“Where are the results?” or TOP 5 failures of Venediktova as a Prosecutor General

Originally published on Ukrainska Pravda

“My personal opinion: if you show no result – you should not hold the office” – the words of Volodymyr Zelenskyi.

“No one is behind the bars, no one has been punished, no one has been prosecuted,” said MP Maksym Buzhansky.

“The structure (of the prosecutor’s office – ed.) has been completely destroyed after Ryaboshapka,” MP Oleksandr Dubinsky told a journalist from the pro-Russian Zik channel.

All these remarks were made during the dismissal of former Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka. More than six months have passed since Venediktova took up the Prosecutor General Office. The Anticorruption Action Centre made an attempt to examine the results of her work.

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We do not know what the President personally means by the word “result”, but Iryna Venediktova has passed her six month term as a Prosecutor General. And even those who do not want “imprisonments” above all, probably hold a logical question: what are the results of Ms. Venediktova on the most important post in the field of criminal justice?

It seems that the Prosecutor General has neither visual (or in other words, media results) nor real ones. Instead, we can name the top of Venediktov’s failures. And we outlay hereby the five biggest and the most significant.

Odious appointments

This is probably the most telling sign that illustrates Iryna Venediktova’s attitude to the “cleansing” of the prosecutor’s office. After all, reform is a reform, and she fills the key positions, thus she is responsible for the activities of her staff.

And the appointments are very odious.

For example, Venediktovа appointed Oleg Kiper to the post of Kyiv’s Сhief Prosecutor. Earlier, he fell under the law on lustration, as a former head of prosecutor’s office during Yanukovych’s period, however in 2019 the Kyiv District Administrative Court ruled that the lustration of Kiper was unjustified.

He was renewed. And Venediktova also promoted him to the management of the capital’s prosecutor’s office.

According to the journalists of the “Schemes” program, Kiper has business relations with Serhiy Kiz, the former Deputy Prosecutor General of Yuriy Lutsenko. Kiz even drove Kiper’s BMW X5.

Prior to his renewal in the prosecutor’s office, Kiper himself was a freelance adviser to the head of the President’s Office, Andriy Yermak.

Most recently, Venediktova appointed Maksym Yakubovskyi as her deputy. Maksym Yakubovskyi is a former Deputy Chief Military Prosecutor and lawyer for Viktor Medvedchuk, the pro-Russian MP and Putin’s godfather. In 2011-2013, Yakubovskyi worked as an expert at the NGO Center for Legal Initiatives “Pravova Derzhava” (“Rule of Law”), associated with Medvedchuk. In addition, Yakubovskyi took part in Medvedchuk’s pro-Russian organization, “Ukrainskyi vybir” (“Ukrainian Choice”).

One cannot ignore Yakubovskyi’s excessive wealth recorded by Slidstvo.info  journalists. These are, in particular, cars with a total value of more than 100 thousand euros, as well as real estate.

Venediktova appointed Roman Govda as her another deputy as well. He is also a prosecutor with extensive experience, who worked as a prosecutor of the city of Kiev, and head at the Office of the Prosecutor General.

What is more appealing is the fact that Govda headed the law enforcement department during the time of Interior Minister Oleksandr Zakharchenko and, in particular, during the Revolution of Dignity.

In fact, he is responsible for the investigative and operational actions of the police against the participants in the Revolution of Dignity. And this is not the only thing that Govda became notorious for: he protected a son of an influential people as well as dismissed the case of misapropriation during the construction of a kindergarten and so on.

Outflow of investigations into oligarchs

From the very first days of Venediktova in the office, we at the AntAC clearly understood that the main illustration of her intentions and the results in the future would be the movement of criminal proceedings related to the oligarchs. Then we even made a list of such proceedings: cases related to Oleh Bakhmatyuk (embezzlement of the NBU loan), fraud in Privatbank (Kolomoiskyi), “Rotterdam+” (Rinat Akhmetov), ​​cases related to Minister Avakov.

As a result, this was the list of cases where the problems began. Venediktova either contributed personally or simply “allowed” the cases to be dumped.

For example, the theft of 1.2 billion hryvnias from the VAB bank by its owner, agrarian baron Oleh Bakhmatyuk. The Prosecutor General showed an unprecedented interest in the case: she demanded materials from the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, which is an illegal interference in the body’s activities. Then she “discussed” with the head of the Security Service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov whether the case is within NABU jurisdiction and whether it should be transferred to the  Security Service of Ukraine. This was accompanied by warm compliments to Venediktova and requests to “deal” with the situation on the part of Bakhmatyuk himself.

