Why is there no justice in corruption cases against Yanukovych family?

by Olena Shcherban, originally published on Ukrainska Pravda

The fiercest stage of the Revolution of Dignity took place 7 years ago. On February 18-20, 2014, about one hundred protesters were shot dead at the Maydan. The investigation of these crimes continues until today.

Immediately after shootings at the Maydan then-President Viktor Yanukovych  fled to Russia. However, top-level corruption during the time of fugitive President has remained an unpunished evil.

There are no decisions against top officials of that time. Only some minor accomplices and executors received sentences.

Last year journalists of Ukrayinska Pravda described essence of cases, in which Viktor Yanukovych’s entourage was accused, and shed light on actual absence of any significant results.

It should be the national interest to bring these cases to logical conclusion. However, the number of these individuals are returning to Ukraine and brazenly demonstrating their impunity to society that has fought to death for liberation from corruption and pro-Russian course of development.

Ukraine loses opportunity to receive compensation for numerous corruption schemes, such as confiscation of corrupt assets.

Every year the European Union lifts sanctions from some of Yanukovych’s allies due to lack of results in investigation and significant achievements of Ukraine on this battlefield. The same thing will obviously happen this year.

Why does it happen and who is to blame? We have our own version at the Anti-Corruption Action Center. Because during and after the Revolution of Dignity we sent more than ten statements regarding crimes made by former officials of Yanukovych-era.

To dumped cases and  responsibility for them

After years of unsuccessful investigations, in late 2019, corruption cases against family of former President Yanukovych were transferred to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.

Then, the Prosecutor’s Office de jure finally lost investigation and could no longer investigate these cases.

These criminal proceedings were initiated long before the NABU began its work. The bureau begun its work in November 2015, at the time when subjects of cases from Yanukovych’s family had long been under investigation of the Prosecutor General’s Office and had received their first suspicions.

The logic was that the NABU would start working from scratch, eradicate current corruption. And old cases had to be completed by investigators of the Prosecutor General’s Office that had started them.

After more than 5 years of investigation, these cases were transferred to the NABU and the SAPO instead of transferring them to court. When the AntAC monitored progress of investigation, it sent the appeal to the NABU to clarify the situation in these cases.

In response we received the large list of cases, most of which were suspended at the time of transfer.

It turned out that cases were initially transferred to detectives of the NABU only on paper, and the bureau was receiving materials of these proceedings during several more months.

As result, the NABU received 22,000 volumes of cases, only studying them took several months. Thus, 300 (out of 700 legally permitted employees) detectives of the NABU received hundreds of other cases with thousands of volumes of documents in addition to existing cases of high-ranking corruption.

We should recall that the NABU is the smallest law enforcement agency in the country in terms of number. The bureau publicly stated the need to involve law enforcement officers from other bodies to ensure efficiency and the fastest possible result.

Despite large volumes of these materials, in many cases they are difficult to call cases. Volumes of many cases turned out to be either procedural garbage, or cases lacked some important documents, without which further investigation was meaningless.

In this chaos detectives set themselves the task to find and isolate remnants of promising cases on which they should focus in order to achieve at least some result.

Destroyed evidence and opportunities for investigation

The reason why most cases were destroyed is clearly demonstrated by quite public data.

Only yesterday there were news in Ukrayinska Pravda that Latvia had confiscated 30 million Eur of Yanukovych’s close ally Yuriy Ivanyushchenko into its budget. They did not wait for any decision from Ukraine.

Reasons become clear under detailed study of this news. In Ukraine, these funds were arrested in the framework of case regarding illicit enrichment of Ivanyushchenko. The proceeding has been investigated since 2014 and was closed before being transferred to the NABU and the SAPO.

But banal absurdity of this story is that the classic illicit enrichment appeared in Ukraine as the crime after escape of Yanukovych and his associates and came into force in April 2015.

