by AntAC and Automaidan, originally published by Censor.net
“The U.S. Embassy directly controls the NACP, the NABU, the SAPO and the HACC. All this is done under the plausible pretext of improving effectiveness of the fight against corruption. Well, okay, but where are results? Corruption has been in full bloom, and it is still in full bloom, more than ever.”
This is quote of Vladimir Putin’s appeal to his subjects, which he announced on February 21, 2022.
Anti-corruption bodies that were established in Ukraine after the Revolution of Dignity have always been the bone in the throat for Russians. In recent years, they have been systematically destroying the most important ally of Russia in Ukraine, namely corruption. Throughout years of independence, it was corruption that helped Russians to control Ukrainian officials, win elections, block progressive reforms, bribe traitors or seize strategic enterprises. Therefore, it is not surprising that Putin singled out anti-corruption bodies among main enemies of the “russian world” in Ukraine.
Despite such difficult year in every sense, the anti-corruption bodies passed it with dignity in general, and some of their results exceeded all expectations. The key events on the anti-corruption front are described below.
The main anti-corruption challenge of the year
The main challenge of the year was working during the full-scale war. At the beginning of invasion, some employees of the anti-corruption bodies defended the country, while others were engaged in preserving materials of criminal proceedings and ensuring the necessary level of work, because the continuation of preventive measures, consideration of complaints and appeals was not canceled.
Several dozen employees of the NABU participated in the protection of important facility in the government quarter of the capital. Twelve prosecutors of the SAPO mobilized to the Territorial Defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and they did it voluntarily, although they had reservation from mobilization. You have to agree that this says a lot about quality of these people. Detectives were also searching for saboteurs and collaborators, establishing the location and movement of the Russian military, and several times found places where Russians were ambushed. Seven officers of the NABU were awarded with state awards by the President of Ukraine.
Unfortunately, there were also losses. One detective was seriously wounded during fights near the village of Pytomnyk in Kharkiv region. In September, Ivan Gvozdev, the Major of the Special Operations Department of the NABU was killed during hostilities in Mykolaiv region. He left his wife and parents. In October, the Major Taras Pona of the Ukrainian Security Service was killed near Bakhmut. He left three children and his wife.
Active work was resumed only after our glorious Armed Forces of Ukraine and other defense forces pushed the invaders to leave Kyiv region. New investigations and disclosures appeared, and previously completed cases began to be sent to the court more and more often.
Also, due to the full-scale invasion, the NABU and the SAPO suspended the use of the electronic proceedings system (eCase Management System) for some time. But in August, the system was restored and information on new cases was added. The anti-corruption bodies became the first in Ukraine to digitalize the criminal process at the end of 2021. Today, it is important not to stop, develop and make the most of the new system.
One of key indicators of the work of law enforcement agencies and courts is the final result in the form of final decisions. In 2022, the High Anti-Corruption Court made 37 verdicts in the first instance: 33 guilty verdicts and 4 verdicts of not guilty. Out of 33 guilty verdicts: 23 verdicts were with real imprisonment and 10 with suspended sentences, as defendants made plea bargain and admitted their guilt.
Despite the full-scale invasion, this year’s figures are even higher than last year, when the HACC made 34 verdicts.
In general, the HACC is confidently approaching the first hundred verdicts. However, we still have not seen verdicts in top cases, in particular regarding Trukhanov, Nasirov, Martynenko, Onyshchenko, Rozenblatt and Polyakov, Chaus, etc.
Why are these verdicts still missing? There are different reasons. For instance, in the case of Odesa Mayor Trukhanov on misappropriation of 92.6 million UAH of the city budget, the preparatory meeting has not been held for 1.5 years. In the “amber case” of former MPs Polyakov and Rozenblatt the situation is even worse. The preparatory meeting has been going on for almost 3 years, during which some of the accused have managed to avoid punishment, because state of limatation has expired.
