Parliament Passed 3 Anti-corruption Laws, but Asset Declarations Problem Yet to be Resolved
On Thursday, February 18th, the parliament of Ukraine successfully passed three laws required by the EU to implement anti-corruption commitments within the visa liberalization action plan.
AntAC congratulates parliament with progress, but reminds that it has only until end of March 2016 for the final step – to create a fully-fledged online asset declarations system in Ukraine.
Specifically, draft law #4054 on seizure and confiscation of proceeds of crime and draft law #4056 on Asset recovery office were adopted to repair significant drawbacks introduced by parliament in November 2015.
Minister of Justice of Ukraine Pavlo Petrenko, former deputy prosecutor General Vitaliy Kasko, civil society activists and later on experts of the European Commission asked the Rada back in November to reconsider asset recovery laws.
With the newly adopted changes it will be possible to seize assets, which are likely proceeds of crime, at early stages of investigations, and even if they have been transferred to third parties. Simultaneously, the new laws provide strong guarantees for third parties to protect their constitutional property rights. In addition, parliament empowered the Asset recovery agency with proper rights of management of seized and confiscated assets.
The Agency, which has strong guarantees of independence, is aimed to ensure effective tracing and recovery to state budget of proceeds of crimes. Both laws will be instrumental in the daily work of the National Anti-corruption Bureau aimed to investigate grand political corruption.
Another voted draft law, #4055, reduces the influence of the General Prosecutor during the selection of the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor (SAP) and his deputies. In addition, the new law cancels the obligatory requirement for candidates for the SAP position of having 5 years experience at the position of prosecutor; opening the selection process for people outside the generally corrupt prosecutorial system in Ukraine.
The above mentioned laws were passed successfully by parliament because of joint strong pressure coming from civil society in Ukraine and international partners of Ukraine, specifically the EU and IMF. Proper asset recovery regime and guarantees of independency of new anti-corruption agencies are conditionality’s for EU visa free regime for Ukraine and for IMF loans.
Yet, there is one more important final step needed from the Ukrainian government towards implementation of the EU anti-corruption commitments on the way to visa liberalization: operational online asset declarations system. On Tuesday, February 16, parliament voted draft law #3755, which had to resolve the problem, but in fact worsened the situation, specifically:
– 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.
AntAC jointly with other civil society organizations calls on the President to veto the adopted law #3755 and calls parliament to consider a new law, which will address the above mentioned drawbacks.