The Rotterdam+ case: how absence of the SAPO head plays into hands of the corrupt officials

by Vitaliy Shabunin, originally published on UP

On July 6, the High Anti-Corruption Court may hold the final meeting regarding the Rotterdam+ case, which caused record losses in the amount of 40 billion UAH to the state. The Anti-Corruption Action Center, together with the victims, is once again appealing against the illegal closure of the case.

During almost two years, this case was illegally closed 4 times (3 closures were previously cancelled). The fourth closure is currently considered in the court. And it seems to be the last chance to save the case. We have already described essence of this case and arguments regarding the illegality of its closure dozens of times.

However, even if the Anti-Corruption Court restores justice once again now and cancels the closure, further fate of the case will depend on decisions of prosecutors… Those prosecutors who have already illegally closed it more than once. In turn, prosecutors who are willing to dare to give this case the chance, the Prosecutor General’s Office will simply not appoint them to manage the case. 

The investigation has almost no time left to complete the case, but, as the NABU has repeatedly reported, the proceeding is ready to be transferred to the court. What needs to be done is to complete the investigation and transfer the case to the HACC for full consideration. 

Denys Demkiv, the appointed prosecutor in the case, instead of defending interest of the state, actually acts as the lawyer of the oligarch Akhmetov. The prosecutor takes the side of suspects in this trial. Only the Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, who has refused such scenario several times, can change this prosecutor or transfer the case to court.

Why is everything so complicated? The fact is that the SAPO has been without its head for almost two years. According to the law, he is the procedural figure who can give the chance to this and many other cases. After all, we can only guess how many cases of the NABU have no progress due to the fact that the SAPO is actually managed by Venediktova.

Today, this issue is especially relevant. It’s no secret that some of the SAPO prosecutors joined the Armed Forces in the first days of the full-scale war and defend our country with weapons in their hands.

During this period the administrative functions of the head of the SAPO were performed by Andriy Dovgan, the head of the SAPO Department. And during his absence Venediktova entrusted the same prosecutor Demkiv, who had closed Rotterdam+, to manage the SAPO.

It is worth to note in this story that Demkiv closed the case actually on the eve of his interview for the position of head of one of the SAPO departments.

On May 20, 2021, he issued the order regarding closure and the interview for important position was scheduled for May 27 of the same year. It was before the interview that Demkiv decided to gain favour with Oleg Tatarov, deputy head of the OP, and close the case.

What does Tatarov have to do here? He is the shadow responsible for the SAPO competition in the Office of the President. And it was he who was Akhmetov’s lawyer before his position at Bankova, and his former subordinates from the law firm still officially defend Akhmetov’s managers in the Rotterdam+ case. Despite such services of Tatarov and the company, Demkiv was unable to confirm his integrity and dropped out of the competition. His candidacy was not supported by anyone from the Commission, even the part controlled by the authorities.

I assume that today Demkiv is being entrusted to manage the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, at least temporarily, for a reason.

Venediktova is another Tatarov’s pawn in this story. While she is politically dependent, she follows all instructions of the deputy head of the OP. Otherwise, she will be deprived of her position at any moment. Moreover, the Parliament allowed the President to dismiss the Prosecutor General under simplified procedure now.

The Rotterdam+ case vividly illustrates why the country needs independent anti-corruption prosecutor.

Any serious and large-scale corruption investigations will be banally blocked, and the society will not even know about it. Today, cases like Rotterdam+ can be blocked by Venediktova from the very beginning. To do this, they just need to appoint another Demkiv to lead the investigation until the case is closed.

It seems that the authorities, which aim to overcome corruption schemes, should be interested in independent heads of such institutions. But no.

The Office of the President does nothing and waits when the European Union grants the status of candidate and directly points to weak point and the need to unblock competition for the position of head of the SAP and appoint winner to the position.

And even after that, the OP is not ready to unblock the process of appointing head of the SAPO. There, they publicly call on the Parliament to adopt various laws to fulfill the EU requirements, while at the same time they are silent about the requirement, which is worth 5 minutes of the competition commission meeting. 

Why only 5 minutes? Because absolutely all stages of the competitive selection have already been completed, scores of two finalists have already been announced. And it is obvious to the whole world that the one who scored more points has won. However, the government-controlled part of the Competition Commission (for instance, head of the Commission Kateryna Koval) blantly refuses to do absolutely simple, elementary action, namely to approve this result and already known winner.

And all this so that Tatarov and Yermak continued to manage the post-war recovery or the looting of country. 

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