Members of Parliament from the faction Servant of the People submitted the draft law № 3009a regarding ensuring the implementation of functions of the Prosecutor’s Office, which poses serious threat to cases of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO). Moreover, according to MPs’ suggestion, the number of cases regarding illegal enrichment will be removed from the NABU’s jurisdiction, and its threshold will be increased by 10 times.
The draft law will allow the Prosecutor General to select for inspection any cases of the NABU and the SAPO: “The head of the Prosecutor’s Office, the prosecutor of the highest level is authorized: to demand for inspection criminal proceedings, documents, materials and other information about committed criminal offenses, the course of pre-trial investigation, identification of persons who committed criminal offenses.”
Today, the SAPO is independent and autonomous department of the Prosecutor General’s Office, whose prosecutors are procedural heads in the NABU criminal cases. According to the law, the Prosecutor General is prohibited to interfere in activities of the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office. However, Members of Parliament propose to allow, in fact, the Prosecutor General to demand any cases.
We should note that initiatives of Servants of the People to interfere in cases of the NABU and the SAPO violate the Memorandum with the International Monetary Fund. The state leadership has committed itself to ensure the autonomy of the SAPO.
“Such legislative initiatives are nothing more than direct encroachment on independence of the prosecutor in the case. First of all, this is done in order to legitimize the possibility of demanding top corruption cases from the NABU and the SAPO. Demanding cases for review from the prosecutor in charge of the case is old method of pressure on the prosecutor and method of disclosing materials. Members of Parliament first voted for the position of the Prosecutor General for their ex-colleague Iryna Venediktova, and now they are trying to give her more powers and the right to interfere in the work of bodies investigating them”, commented Olena Shcherban, the Board Member of the Anti-Corruption Action Center.
Earlier, the Prosecutor General Venediktova showed unhealthy interest in one of the NABU cases against the oligarch Oleg Bakhmatyuk. She even illegally sent the appeal to the head of the SAPO with the request to provide her with all materials of cases involving Bakhmatyuk.
The draft law also proposes to make mandatory participation of prosecutors of the regional prosecutor’s office during the appellate review of court decisions and prosecutors of the Prosecutor General Office during the cassation appeal. It also undermines independence of prosecutors. In practice, this will mean that, for instance, regional prosecutors will be involved in the NABU / the SAPO cases together with the SAPO prosecutors.
In addition to independence of anti-corruption prosecutors, new powers of heads of prosecutors’ offices and high-level prosecutors undermine independence of prosecutors of different levels.
As for illicit enrichment, Servants of the People propose to increase tenfold the monetary threshold at which the NABU can take on the corruption case. If today such threshold is a little more than one million UAH (in 2020), it is proposed to increase the threshold to 10.5 million UAH.
At the same time, criminal liability for illicit enrichment now arises if the amount of such enrichment exceeds 6.8 million UAH (in 2020). This means that if MPs increase the threshold to 10 million for the NABU investigation, then all cases of illicit enrichment committed for smaller amount and by participants not of the NABU jurisdiction will be investigated by the police or the SBI. At the same time, according to previous version of illicit enrichment, the police already had authority to investigate illicit enrichment, but it has not filed any such case to the court for more than 4 years, unlike the NABU.