“Hero” Lutsenko and “Soros group”: AntAC rebuts new accusations of The Hill journalist
The opinion article, which was published on March 26 on The Hill media platform, contained a number of allegations regarding AntAC. We would like to offer our fact check and explanations.
Quote from the opinion article: “While the 2016 presidential race was raging in America, Ukrainian prosecutors ran into some unexpectedly strong headwinds as they pursued an investigation into the activities of a nonprofit in their homeland known as the Anti-Corruption Action Centre (AntAC).
The focus on AntAC was part of a larger probe by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office into whether $4.4 million in U.S. funds to fight corruption inside the former Soviet republic had been improperly diverted.
The prosecutors soon would learn the resistance they faced was blowing directly from the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, where the Obama administration took the rare step of trying to press the Ukrainian government to back off its investigation of both the U.S. aid and the group.”
The criminal case into alleged embezzlement of U.S. technical assistance of 4 million USD of the US taxpayers money which had to be spent on the PGO’s reforms was opened on March 16, 2016 by the Prosecutor General’s Office under the leadership of the previous Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.
On April 4, 2016 the PGO received the letter from the U.S. Embassy.
Yuriy Lutsenko, who was appointed to the position of the Prosecutor General in May 2016, fully agreed that the allegations were groundless, he even said that they ‘simply dishonor the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine’.
As soon as Lutsenko was appointed, the case was closed in May 2016 by the PGO.
“Yuri Lutsenko, widely regarded as a hero in the West for spending two years in prison after fighting Russian aggression in his country, was named prosecutor general and invited to meet new U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.”
Firstly, Yuri Lutsenko is widely regarded in the West as “hero” for his drunken and disorderly conduct in Frankfurt airport, where he was detained by the police in 2009 while serving as a Minister of Interior Affairs of Ukraine.
Secondly, Yuri Lutsenko was sentenced to four years in prison in early 2012, this was two years before Russian aggression that started in 2014. Allegations against Lutsenko were for embezzlement of funds of the Ministry of Interior under his leadership and abuse of office resulting in illicit allocation of state-owned apartment to his former driver, facilitating illicit social security payments to this person and illicit allocation of funds for the celebration of the Militia (police) day in 2008-2009. He was charged with causing damages of $125,000 to the state. Lutsenko submitted a claim to the European Court of Human Rights and in 2012 the court ruled that Lutsenko’s arrest and subsequent detention violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
“Lutsenko told me he was stunned when the ambassador “gave me a list of people whom we should not prosecute.” The list included a founder of the AntAC group and two members of Parliament who vocally supported the group’s anti-corruption reform agenda, according to a source directly familiar with the meeting.”
During the first possible meeting of Madam Ambassador with Lutsenko, which could not have happened earlier than late August 2016, there were no ongoing criminal prosecutions against AntAC Head of Board Vitaliy Shabunin.
The criminal case against AntAC on alleged embezzlement of the U.S. taxpayers money was already closed for around 3 months.
The criminal investigation into Shabunin’s punch of a bully-provocateur, which took place on June 8, 2017, was triggered in summer 2017. There is an ongoing trial in this case in the court.
“It turns out the group that Ukrainian law enforcement was probing was co-funded by the Obama administration and liberal mega-donor George Soros.”
AntAC was founded in the end of 2011 by Vitaliy Shabunin and Daria Kaleniuk, who formerly were activists of youth NGO “Foundation of Regional Initiatives”. In 2012 AntAC was functioning without any financial support as a volunteer project of its founders.
In 2013 the NGO received first funding as a subgrant from the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDs supported by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the public monitoring of public procurement of medications in Ukraine.
“In the end, no action was taken against AntAC and it remains thriving today.”
This is not true. The action was taken in May 2016 – the PGO closed the criminal case “due to the absence of criminal offence.” However, no-one from PGO officers who abused the power triggering criminal investigation on AntAC was punished disregarding organization’s requests. Information PGO obtained through the course of the investigation (banking statements) was later repeatedly leaked to media with the goal to discredit the organization.
“After the Obama Justice Department launched its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative a decade ago to prosecute corruption in other countries, the State Department, Justice Department and FBI outsourced some of its work in Ukraine to groups funded by Soros.”
In December 2013 in the middle of the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine AntAC launched a campaign on freezing foreign assets of Ukraine’s former President Yanukovych and his associates. AntAC was running a webpage yanukovich.info, which gathered all publicly available facts about corrupt assets of Yanukovych’s allies and mapped the role of Western lawyers, banks and companies in covering and enabling grand corruption. The campaign was funded via crowdfunding from concerned citizens and was not financially supported by neither government of the U.S. nor Soros foundation.
