Anti-corruption victories of 2021: who’s imprisoned and who’s next

by Vadym Valko, originally published on UP

Let us recall the brightest events of 2021, which took place in the sphere of anti-corruption and the fight for honest courts.

This year alone, the High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC) has adopted 34 decisions, 27 of which were convictions. Judges, prosecutors, employees of the SBU, and CEOs of state enterprises were sent to prisons. In total, the HACC has adopted 59 verdicts since September 2019.

This year, detectives of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and prosecutors of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) continued to initiate new investigations. There were more than half a thousand of them. And they sent more than 60 indictments to the court. In total, more than 300 cases against nearly 600 persons were sent to the court thanks to the work of the NABU and the SAPO, and about 1,000 people were charged, including 6 ministers and their deputies, 20 Members of Parliament, 67 judges and 78 heads of state enterprises.

There were lots of important votes in the Parliament in 2021. For instance, Members of Parliament were able to support the launch of the judicial reform and vote for amendments to the law on the NABU.

January

The year began when the former prosecutor of the Prosecutor General’s Office Oleksandr Matyushko, who had been trying to “buy” the position at the NABU, was imprisoned for 2 years. On the same day, the Appeals Chamber of the High Anti-Corruption Court sent Kuts, the head of Trebukhiv village council, to prison for 3 years for misappropriation related to land schemes.

This was not the end of positive news. At first, the court extended the term of investigation in the case regarding KDAC’s tape-recordings and then re-arrested hundreds of thousands of cash in the currency of Member of Parliament Dubnevych, seizure of which has previously been unjustifiably cancelled by investigating judge Moysak. 

The month ended with rescue of illegally closed case “Rotterdam +”, which had been resumed by acting head of the SAPO Maksym Gryshchuk.

February

The last month of winter also brought a lot of good news. At first, the Appeals Chamber of the High Anti-Corruption Court supported the decision against the former director of Centergas Starovoyt, who was imprisoned to 8 years for embezzlement of state funds.

Later, judges of the Appeals Chamber Viktor Pankulych, Igor Panaid, and Sergiy Bodnar cancelled the illegal “acquittal” of Odesa Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov and his accomplices in the case Krayan, and the case was sent for new consideration to the first instance.

The High Anti-Corruption Court decided not to stop there and sentenced Ivan Tulyk, the judge of Rakhiv District Court of Zakarpattya region, to 6 years with confiscation of property. He was found guilty of bribery and receiving money to influence his colleague.

The month ended with successful actions of the NABU, when they managed to successfully turn and land charter plane with former top official of Privatbank Volodymyr Yatsenko, who was trying to flee to Vienna. They charged him with embezzlement of more than 136 million UAH to former chairman of the board Oleksandr Dubilet and former head of one of the bank’s departments Bychykhina.

March

The spring began with announcement of new suspicions by the NABU and the SAPO in the case of Privatbank. This time, former chairman of the board of Privatbank Dubilet, his deputy Shmalchenko, and head of one of departments of Konopkin’s bank were charged with the embezzlement of 8.2 billion UAH.

Also, in that month detectives completed the investigation regarding Servant of the People Yurchenko and opened materials in the case of seizure of power by KDAC judges.

Later, the Appeals Chamber of the HACC did not allow to take the case of Dubnevych’s TPP from the NABU and confirmed the decision regarding Member of Parliament of Poltava Regional Council Pryadko and his accomplice Gnezdov, according to which they were sent to prison for 4.5 years. After that, the Appeals Chamber supported another decision of the first instance, according to which former general director of Kherson TPP Pedchenko was sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment.

Moreover, the first instance of the HACC adopted two decisions regarding judges: at first the judge of Zhovtnevyi District Court of Dnipro Vadym Galych was sentenced to 3.5 years of imprisonment with confiscation, and then the judge Mizhgirya District Court of Zakarpattya region Anton Gaydur was sentenced to 5 years with confiscation.

April

The second month of spring began no less loudly. The NABU detained the lawyer and employee of the Foreign Intelligence Service Yuriy Zontov, brother of the odious head of the KDAC Pavlo Vovk. He and his accomplice were caught red-handed after their probable receipt of 100,000 USD. During the search of Zontov’s “safe apartment”, the detectives found millions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of euros as well as antiques.

Immediately after that, the President initiated “immediate” liquidation of the main body of “political prostitution” in Ukraine, Kyiv District Administrative Court. Unfortunately, authorities will not be able to eliminate it in the next 8 months.

In April, acting head of the SAPO Maksym Gryshchuk resumed the case Rotterdam+ for the second time, which was again illegally closed by the prosecutor Ponomarenko. Also, prosecutors sent the indictment against Gladkovsky junior to the court in April.