Later, Venediktova’s subordinates actually dumped the case illegally, under the guise of the same illegal decision of the Pechersk District Court. And then she personally posted about the closure of the case within her social network page.

The case was saved only thanks to the newly established High Anti-Corruption Court, the Appellate Chamber of which overturned the illegal decision of the Pechersk court. After that, Venediktova had no choice but to simply cancel the illegal decisions of her office.

Similarly, during Venediktova’s work, SAPO prosecutor Vitaliy Ponomarenko dismissed the largest NABU case on the “Rotterdam+” energy scheme. Having done this without justification, he referred to several forensic reports, which simply stated there is no answer to the question on the scale of the damage.

He did not even wait for the results of the forensics he was aware of, which determined losses of almost 40 billion hryvnias. NABU detectives immediately appealed the closure of the case to the Prosecutor General, but the Prosecutor General did not revoke it, which means it is finally dismissed. 

It should not be forgotten that after Kholodnytskyi’s dismissal, Venediktova had an important authority to influence NABU affairs. Accordingly to the law, she is the only one to be able to appoint or change a specific prosecutor in the case before the appointment of a new head of the SAPO, as well as to sign a suspicion if the person involved in corruption cases is, for example, a judge, an attorney or MP. 

Moreover, the majority MPs want to strengthen the powers of “their” Prosecutor General. The draft laws are already registered within the Parliament that allow the Prosecutor General to simply demand cases from NABU and SAPO – exactly what she tried to implement in the case of Bakhmatyuk. This is how MPs are attempting to legalize the possibility of interfering in the work of anti-corruption bodies.

Sabotaging the suspicions to the MPs 

Recently, information was disseminated within the Internet that NABU had exposed Oleksandr Yurchenko, a MP from the Servant of the People, and his mediator in the “trade” of the amendments.

On September 15, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau announced that it had indeed conducted an operation to expose an organized group of MPs, who took bribes to promote the amendments to bills or bills in a whole as such.

According to the video published by NABU, the undercover detective tried to get amendments to the legislation with the help of allegedly MP Yurchenko. The amendment was supposed to let profitably launch a solid waste processing plant in Ukraine.

Yurchenko and his mediator Ivan Fishchenko said that for this purpose it is necessary to provide “benefits” for all involved, meaning to distribute the bribes to MPs and, actually, to provide Yurchenko with a share in business.

The High Anti-Corruption Court sent the mediator Fishchenko into custody with an alternative bail of more than UAH 1 million, but only the Prosecutor General can sign the suspicion to MP Yurchenko – this is provided by the law on the so-called lifting of immunity. However, on the same day, September 15, during a speech in the Verkhovna Rada, Iryna Venediktova stated that it was currently impossible to declare suspicion because there were allegedly insufficient grounds.

NABU stated that the Prosecutor General manipulated during her speech in the Verkhovna Rada. The National Bureau claims that all the necessary information about covert investigative actions were provided, including the statements by Yurchenko on that bribery was necessary to amend the legislation. Also, there is a confirmation within the same documents that Yurchenko is aware of the actual transfer of USD 13 000.

Finally, after the media response and public outrage, Venediktov signed Yurchenko’s suspicion with considerable delay. What exactly was to make her change her mind is unknown. But considerable risks were created by her, because the delay gave the probable organizer of the scheme a lot of precious time.

By the way, during the special operation against Yurchenko, NABU planned to reach a much larger number of those involved in the scheme, including a number of MPs. But the “drain” of information forced detectives to stop the operation and declare suspicion only to Yurchenko and his accomplice. Only NABU, SAP, as well as the Office of the Prosecutor General knew about the operation, so probably the “drain” started from the he Prosecutor General’s Office.

Journalists of the “Schemy” (“Schemes”) program found out about the second case of sabotage. They informed that the deputy head of the “Servant of the People” faction Pavlo Khalimon might have demanded a bribe of UAH 40 million from the MP, agrarian businessman Oleh Dmytrenko. He offered to resolve the issues of criminal proceedings against Dmytrenko’s company in return.

According to journalists, Dmytrenko himself went to NABU to make a statement. At the end of July, NABU detectives addressed Venediktova to start the proceedings. However, the Prosecutor General refused, explaining it by the alleged “lack of grounds” to launch an investigation.

These cases may indicate that there may be many more such examples of obstruction of the investigation against MPs. And in fact, behind the scenes of the Office of Iryna Venediktova, the banal political trade with MPs and the factions may continue involving immunity for some and suspicions for others.