In total, in 2022, the HACC made verdicts against such persons. Namely:
- former prosecutor Volodymyr Chebotarev, who was sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment for incitement to bribery and fraud;
- Mykola Kharkavyi, Member of Parliament of Khmelnytskyi Regional Council. He received 7 years of imprisonment with confiscation of property for the completed attempted fraud and incitement to provide 50.000 USD;
- former deputy prosecutor of Kirovograd region Oleksiy Varakin, who received 6 years of imprisonment for giving the bribe in the amount of 1.000 USD;
- former bribe-taking judges Andriy Novak and Oleksandr Bilyk from Holosiivskyi court of Kyiv. They received 7.5 and 7 years of imprisonment with confiscation for the bribe in the amount of 8.000 USD;
- judge from Slovyansk Igor Minaev, who received 5.5 years of imprisonment for the bribe in the amount of 6.000 UAH;
- forestry director from Kharkiv region Viktor Sysa, who tried to bribe the detective of the NABU with 100.000 USD. He was sentenced to 5.5 years of imprisonment;
- former Deputy Minister of Temporarily Occupied Territories Yuriy Grymchak, who was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment with confiscation of property for fraud and obtaining undue advantage. He was also charged over 200.000 UAH of court costs and over 938.000 UAH in the civil suit;
- Andriy Rachkov from the Titanium Institute. He was sentenced in absentia to 10 years of imprisonment. The court also confiscated all his property and additionally recovered 10 million UAH from him in favor of the Institute;
- former director of the association Radon Igor Buksanchuk, who was sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment with confiscation of property for giving the bribe in the amount of 210.000 UAH;
- former judge Oleg Yushchuk. He was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment for promising to influence his colleague for 500 USD;
- Gennadiy Dyachenko in the case of embezzlement of 8 million USD loan for express train to Boryspil. He was sentenced in absentia to 11 years of imprisonment, and his accomplice Ivan Radyk will go to prison for 10.5 years. All property was confiscated from both of them and they were obliged to compensate for losses;
- former director of the Department of Capital Construction of Kharkiv Regional State Administration Andriy Vynnychenko, who was sent to prison for 7 years with confiscation for the completed attempt to obtain 1.32 million UAH;
- judge Sergiy Lazyuk from Kharkiv. He was sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment with confiscation for receiving 500 USD and 75.000 UAH as undue advantage;
- judge Sergiy Kononenko from Poltava, who also received 7 years of imprisonment with confiscation for the bribe in the amount of 3.000 UAH;
- acting director of the state enterprise Chervonyi Zemlerob Lyubov Reva and her accomplice Maksym Zamrykot, who were sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment with confiscation of half of the property for attempted embezzlement of 3.5 million UAH;
- former head of Kiliya District State Administration Viktor Grekov and official of this administration Tetyana Volkova. They received 8 years of imprisonment with confiscation for the bribe in the amount of 2.300 USD;
- former official of the Ministry of Justice Mykhailo Dzyudz, who received 6 years of imprisonment with confiscation for the bribe in the amount of 1.000 USD;
- lawyer Dmytro Polishchuk and his accomplice Anatoliy Onopriychuk were convicted for abuse of influence against the judge, but they were released from serving their sentences due to the statute of limitations;
- wanted judge Ruslan Yukhymuk received 10 years of imprisonment for the bribe in the amount of 4.000 USD, forgery of documents and illegal possession of ammunition;
- subjects of the scheme Skhid GZK Igor Goloborodko and Igor Veduta, were sentenced in absentia to 9 and 8 years of imprisonment with confiscation, as well as special confiscation of 20.8 million UAH;
- officials of Kharkiv Electrovazhmash plant Mykola Korniychuk and Oleg Bogdanov, as well as the beneficiary of Czech company Andriy Yevdokymov, received 4 years of imprisonment. His wife Oksana received another 3.5 years of imprisonment. The court also applied special confiscation in the amount of 217,306 EUR;
- Kostyantyn Ruskih was sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment in the case of misuse of 4.9 million UAH;
- former head of Ukrmedproektbud Iryna Koval and her accomplice Igor Kuchma were sentenced to 5 and 4 years of imprisonment for causing damages to Okhmatdyt in the amount of 30 million UAH. The court also ordered them to pay compensation for caused damage.
