EU Soft Power, Activism Triumphant in Asset Declaration Bill
Today, Ukraine’s Parliament adopted the final bill needed to fulfill the EU Commission requirements of VLAP (Visa Liberalization Plan).
The adopted bill approved the online asset declaration system for state officials.
Recall that on Thursday, February 18th, Ukraine’s parliament passed three laws (#4054, #4055, #4056) that dealt with seizure and confiscation of proceeds of crime, the Asset Recovery Office, and the reduction of the General Prosecutor of Ukraine’s influence over selecting the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor and its deputies. All these bills were required by the EU to fulfill the VLAP plan.
However, bill #3755, that would initiate the operational online asset declaration system, was manipulated right before the vote, worsening the situation. The following specific changes were made that obviously would render the online asset declaration system ineffective:
- Postponed criminal liability for false information in the declarations until 2017
- Removed from the financial disclosure’s scope parents and children of the declarant who do not live with the latter. This will again allow the corrupt officials to transfer their illegal assets to such relatives and hide them this way.
- Increased disclosure thresholds for a number of objects
- Allowed not to declare valuable movable property acquired before the launch of the new system of e-declarations, which is a legal way of legitimization of previously obtained ill-gotten funds.
EU Ambassador Jan Tombinski was quick to condemn the adopted bill, stating it’s “disappointing and not in line with anti-corruption commitments undertaken by the Ukrainian leadership.” He called for immediate action to create an effective system of asset verification and declarations.
On March 16th, following continued pressure from both the EU and Ukraine’s anti-corruption activists; President Poroshenko vetoed bill #3755. He, with approval from the EU and civil society organizations, sent the bill back with new proposals for the parliament to adopt. Specifically, the new bill includes the following proposed amendments:
- Criminal liability for knowingly declaring assets that’s value differs from 250 times more the minimum wage than what was recorded in the declaration. Prison, community service and a criminal fine are consequences if found guilty.
- Administrative liability for knowingly declared assets that’s value differs from 100-250 times more the minimum un-taxed wage than what was recorded in the declaration.
- Must declare jewelry and other movable assets if their value is of 100 times more than minimum wage (was 50).
More importantly, the following will be in effect upon adoption:
- Criminal responsibility for asset fraud will be implemented immediately
- The e-declaration system will work directly with the NACP this year
- Officials must declare their assets on the new declaration form starting this year.
- Asset declaration of distant relatives is required as well, not only immediate family.
The parliament did everything required for visa free regime. Now Ukraine has to implement the final step – finalize selection of managers of National Anti-corruption Prevention Agency, which will have power to launch e-declarations regime. The Selection Commission is expected to decide on 2 managers of the Agency today-tomorrow.