“This is a revenge for the expertise regarding “Avakov’s backpacks”

“This is a revenge for the expertise regarding “Avakov’s backpacks” says the forensic expert about the criminal proceeding against her

“Schemes” recorded conversation with Nadiya Bugrova at the end of December 2018 when she was in the hospital

“I connect all these facts with revenge for my honest and professional activity. I was the forensic expert who performed expertise regarding “Avakov’s backpacks”, said Nadiya Bugrova sitting on the hospital bed. She was author of the opinion, which became proof of violations regarding manufacture of backpacks in the so-called case of “Avakov’s backpacks”. After that, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine announced suspicion to the son of the Minister of Internal Affairs Avakov. Oleksandr himself denied charges regarding involvement in the procurement of backpacks bypassing legal tender procedure. He called the case “political”.

Later, the proceeding regarding suspicion to former deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Serhii Chebotar and Oleksandr Avakov was closed by the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office due to the “absence of the crime”.

Later, the National Police of Khmelnytskyi region, subordinated to the Minister of Internal Affairs Avakov, opened the criminal proceeding against Nadiya Bugrova. The procedural guidance is conducted by the Military Prosecutor’s Office of Khmelnytsky garrison of the Western region. In particular, the decision of Khmelnytskyi City Court states that according to the investigation, Bugrova allegedly used invalid documents concerning her own qualification during the expertise in 2013 (regarding a different case). According to the program “Schemes: Corruption in Details” (TV program of journalistic investigations, the joint project of Radio Svoboda and UA:Pershyi), law enforcement officers suspect the forensic expert of allegedly receiving “funds in the amount of 5,000 UAH ($180) and causing material damage for the specified amount”.

The proceeding against Nadiya Bugrova is planned to be sent to the court at the end of February. However, these are not all difficulties in the life of the expert. On February 8, the Ministry of Justice (headed by Arsen Avakov’s associate Pavlo Petrenko from Narodnyi Front party) plans the examination of “the status of organization of legal work of the forensic expert Nadiya Bugrova”. Moreover, for the period since May 2016 until now.

Olena Shcherban, the lawyer at the NGO Anti-Corruption Action Center, explains that Nadiya didn’t have following examinations since the establishment of her bureau. That means since 2009. “Such examination of the Ministry of Justice is nothing more than another act of pressure on the forensic expert. It was the Ministry of Justice that organized review of the expertise regarding Avakov’s backpacks last year. However, such review did not yield any results. Today, the very same Ministry of Justice wants to examine the forensic expert in order to suspend her certificate and to cancel her conclusion regarding the case of backpacks. It is obvious that subjects of the case are afraid of resuming investigation after elections. Thus, they are covering up tracks now”.

“Schemes’” journalists sent the appeal to the Ministry of Justice to comment on the above-mentioned examination.

The Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov had previously stated that neither he nor his family had any connection to suppliers of backpacks to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He insisted that the procurement procedure was transparent. However, NABU called closure of the case “unclear and inconsistent”.

“Schemes” recorded conversation with Nadiya Bugrova at the end of December when she was in the hospital due to her problems with health.

– How did you find yourself in the hospital?

– I’m in the hospital because I have some problems. Law enforcement agencies put pressure on me. They opened the criminal proceeding against me in June 2018. I knew nothing about it.

– What do you connect this pressure with?

– I connect all these facts with revenge for conducting the forensics expertise upon NABU decrees regarding the so-called case of “Avakov’s backpacks”. I conducted this quality expertise according to technical requirements regarding procurement and cost estimation. The Ministry of Justice made the review of this expertise at Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise at the request of attorney who protects the prosecution party. Those reviews were biased and untrue. I denied all their reviews in my objections which I submitted to the Ministry of Justice. And the Ministry of Justice couldn’t appeal against them.

Instead, they found some formal violations and issued the warning to me. However, the pressure was not stopped. Even when my expertise was recognized as proper and admissible proof by the prosecutor of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and the court (I personally read about it in the media), the pressure was not stopped against me. Investigators explained the search in the case by the fact that I allegedly undervalued cost of the military property and made state losses in the amount of 396,000 UAH (around $14,500). And in the notice of suspicion that I received I was charged with possessing my salary in the amount of 5,000 UAH ($180).

– How did you receive the case of backpacks for the forensics expertise?

– I received the case of “Avakov’s backpacks” in the following way. Customers, whom I did not know, called me. Different people are calling and asking whether I conduct forensic expertise. I always answer “Yes” because as of 2016-2018 I have qualification certificate of the forensic expert on conducting forensic commodity examinations. They came, brought the order, brought backpacks’ samples and left all these things in the office. These were NABU detectives. I accepted the application, processed it and incoming letter and started to do my job.

The question was to investigate the quality. I have described quality, compliance with technical requirements on each backpack. And I wrote: “Since there are lots of manufacturing defects, fittings are inappropriate”. Thus, I wrote that all these facts indicate that these backpacks were made in conditions of “artisanal” production.

Nadiya Bugrova: I have described quality, compliance with technical requirements regarding each backpack

Reviewers state this as the remark to me. Because I have defined the way of production. But this is the profession of forensic expert and commodity scientist – to determine quality, way of production, defects that arose in the process of this production. And they state such remark to me. The negative review by Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise is based on such remarks, do you understand that?

– Did they try to persuade you to change your mind? 

– The person known among forensic experts came to me. And he said: “Your case will be considered by the Ministry of Justice. It would be better if you don’t argue. You’d better agree. You will pass the exam again in six month and continue your work”.

I said: “Listen, I can not do it. That means that I was smart when I wrote these opinions. And now I am stupid if I declare them invalid? How can not you protect the work that you’ve done? I just do not understand it.”

I have been involved into the expert’s work since 1979. I worked in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This means expertise every day. I haven’t had any complaints or any comments regarding my work in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry during 25 years. And even after the Chamber of Commerce I didn’t have any grounded complaint.

At the 37th year of my expert’s experience, I have such problems. What is it connected with? After all, I started to do my job even better. I pass exams every year.

– In November last year, employees of the National Police conducted searches at your place. Can you tell us more about them?

– My apartment, apartments of my children and my office were searched.

All 26 certificates and licenses were seized during the search. They seized my employment book and the company’s statute. They seized the certificate that I worked in Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise, the copy of my diploma and works that I performed. They seized phones, hard drives. They seized all phones of my children, they even seized my son’s laptop. They seized bank cards of my husband: pension card and payroll card.

They also seized funds. At first, they said that they would not take money. This happened where the search took place. I had small savings. I kept them to install the memorial to my mom. My mother passed two years ago.

Then some time passed. They were describing something and said: “Bring the money.” I said that they told me that they wouldn’t take money. “We called to our department, and we were told to describe everything”. I told them that this would mean that they act not according to the law, but according to the direction. “We are doing our job.”

Now I can’t do anything. In fact, the work of my company “Bureau of Forensic Expertise” is blocked. But I would like to say something. You know, if you are the expert and this is your competence, you must do it. If you’re not the expert, then, of course, you shouldn’t do it. The question for me is to be in the profession or not to be.

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