The Appeals Chamber of the HACC was not lagging behind and, in addition to upholding several of this year’s first instance verdicts, also managed to do the following:
- to confirm 6 years of imprisonment for judge Ganna Bilyk from Brovary. This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court;
- to strengthen the sentence for Rostyslav Kharchenko, employee of Vyshhorod SBU, by sentencing him to 5.5 years of imprisonment. Later, the Supreme Court upheld this decision;
- sentence former judge of Kovel City District Court Oleg Vasylyuk to 2 years of imprisonment. This decision was also upheld by the Supreme Court;
- to uphold sentence to former director of the Institute of Agroecology Orest Furdychko for the bribe in the amount of 500.000 USD. He went to prison for 8 years with confiscation of the house, 5 apartments, 2 garages and cars BMW X5 and Nissan Pathfinder. The decision was upheld in the cassation instance;
- to cancel doubtful acquittal regarding the judge Tetyana Denysyuk, who made illegal decision in favor of the company associated with former MP Onyshchenko;
- to adopt the first prison sentence to former MP Ruslan Solvar, who was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment for illegally receiving compensation for housing;
- to imprison Firtash’s top manager Volodymyr Syvak for 3.5 years in the case of Zaporizhzhya Titanium and Magnesium Plant. Earlier, the SAPO returned the plant to the state through the court;
- to save the case of seizure the loan from Oschadbank in the amount of 20 million USD and the case of Dubnevych’s Thermal and Power Plant worth 1.4 billion UAH. Both proceedings were illegally closed due to incorrect application of “amendments of Lozovyi” by judges of the first instance.
The main anti-corruption event of the year
This is undoubtedly appointment of Oleksandr Klymenko as the head of the SAPO.
The appointment took place after almost two-year saga with the competition and unsuccessful attempts of the authorities to get their candidates through. As detective of the NABU, Klymenko was remembered for his participation in the most high-profile cases. Just look at cases of Nasirov, Onyshchenko or Tatarov.
The first months of Klymenko’s work are very encouraging, and the pace of work is pleasantly surprising. It seems that we have finally got the head of the SAPO who will not be engaged in “dumping” cases, but on the contrary is ready to catch corrupt officials, regardless of their positions, names or connections. This appointment unblocked both old cases and intensified the work on new investigations.
New investigations and cases sent to the court
In January-February, before the full-scale invasion, the NABU and the SAPO kept good pace. In particular, they received several decisions, caught MP from the party Servant of the People Serhiy Kuzminykh on probable bribe in the amount of 558.000 UAH, and also exposed corruption of Kyiv MP Vladyslav Trubitsyn and five of his accomplices. These cases are already being considered in the court.
This year, the HACC also considered cases of MP Yaroslav Dubnevych regarding losses of Ukrzaliznytsya, the “king of smuggling” Alperin, the brother of KDAC’s head Zontov, Mezhyhirya on charges of Viktor Yanukovych and his son Oleksandr, failure to declare assets worth 88 million UAH by MP Serhiy Shakhov. The last case is about failure to declare 13 apartments in the center of Kyiv, 2 cottages near Kyiv, 27 land plots, 8 parking spaces and 2 cars.
It is necessary to mention separately the suspicion to former MP Mykola Martynenko, which he received in the case of bribe in the amount of 311.600 EUR, as well as transfer of the case of “KDAC’s tape-recordings” to the court. It refers to 10 defendants, including Pavlo Vovk and 6 other judges. They face up to 12 years of imprisonment with confiscation of property. I am convinced that it was possible to achieve elimination of this shame of justice, in particular, thanks to high-quality investigations by the NABU and the SAPO.
With the arrival of Oleksandr Klymenko at the leadership of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office at the end of July, everything started to spin at unprecedented pace.
First, there was resuming of the Rotterdam+ case, one of the most high-profile top corruption cases with multi-billion losses. The head of the SAPO not only cancelled the illegal decision to close the case, but also changed prosecutors who had illegally closed it four times. The new prosecutors immediately announced 15 new suspicions regarding the second episode of the formula in 2018-2019 and completed investigation.
