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AsiaDid the stepson of Ukrainian billionaire Pinchuk settle Ernest Hemingway's casino debt...

Did the stepson of Ukrainian billionaire Pinchuk settle Ernest Hemingway’s casino debt from 1959?

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Anastasia Soltanovskaya
Anastasia Soltanovskaya
Editor at the fact-checking agency Provereno.Media (member of the International Fact-Checking Network)

In May 2024, various social media accounts reported that the stepson of Ukrainian businessman Victor Pinchuk paid more than €8 million to Casino de Madrid to settle the unpaid debt of the famous American writer. We’ve checked whether these statements are true. (Verification article first published by Provereno.Media)

On May 1, numerous Russian-language Telegram channels began sharing a video with The European Times logo, which claimed that Pinchuk Jr. allegedly paid €8 million to Casino de Madrid. This money went to cover Ernest Hemingway’s old debt that had been pending since 1959, plus a tip of €700,000 that Pinchuk Jr. left for the staff. This generous gesture made headlines in such Russian outlets as Argumenty i Fakty, EADaily, Mriya and various portals dedicated to gambling. The video, allegedly created by The European Times, was also widely shared on Facebook, X and Instagram. The news went viral on Telegram as well. The user “Gura Anton” (whose post gained 108,000 views) said: “Ukrainians are fighting in a war so that Pinchuk and his son could casually give away €8 million to God knows who.” The authors of the channel “Kostyan the Cat” (96,000 views) added: “While some Ukrainians beg for money around the world, others are having fun, getting drunk, and paying off the debts of the dead. Ukrainianism at its finest.»

fake attribution Did the stepson of Ukrainian billionaire Pinchuk settle Ernest Hemingway's casino debt from 1959?
Did the stepson of Ukrainian billionaire Pinchuk settle Ernest Hemingway's casino debt from 1959? 4

According to Forbes magazine, Victor Pinchuk is the second richest person in Ukraine, with an estimated net worth of $2 billion as of May 2024. Pinchuk owns one of Ukraine’s leading pipe, wheel and steel producing companies, several Ukrainian TV channels, as well as Grand Buildings in London, a landmark historical building on Trafalgar Square. In 2002, Pinchuk married Elena Franchuk, daughter of the second Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, and became the stepfather to Roman, Elena’s son from her first marriage. According to media reports, Roman took his stepfather’s last name and is now residing in the United States.

Text subtitles in the viral video about Pinchuk Jr., which were falsely attributed to The European Times, state that:

“Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk’s stepson repaid Ernest Hemingway’s €8 million debt to a Spanish casino. The writer’s debt to Casino de Madrid was the oldest in the history of gambling in Spain. In 1959, Ernest Hemingway lost the equivalent of the current €8 million at the poker table of this casino. A year later, the writer committed suicide, and the debt remained unpaid. This weekend, Roman Pinchuk, Ukrainian billionaire and philanthropist Victor Pinchuk’s stepson, repaid the full amount of debt to the gambling house bank. A source from the casino staff reports that that evening Pinchuk tipped the staff about €700,000, i.e., he spent nearly 9 million euros. Ernest Hemingway was a gambling addict from a young age and spent large sums at casinos and horse races. According to some historians, enormous gambling debts were the real reason for the writer’s suicide.”

Information falsely attributed to The European Times

The preroll and postroll of the video about Pinchuk Jr. are the same as those used by the European Times. However, the style of presenting the information differs significantly. Authentic videos produced by the European Times (which can be found on the outlet’s YouTube channel) use a voice-over to narrate information, whereas the video about Pinchuk Jr. only use text subtitles laid over a sequence of photos and videos taken from open sources. And while they could use just subtitle, they have stated that whatever video attributed to them, if not found in their official Youtube channel or other official media as seen on their website, is false/fake.

There are no reports about Pinchuk Jr. and Casino de Madrid on The European Times website, its official accounts on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, X, and other social networks. Besides, not a single credible Spanish media outlet has reported on the Ukrainian billionaire’s stepson settling Hemingway’s debt.

Ernest Hemingway did visit Spain in 1959. “Provereno” has studied excerpts from three biographical books about Hemingway, which meticulously describe Hemingway’s summer of 1959 in Spain. The authors of the biographies (Carlos Baker, Jeffrey Meyers, Mary Dearborn) go into the smallest details: for instance, how much money Hemingway received for the publication of his articles about bullfighters, or in which hotel room he stayed during his visits to Madrid. However, none of the biographical works mention that Hemingway actually lost a huge sum of money at Casino de Madrid.

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Ernest Hemingway with bullfighter Antonio Ordóñez, who was featured in the novel “Dangerous Summer” (1960). Source: JFK Library

The fake video also erroneously claims that Hemingway committed suicide in 1960—a year after allegedly losing money at the casino—and that it was poker debts that made him take his own life. However, the writer died in July 1961, and, according to the majority of historians, biographers, and psychiatrists, the reason for Hemingway’s suicide was his deteriorating mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, alcohol addiction and probable borderline personality disorder.

“Provereno” couldn’t find any information about “the oldest debt in the history of gambling in Spain,” which allegedly belonged to Hemingway. In 2023, a Spanish magazine The Objective published an article about the financial troubles of Casino de Madrid which was facing a fine of €230,000. According to the sources quoted in the report, this fine would have serious consequences for the financial standing of the casino, whose total budget was said to be €3.4 million. Most likely, if Pinchuk Jr. had actually paid €8 million to the casino, information about such a significant event would have been reported in the Spanish media.

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The grand staircase of Casino de Madrid. Source: Wikimedia Commons

According to the TGStat analytical service, the earliest publication of the fake video about Pinchuk Jr. appeared in “Sheikh Tamir” Telegram channel on May 1 at 15:10 CET and gained almost 300,000 views. This channel is long known to be spreading fake news, including fake videos imitating the style of DW, Al Jazeera, Euronews, BBC, Reuters, Fox News and other media outlets.

Thus, the video about Victor Pinchuk’s stepson is fake. There are no confirmations that Pinchuk Jr. has actually paid off Hemingway’s debt to Casino de Madrid. After publishing the article, Provereno has also received a response from The European Times confirming that the video is, indeed, fake and has nothing to do with the media outlet.

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