In 2018, this crime was cancelled by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. Until 2015, the criminal provision existed only on paper and was formulated in such a way that in practice it could not be applied.

The Prosecutor General’s Office understood this perfectly, but they announced charges in this crime only to make the report regarding the process, but not for the result. 

Instead, numerous cases involving Ivanyushchenko’s companies and banks have not received any charges. For reasons unknown to us, since 2014 the Prosecutor General’s Office has not even tried to find evidence of Ivanyushchenko’s involvement regarding illegal appropriation of Odesa market “7th kilometer”.

The case on embezzlement of funds obtained from the sale of greenhouse gas emission allowances to Japan in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol was also closed.

Journalists and environmentalists have found signs of appropriation about 2 billion UAH by companies close to Ivanyushchenko. But the case was closed by the court decision. The AntAC, as the applicant in these cases, considers that the Prosecutor General’s Office simply did not even try to investigate them.

The Anti-Corruption Action Center has repeatedly criticized the Prosecutor General’s Office for sluggishness of investigation regarding Ivanyushchenko’s case.

At one time, the AntAC also sent several statements regarding crimes related to abuses during procurement of medicines during tenure of the Minister Rayisa Bogatyryova.

We are talking about billions of UAH spent on procurement of medicines at inflated prices, or infamous procurement of ambulances for billion UAH.

During the time when Bogatyreva was the head, in fact, all tenders of the Ministry were held under clear protection of her entourage. One such person was her deputy Roman Bogachov, who headed the tender committee.

Then all market participants knew perfectly well that the only way to the tender was through Bogachov’s office.

According to our information, investigators of the Prosecutor General’s Office have repeatedly conducted searches in the Ministry since 2014. They found evidence that tender proposals of procurement participants at that time had been prepared in the Ministry of Health on work computers of employees of the Ministry.

But for some reason investigators had no claims against Bogachov or his subordinates. And no one knows where  evidence disappeared.

Who is to blame for failure and what to do next

Reasons for such shameful failure of investigations are different. First of all, particular persons are behind dumping of these cases.

For instance, part of cases was investigated by infamous former prosecutor Konstantyn Kulyk, who was under investigation for illicit enrichment, and today is, in fact, sanctioned by the US for interfering in the US elections and belonging to the group of Russian agent Andriy Derkach.

Impudent dumping of cases and destruction of evidence could not have taken place without knowledge of leadership of the Prosecutor General’s Office. Therefore, history should remember names of prosecutors general who are responsible for these failures.

These are Oleg Makhnitskyi, Vitaliy Yarema, Viktor Shokin and Yuriy Lutsenko.

Of course, this does not mean that all investigators and prosecutors only destroyed cases. There were exceptions. Unit of Sergiy Gorbatyuk dealt with separate cases in the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The latter systematically reported about pressure and other artificial obstacles to the investigation of cases by the leadership of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Problems in cases were often created at the legislative level. Infamous ” Lozovyi’s amendments” or imperfect procedure of sentencing in absentia also contributed to problems in the number of cases. Some of these problems still remain unresolved by the Parliament.

All these facts are the  verdict for the state, which over years has shown its inability to punish obvious corruption of former leadership. Even so, not all is lost yet. Among thousands of volumes of these cases there are those where they can still achieve results.

The High Anti-Corruption Court, for instance, found reasonable suspicion to Yanukovych and his son regarding seizure of Mezhyhirya. Formalities still stand in the way of transferring the case to court, but the fact itself shows that there is substantial evidence for prosecutuon.

Ukrainians at least have chance that the case will be sent to court. Similarly, the case of Sergiy Arbuzov is at the stage of studying of materials s by defence (that means the stage before being sent to court).

Bringing these cases (where it is possible) to logical conclusion should be priority for both investigators and prosecutors as well as legislative bodies. There are similar expectations concern the cases of violence against participants of the Revolution of Dignity. After all, unpunished evil always returns back.

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