The failure of the Prosecutor’s Office reform

Former Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka launched the Prosecutor’s Office reform, which supposed the gradual re-certification of prosecutors at all levels. During his term, almost 55% of prosecutors in the Prosecutor General’s Office failed to pass the certification and were dismissed. The next stage of cleansing the regional and local prosecutor’s offices has already fallen under the cadence of Iryna Venediktova. Therefore, she is personally responsible for these stages.

And although the regional level also seems to have cleared by 34%, which is a good statistical indicator, with Venediktova in office the problems with the reform began.

First, the Prosecutor General immediately stated the alleged imperfection of the reform, due to which former employees can be renewed at the offices. She also cited the opinion of some MPs on that many high level professionals unfortunately left the Prosecutor’s Office.

Indeed, after these words, the fired prosecutors began to resume their positions. In particular, the scandalous KDAC (Kyiv District Administrative Court) reinstated a prosecutor, who stated that his rights had been “repeatedly violated” from the beginning to the end of the certification. He was also awarded salary compensation. There is also a decision of the Vinnytsia District Administrative Court regarding another prosecutor, which Venediktova herself spoke about in an interview.

It is important to understand that within such cases it is the Office of the Prosecutor General in the courts which presents the position and is obliged to insist that a prosecutor failing to pass the attestation cannot be reinstated. If Venediktova herself believes that the renewals are legitimate, nothing can be further said on the OGP position in courts.  

The Prosecutor General’s position on the reform is shown by another step: she was going to order a decision to exclude members of the civic society from the attestation commission. And although this decision was not implemented, Venediktova’s attempt to do so quite eloquently displays her attitude.

Obstruction of the investigation in the case of KDAC judges

In July this year, NABU and SAPO announced suspicions to the judges of the Kyiv District Administrative Court, including its chairman Pavlo Vovk, deputy chairman Yevhen Ablov, other judges of the KDAC, as well as the head of the State Judicial Administration of Ukraine Zenovyi Kholodniuk, and two members of the High Qualifications Commission of Judges. All of them are suspected of creating a criminal organization to seize power.

Given that most of the suspects are judges, only the Prosecutor General, i.e. Venediktova, can choose a measure of restraint for them and request their removal from office. She was to address the matter to the High Council of Justice. Of course, NABU and SAP immediately addressed it with a corresponding statement. But Venediktova simply ignored them. She did not send a petition to the HCJ (High Council of Justice) for unknown reasons for more than a month.

Moreover, she publicly stated in a speech to the Verkhovna Rada in September that NABU had not provided her with the necessary evidence. But the National Bureau calls it manipulation and adds that they submitted the documents on July 23. And then again on July 31.

Moreover, the media reported on the pressure on prosecutors within the case. Thus, the publication “Censor” published recordings of a conversation between the alleged Head of the Office of the Prosecutor General Oleksandr Panov and his subordinates, who were involved in the investigation of the case. On the eve of the search at the KDAC and the handing over of the suspicions, Panov told his subordinates not to carry out investigative actions the next day, in fact threatening their careers.

Sources also informed “Ukrayinska Pravda” about such pressure. It is hard to believe that such things could have happened without the awareness of the Prosecutor General.

The icing on the cake was the reduction of the position of Deputy Prosecutor General, which was held by Andriy Lyubovych. It was he who confirmed the suspicions to the judges of the Kyiv District Administrative Court. Therefore, there is no doubt that the “reduction” should be considered as a dismissal.

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The above applies only to Venediktova professional activities. But it is impossible not to mention other compromising facts. For example, quite recently Venediktova rented a state residence in the Pushcha-Vodytsya complex at twice lower the price for which they actually offer to rent a house. The cost of renting one square meter in 2015 was 170 UAH per month, while now the Prosecutor General pays 95 UAH. Thus the living costs her about UAH 60 000, instead of UAH 115 000 per month.

The case of Venediktova Hublot’s undeclared watch, that she was  wearing even before she became Prosecutor General, was also widely publicized, However, this was not addressed. Meanwhile, its value can reach EUR 10 000.

The facts are being verified by the NAPC, but the Prosecutor General herself stated that it was allegedly a much cheaper counterfeit, not the original.

Therefore, for more than six months of work of Iryna Venediktova, we do not see any loud victories, achievements, or problem solving. Instead, what we receive is a lot of scandals, dubious appointments and decisions.

But neither the Office of President Zelenskyi nor the mono-majority in the Verkhovna Rada in any way even make a hint at the need for the Prosecutor General’s resignation.

Isn’t it because the main expectations from this position were not reforms, or some real results, but manual control, which allows to selectively “hide” the affairs of oligarchs and “trade” suspicions to MPs?

AntAC for UP

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