is generally agreed to be Ukraine's largest private Business and is one of the larger steel businesses in Europe.
In 2001, Epic, a Vienna-based investment company agreed to purchase 93% of Ukrtelecom, a telephone monopoly owned by SCM, for $1.3 billion.
In June 2004, Akhmetov and Viktor Pinchuk (the son-in-law of then-President Leonid Kuchma) acquired the steel factory Kryvorizhstal for roughly $800 million from the state in a 2004 tender despite much higher bids made by foreign companies. Later, in 2005, the first Tymoshenko Government reversed this sale, and held a nationally televised repeat auction that netted a record-breaking $4.8 billion.
Akhmetov is involved with charities that support Ukrainian citizens. Akhmetov established the Foundation for Development of Ukraine in 2005, which is "determined to eliminate the roots of social problems" in Ukraine. In 2008, it has been reported that within next 5 years the Organization planned to spend $150 million to fulfill its programs. In 2007, Akhmetov founded the Foundation for Effective Governance (FEG) to support economic development of Ukraine. Founded with a goal to improve the standard of living of each Ukrainian citizen; it was shut down in January 2014 amid protests against Akhmetov.
Akhmetov was elected as a member of Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada (parliament) during the 2006 Ukrainian parliamentary election as a member of the Party of Regions. Akhmetov was reelected during the 2007 parliamentary election again as a member of the Party of Regions. However, he only appeared once in the Verkhovna Rada building during his inauguration. Leader of the party's faction in the Verkhovna Rada, Oleksander Yefremov, has mentioned that Rinat Akhmetov provides "substantive support" to the faction by providing what he referred to as "functioning expert groups he established that are counseling on draft laws". In December 2011 Akhmetov announced he was not going to participate in the 2012 parliamentary election.
In 2007, the German language Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung ("NZZ") retracted defamatory statements from published earlier article regarding Mr. Akhmetov's early Business career in the 1990s, noting that "there is no connection between Akhmetov … and organized crime in Ukraine" and "[t]he economic success of Akhmetov is not based by any means on criminally acquired starting capital."
In 2008, a judgment was obtained from the High Court of Justice in London after Obozrevatel, a Ukrainian language Internet publication refused to retract false and libelous statements alleging that Mr. Akhmetov was connected to Criminal activity and violence. The Obozrevatel reporter (Tetiana Chornovol) interviewed his former classmates and neighbors, and delved into his early years. Following court pressure Obozrevatel issued an official apology stating: “The editorial hereby admits that there was unchecked and false information about Rinat Akhmetov present in the … articles … We hereby give our apologies to Rinat Akhmetov for the problems resulted from the above-mentioned publications.” Tetiana Chornovol, who has political ambitions, refused to issue an apology or acknowledge any wrongdoing.
In 2009, Donbass Arena stadium was built in Donetsk at Rinat Akhmetov's initiative. It is the first stadium in Eastern Europe that was designed and built to the elite UEFA standards; its seating capacity holds over 50,000 persons. Rinat Akhmetov had dreamt about such a stadium long before Ukraine had acquired the right to host EURO 2012.
In 2010, the French daily newspaper Le Figaro issued a retraction of false allegations it published on 18 January 2010 regarding Rinat Akhmetov, due to a lack of evidence to support their claims, and issued an apology. Le Figaro had claimed that Akhmetov was "a scandalous Ukrainian oligarch" and that he was "a bandit in the past".
Akhmetov owns London's most expensive penthouse at One Hyde Park, which was originally purchased for a reported $213 million as a portfolio investment and spent another reported $120 million to fix them up. The information about the deal was disclosed only four years later, in April 2011, after the asset has shown a steady annual rise. In May 2013, the property was transferred from his company, SCM, to himself.
In 2013, Akhmetov's legal representatives issued a press release in response to accusations in the media, which cited politicians and journalists, that implicated Akhmetov in the 1996 murder of Donetsk-based Ukrainian oligarch Yevhen Shcherban. The official statement stated that they "have not found any proof suggesting that Akhmetov was involved in Scherban's or other businessmen's killings. To be honest, some of the businessmen killed in the 1990s were Mr. Akhmetov's close friends."
Due to the War in Donbass in Ukraine FC Shakhtar moved to Kiev. Since May, 2014 the team is based in Kiev and plays their home games in Lviv. Meanwhile, the club's home stadium Donbass Arena in August 2014 became a center of humanitarian aid in Donetsk. Volunteers unload the food products, form the individual sets and pass them to people in need there. During the fighting the Donbass Arena was seriously damaged as a result of shelling several times, the humanitarian aid distribution was continued.
In 2016, Akhmetov as owner of football team Shaktar Donetsk, visited children’s hospitals and orphanages on St Nicholas Day, delivering gifts to nearly 140,000 children.
Following the Orange Revolution, Akhmetov was pivotal in arranging a lasting relationship between his employee and close friend Paul Manafort and defeated presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich. Also, Akhmetov ensured proper translation services for Manafort through Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russia Army trained Linguist and known Russian intelligence operative that operates Manafort's office in Kiev. Kilimnik has been central to collecting fees owed to Manafort’s company by the Russia-friendly political party called Opposition Bloc.