The month ended with good news from the Anti-Corruption Court. The Appeals Chamber initially sentenced former investigator of the prosecutor’s office Pavlenko to 2 years of imprisonment and the lawyer Bozhenko to three years of imprisonment, and later increased sentence to director of Rzhyshchiv forestry Levkivskyi to six years of imprisonment and sentenced his accomplice to five years. Moreover, their assets were confiscated.

May

The HACC sentenced Moldovan Neruh to five years of imprisonment for the bribe in the amount of 75,000 USD. He allegedly tried to revoke the seizure of a ship that had illegally visited the annexed Crimea.

Moreover, in May the NABU announced suspicion to 7 more people in the billion-dollar case of issuing the stabilization loan to the oligarch Bakhmatyuk’s VAB Bank. The total number of suspects in the case has increased to 17.

June

At the beginning of the month, the Anti-Corruption Court sentenced judge Ganna Bilyk from Brovary to six years of imprisonment, and then the Appeals Chamber of the HACC finally sentenced former judge Galichyi from Dnipro to 2.5 years of imprisonment.

The petition on dismissal of Oleg Tatarov from the Office of the President has collected the required 25,000 signatures.

Detectives of the NABU continued successful month by exposing the judge from Dnipro Lali Novik for the alleged bribe in the amount of 2,500 USD.

July

At the beginning of the month, the NABU and the SAPO completed investigation regarding 14 people involved in the case of VAB Bank. Investigation on the suspicion of three other persons, namely actual owner of the bank Oleg Bakhmatyuk, former chairman of the board Denys Maltsev and former chairman of the supervisory board Nataliya Vasylyuk were suspended due to their search.

Later, the Supreme Court upheld two decisions of the Anti-Corruption Court at once: 2 years of imprisonment for former prosecutor of the PGO Matyushko and 3 years for the head of Trebukhiv village council Kuts, and the first instance of the HACC sentenced former employee of the SBU Kharchenko to 4 years of imprisonment.

Later, some of the most positive events of 2021 took place. Namely: the resignation of “Eternal Minister” Avakov, parliamentary support of the re-start of the High Qualification Commission of Judges and vote to clean the High Council of Justice with the key role of international experts.

The month ended with another prison sentence of the HACC: former director of the Institute of Agroecology Furdychko received 8 years of imprisonment with confiscation of property for the bribe in the amount of 500,000 USD.

August

At the beginning of the month, detectives completed investigation regarding judge Lalia Novik from Dnipro, who is suspected of receiving the bribe in the amount of 2,500 USD.

In August, former judge of Dniprovskyi District Court of the capital Mykola Chaus, who ran away from Ukraine in 2016, was finally found in Feofania. He is accused of receiving a bribe in the amount of 150.000 USD. A few days before the detention, detectives had to play catch-up game with the SBU, which hid Chaus.

The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office has obtained the decision from the Economic Court, according to which Zaporizhzhya Titanium and Magnesium Plant (ZTMP) should be returned to state ownership.

Later, there was another decision of the HACC. Former members of Kharkivoblenergo and Kharkivvodokanal were sentenced to 5 and 4 years of imprisonment in the case of embezzlement of almost 20 million UAH. The Anti-Corruption Court also confiscated 1.2 million UAH from the Member of Parliament Ilya Kiva that had been received from the alleged lease of pulp pit.

In the same month, the case of Servant of the People Oleksandr Yurchenko was sent to the Anti-Corruption Court. The case is known for the video published by the NABU about “goodies” in the form of 13.000 USD for registration of amendments to the draft law, “piece of the big pie” in the form of shares of future recycling plant and 200.000 USD for members of the profile committee who allegedly supported amendments.

September

The month began with usual prison sentence of the HACC against the judge. Mykhaylo Krentsel, former head of Koziv district court of Ternopil region, was sentenced to six years of imprisonment with confiscation for the alleged bribe in the amount of 2,000 USD.

There were several detentions of new judges in September. The head of Tyvriv district court of Vinnytsya region Igor Ratushnyak received suspicion. Detectives believe that he demanded 120.000 UAH for recognizing the ownership of the land share.

The Anti-Corruption Court gave permission for compulsory summon of Yevhen Ablov, deputy head of Kyiv District Administrative Court. Later, the suspect Ablov will come to the meeting, but then he will still shamefully run.

The month ended as usual. The Anti-Corruption Court sentenced the judge from Mukachevo Mykhaylo Pak to 7 years of imprisonment with confiscation of all property.

October

The month began with the fact that the Anti-Corruption Court arrested in absentia fugitive former President Viktor Yanukovych in the case Mezhyhirya. Another positive piece of news at the beginning of the month was that detectives of the NABU had completed investigation regarding Yanukovych-era Minister of Ecology Mykola Zlochevskyi, who is accused of failing to organize a record bribe in the amount of 5 million USD for the leadership of anti-corruption bodies.

The NABU and the SAPO also exposed “criminal organization” which included 16 people in Odessa. The investigation believes that it included unspoken “owner of Odessa” Volodymyr Galanternik and the Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov, and the amount of damage may exceed half a billion hryvnias.