In September, MP Oleksandr Trukhin received suspicion of attempting to bribe police officers. The case was recently sent to the Anti-Corruption Court, where MP faces up to 4 years of imprisonment. Also in September, the NABU, together with colleagues from the SBU, exposed fugitive MP Andriy Derkach on state treason and bribery. The investigation has already been completed, and the case will be sent to court soon.
Among significant events of last months of the year, we should highlight suspicions in cases of Centrenergo with losses in the amount of 8.25 million UAH and Ukrnafta, where the amount of losses is 13 billion UAH. Both companies are not strangers to oligarch Igor Kolomoyskyi. According to media reports, companies from the oligarch’s orbit could earn billions on gas supplies to Centrenergo, and in the case of Ukrnafta Kolomoyskyi was even searched and visited the NABU at least twice for questionings. Also, the NABU and the SAPO have completed investigation regaring top management of PrivatBank related to Kolomoyskyi, who is accused of embezzling more than 8.4 billion UAH.
Then, the anti-corruption bodies did not even think to stop and over past three months have made the number of new arrests and high-profile suspicions:
- exposed former MP Maksym Mykytas in attempt to bribe Dnipro Mayor Filatov for 22 million EUR. Investigation in the case has already been completed, and Mykytas will spend the New Year in jail, as he cannot pay bail in the amount of 100 million UAH;
- former head of the State Fiscal Service Roman Nasirov is suspected of receiving 5.5 million USD and more than 21 million EUR from agro-baron Bakhmatyuk. Nasirov was taken into custody with bail in the amount of 523 million UAH. Bakhmatyuk also received suspicion in absentia regarding giving the bribe to the official;
- suspicion was announced to former head of the NBU Kyrylo Shevchenko and four other former and current officials of the state-owned Ukrgasbank. They are suspected of withdrawing more than 200 million UAH from the bank in 2014-2019. Shevchenko was put on international wanted list and remanded in custody in absentia;
- suspicion was announced to former MP of Petro Poroshenko Bloc Oleksandr Granovskyi regarding the scheme with sale of fertilizers worth 93 million UAH at Odesa Port Plant. Granovskyi was also put on wanted list and arrested in absentia;
- suspicion was also announced to current head of the Accounting Chamber Valeriy Patskan in the case of illegal receipt of 127.000 UAH of compensation for housing in 2017-2018, when he was still Member of Parliament. The case has already been sent to the court;
- exposed criminal organization in Odesa headed by Borys Kaufman and Alex Borukhovych. Subjects in the case are also their trustee Kostyantyn Yefremov and three deputy mayors of Odesa, namely Mykhaylo Kuchuk, Oleh Bryndak and Svitlana Bedrega;
- conducted searches in the office of head of Dnipropetrovsk Regional State Administration Valentyn Reznichenko and in the number of relevant departments regarding possible fraud in tenders for the amount 1.5 billion UAH.
Autumn was also fruitful for cases against MPs. In particular, MPs Anna Kolisnyk, Mykhaylo Volynets, Yuriy Kamelchuk, Volodymyr Gevko, Maksym Pashkovskyi, Margaryta Shol and Iryna Konstankevych received suspicions of false declaration. Former MP of the Opposition Bloc Oleksandr Dolzhenkov received suspicion of illegally receiving compensation for housing in the amount of 700.000 UAH. He was receiving compensation as homeless MP for 3.5 years while he had the apartment in Pechersk,.
However, there was also “fly in the ointment”. In particular, the Appeals Chamber of the HACC cancelled the decision against the judge from Zakarpattya Mykhaylo Pak, who was sentenced in the first instance to 7 years of imprisonment with confiscation. The decision is very doubtful and was made with separate opinion of the presiding judge. Also, we should pay attention to the first instance of the HACC, which tried to close three criminal proceedings at once in autumn, by applying the rule of “Lozovyi’s amendments”, where there were no grounds to apply them.