Within the campaign AntAC reached out to the law enforcement agencies in the EU, Switzerland, the U.S. with request to investigate foreign assets of Yanukovych and his associates. DoJ Kleptocracy Asset Recovery initiative was part of a long list of foreign law enforcement agencies AntAC reached out in December 2013 – February 2014.
“One key U.S. partner was AntAC, which received 59 percent (or $1 million) of its nearly $1.7 million budget since 2012 from U.S. budgets tied to State and Justice, and nearly $290,000 from Soros’s International Renaissance Foundation, according to the group’s donor disclosure records.”
Apart from the projects, funded by abovementioned donors U.S. government and Open Society foundations, since 2013 AntAC was funded by a wide range of other donors, including:
- The Global Fund via All-Ukraine Charitable Organization “All-Ukraininan Network of People living with HIV/AIDS”
- The Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands via Matra program
- The Embassy of the United Kingdom
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic
- European Union
- Donations from individuals/legal entities
“The U.S.-Soros collaboration was visible in Kiev. Several senior Department of Justice (DOJ) officials and FBI agents appeared in pictures as participants or attendees at Soros-sponsored events and conferences.”
Right after the victory of the Revolution of Dignity and runaway of former President Yanukovych from Ukraine, AntAC activists were invited to the meetings with law enforcement officers from various countries willing to help Ukraine in tracing proceeds of corruption of ousted president Yanukovych. AntAC also met with representatives from DOJ and shared with them all publicly available information the organization gathered on corrupt officials under Yanukovych regime.
Recovery of proceeds of corruption of Yanukovych and his associates was one of the key priorities of work of AntAC, which was organizing specialized asset recovery conference in Ukraine in 2014, 2015, 2016. Law enforcement officers from Ukraine and abroad were invited to these conferences, including Karen Greenaway. Apart from DOJ officials there were Ukrainian (including PGO), Italian, British, Swiss law enforcement officers speaking and participating at AntAC asset recovery conferences.
“Greenaway recently retired, and Soros’s AntAC soon after announced she was joining its supervisory board.”
In February 2019 Karen Greenaway agreed to join AntAC Supervisory Board after she will finish her other professional obligations.
AntAC Supervisory Board membership is a non-paid commitment from distinguished professionals who care about Ukraine and countering grand political corruption. Among AntAC Supervisory Board members there are Francis Fukuyama from Stanford University, Giovanni Kessler, former head of the EU Anti-Fraud Office, Oliver Bullough, British author and investigative journalists, Oleksa Shalayskyi, head of Nashi Groshi investigative project in Ukraine.
“Senior U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed to me that the early kleptocracy collaborations inside Ukraine led to highly visible U.S. actions against the oligarch Dmitri Firtash, a major target of the Soros group, and Manafort. Firtash is now represented by former Hillary Clinton lawyer Lanny Davis and former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb.”
Dmitri Firtash was never a major target of the Anti-corruption Action Centre.
AntAC collects publicly available evidence of alleged corruption and money laundering of all oligarchs in Ukraine, as well as all top corrupt officials. AntAC has been doing this under the regime of ousted president Yanukovych and continues to do that under the new government leaded by President Poroshenko since spring 2014.
“Ukrainian NGO Anticorruption Action Centre (AntAC) petitioned the United States Justice Department on behalf of Ukrainian civil society to dedicate the nearly $3 million in forfeited and seized assets allegedly laundered by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, to creating an anti-corruption training facility,” a 2015 foundation document stated.
In 2013 AntAC submitted a petition to the DoJ with request to repatriate $250mln proceeds of corruption of Pavlo Lazarenko, a former Prime Minister of Ukraine, convicted in the US for money laundering back in 2006. Since 2004, the U.S. government started in rem forfeiture procedure aiming at recovery of proceeds of crime. The procedure is still pending.
In the petition supported by more than 10 civil society organizations AntAC called the US government to refrain from repatriation of stolen assets back to the corrupt government of Ukraine at that time headed by Yanukovych, which could steal them again. AntAC called the US Government to consider the success story of repatriating proceeds of corruption to Kazakhstan, where independent BOTA foundation was set up for the repatriation of proceeds of corruption. In 2015, AntAC updated the petition given the abrupt changes in the country and emerged news in media claiming that Lazarenko’s funds were about to be confiscated by the DoJ.
“Spokespersons for AntAC and Open Society Foundations did not respond to repeated requests for comment.”
AntAC did not receive any requests for the comments by John Solomon following recent Lutsenko’s interview. The only request from him to provide answers to the questions was received back in October 2018 (six months before publication of Lutsenko’s interview). At that time, AntAC did not provide any response to Solomon after the background checks on him. AntAC became aware of John Solomon’s controversial reputation in American media for spreading manipulative and biased messages. For instance, last year, the staffers of the Hill expressed their concerns over Solomon’s biased reporting. AntAC was rightfully concerned that our answers would be misused and manipulated by Solomon.