The Verkhovna Rada also did the good thing when it brought the status of the NABU in line with the Constitution and made the key role in proposals of international partners during the competition for the position of director of the Bureau, which will take place next year.

In October, the Supreme Court upheld three prison sentences of the HACC at once. Namely, 4.5 years of imprisonment for counsellor of Poltava Regional Council Pryadko and his accomplice Gnezdov, 8 years of imprisonment for former head of Centergaz Starovoyt and 5 years of imprisonment for Odessa judge Tselukh.

In the same month, the court allowed in absentia investigation regarding former chairman of the board of Privatbank Dubilet, and the Appeals Chamber of the HACC upheld the decision of the first instance and finally confiscated Member’s of Parliament Ilya Kiva “income” from the alleged lease of the pulp pit.

The month ended with the first sentence in the history of the HACC under plea bargain agreement with real imprisonment of 3.5 years.

November

This month, the HACC allowed in absentia investigation regarding “shadow landlord of Odessa” Galanternyk and finally sent the case to the court regarding “apartments for the National Guard” against former Member of Parliament Mykytas and others.

Detectives also caught red-handed another servant of the Themis. He turned out to be the judge of Chernihiv District Administrative Court Dmytro Loban. The investigation believes that he received 20,000 USD for the court decision, although in 2016 he was allegedly photographed at the rally with the poster “I do not give or take bribes”.

In mid-November, the case of former judge Chaus was sent to the Anti-Corruption Court. The preparatory meeting is still going on there because Chaus asked for time for treatment due to alleged hearing problems.

Later, another case regarding bribery of servant of the Themis was sent to the court. This time regarding former judge of the Economic Court of Sumy region Nadiya Spyrydonova, who is accused of receiving the bribe in the amount of 4.000 USD.

On the same day, the current Member of Parliament Sergiy Shakhov was announced suspicion regarding failure to submit the asset declaration. The investigation believes that Member of Parliament did not declare property worth almost 60 million UAH. Namely, 13 apartments in Kyiv, 2 houses near Kyiv, a dacha, 8 parking lots, 27 land plots, non-residential real estate, 2 cars, etc. Member of Parliament Shakhov became the first who had was charged with lies in the declaration under the restored norm after last year’s removal of responsibility by shameful decision of the CCU.

In conclusion, the Appeals Chamber increased the punishment for a former head of the railway company Skoryk, who, in addition to serving 4 years of imprisonment, would compensate 8.8 million UAH. The Appeals Chamber also confirmed the prison sentence for judge Tulyk from Zakarpattya, who will have to spend the next 5 years behind bars.

December

The last month of the year began with the great victory of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office over Firtash in the Economic Court! The company associated with the oligarch has lost the appeal in the case of Zaporizhya Titanium and Magnesium Plant. And now the plant must be returned to the state.

Then, the Anti-Corruption Court sent deputy to the Mayor Trukhanov to the pre-trial detention center, arrested “shadow owner of Odessa Galanternik and former chairman of the board of Privatbank Dubilet and the United States imposed sanctions on Tupytskyi and his wife and Portnov for bribery and corruption.

There was another decision of the HACC against the judge in December: former head of Kalanchak District Court in Kherson region Olena Zhyvtsova was sentenced to 5.5 years of imprisonment for the alleged bribe in the amount of 5,000 UAH. Also, the investigation regarding the head of Tyvriv District Court in Vinnytsya region, who was detained by detectives in September for the alleged bribe in the amount of 120,000 UAH, was completed this month.

The Supreme Court upheld another decision of the HACC. This time about 5 years of imprisonment for former director general of Kherson TPP Pedchenko.

Another good news last month was that the NABU and the SAPO have registered the first criminal proceeding in the e-Case management system, which minimizes paperwork and saves resources and time for investigators, prosecutors, judges and lawyers. The digitalization is the future. And e-Case confirms this. However, more than 6 years passed from the idea to the project implementation.

Under the Christmas tree, the HACC sentenced former top manager of the state Ukrgazvydobuvannya Oleksiy Tamrazov to five years of imprisonment for trying to give the bribe the prosecutor of the PGO.

***

With the establishment of anti-corruption bodies, dozens of corrupt judges are sent to prison, Members of Parliament are charged with bribery, lies in declarations or illegal compensation from the budget, and the mayor of one of the largest cities in Ukraine is on trial for multimillion-dollar embezzlement. Officials begin to realize that there are no untouchables, and responsibility becomes irreversible.

Of course, there are still some shameful cases, such as the rescue of the official from Zelenskyi’s Office Oleg Tatarov, dumping the case regarding the accident of the Servant of the People Trukhin or constant closures of the case Rotterdam+. But with each such case, it will become more and more difficult to cover them up, and the rating of the government will fall lower and lower. There is still a lot of work to be done. But there is hope that 2022 will be more successful. That is our wish for the New Year.

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