The Supreme Court continued to save judges convicted of bribery by the Anti-Corruption Court from prison, in particular, it cancelled at least two decisions of the HACC on formal grounds.
We should briefly mention successful cases of civil confiscation this year. Thus, the Supreme Court finally upheld the decision of the HACC, according to which 1.25 million UAH was confiscated from former MP and traitor Ilya Kiva for alleged income from renting “gut pit”. Also, more than 3 million UAH of unjustified assets of former officer of the National Police Andrii Anosov, 2.37 million UAH of Kharkiv tax officer Dmytro Taran and 3.6 million UAH of chairman of Vasylkiv court Maksym Kovbel were subject to civil confiscation. That means that we can say with confidence that the institution of civil confiscation has finally begun to bring fruits.
Support to the Defence Forces of Ukraine
Separately, results with “plus” sign should include active work of anti-corruption bodies aimed at transferring seized assets to the Defence Forces of Ukraine. Thus, since February 24, 2022, more than 1.22 billion UAH has been transferred to support our soldiers at the expense of pledges and seized assets.
In particular, they have sent:
- 6 million USD from the record bribe case in the history of the NABU;
- 5 million USD arrested in the case against former Minister of Agrarian Policy;
- 3.7 million USD, 846.000 EUR, 20.000 GBP and 242.000 UAH from the case of brother of the head of the KDAC;
- over 400 million UAH from the case of “smuggling king” Alperin;
- 300.000 USD from the case against tax officials who helped to minimize tax payments;
- 200.000 USD from the case of bribery of the head of the State Property Fund.
Special attention should be paid to the implementation of mechanism of confiscation of assets of sanctioned persons, which was introduced at the end of May and in the development of which the AntAC took the direct part.
Important role in this process is assigned to judges of the HACC who consider appeals in such cases. During seven months, the court received nine appeals from the Ministry of Justice. The HACC managed to consider more than half. Namely:
- 17 real estate objects with the total area of almost 100.000 square meters, as well as shares in several Ukrainian companies were confiscated from the Russian oligarch Volodymyr Yevtushenkov;
- Mezhyhirya, hotel and restaurant complex in Sukholuchya, apartment, car, parking spaces and cultural values worth 18.7 million EUR were confiscated from former President Yanukovych. The case is currently being considered in the Appeals Chamber;
- real estate in Crimea was confiscated from the rector of Belgorod University Polukhin, rector of Moscow State Institute of International Relations Torkunov and rector of Crimean University Falaleev, appointed by the occupiers.
There are tentative hopes that the pace will only increase in new year. This will be facilitated by the fact that at the end of December the SAPO was joined by eight new prosecutors who had been independently and transparently selected.
However, the increase in the pace of work and activation that has already taken place in connection with appointment of new head of the SAPO also means new challenges.
One of main challenges may be attempts to interfere and influence the anti-corruption bodies. Because of these risks, it will be important to amend the law to ensure greater independence of the SAPO. Such changes will make it impossible to manually dismiss the new head of the SAPO and ensure its autonomy from the Prosecutor General’s Office. Amendments to the law are also needed to prevent the authorities from repeating the situation of delaying the competition for almost two years in future, as it was in the case of last competition.
It is also important to select independent head for the position of director of the NABU. Today, 74 candidates have been admitted to participate in the competition. In few months, we should get new head of the Bureau.
More cases and intensified work of anti-corruption bodies require more resources. This, in turn, means the need to increase staff of the bureau and create expert institution within it, which will help to conduct examinations in corruption cases more efficiently and quickly.
These processes will be closely monitored by our international partners, without whose financial support we simply cannot survive today. It is possible that we will see the above requirements in formal documents on the provision of financial support to Ukraine. After all, progress in the field of anti-corruption is and will be one of key indicators of confidence in us as the country.
To sum up, we can confidently say that results of anti-corruption bodies this year are more than decent, although still far from ideal. After all, who can show at least one other country in the world that during the war, in conditions of constant missile attacks, when more than half of the critical infrastructure is damaged, would continue not only to investigate top corruption, but to show the best results in this direction for the entire period of its existence.