Clever cor­rup­tion

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

The sum­mer is over for ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing Ukraine’s stu­dents, work­ers and law­mak­ers.

Ukraine’s par­lia­ment went on sum­mer break with­out adopt­ing key re­forms in pen­sions, health care, pri­va­ti­za­tion, the agri­cul­tural land mar­ket and de­fense, as well as not set­ting up a crit­i­cally im­por­tant anti-cor­rup­tion court that could at last de­liver a mea­sure of jus­tice.

With­out the changes, the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund will not start re­lend­ing, in­vestors won’t start flock­ing to Ukraine and the econ­omy will not im­prove for mil­lions of im­pov­er­ished peo­ple.

Yet the grip of the oli­garchy — led by Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko — re­mains strong. Poroshenko, while fash­ion­ing him­self as a pro-West­ern re­former, is in re­al­ity the main ob­sta­cle to progress in a lot of th­ese ar­eas. Again, don’t take the Kyiv Post’s word for it. Most Ukraini­ans don’t read English, let alone the Kyiv Post, but have come to the same con­clu­sion about him: dis­ap­proval. The fright­en­ing prospect re­mains that his fail­ure to lead on gen­uine re­forms could lead to the elec­tion of other can­di­dates with even worse agen­das: Yuriy Boiko, the close ally of ex-Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych, comes to mind.

Con­se­quently, cor­rupt schemes are still flour­ish­ing that con­tinue to fleece Ukraine’s be­lea­guered cit­i­zens as some of the na­tion’s cheer­lead­ers choose to look away and hush any ex­pres­sion of dis­sent. They prove once again that pa­tri­o­tism is the last refuge of scoundrels. The higher form of true pa­tri­o­tism, in our view, is not to hide what’s wrong — but to con­front prob­lems head-on with so­lu­tions.

One of the more re­cent scan­dals to go pub­lic, thanks to civil so­ci­ety ac­tivists and re­formist law­mak­ers, is the highly ques­tion­able way in which law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties seized $1.5 bil­lion in as­sets stolen by Yanukovych, who fled the Euro-Maidan Rev­o­lu­tion on Feb. 22, 2014. Since then, we’ve come to learn that Yanukovych and his cronies, be­sides sell­ing out to Rus­sia, stole as much as $40 bil­lion dur­ing his four-year rule.

Rather than mak­ing as­set re­cov­ery a pri­or­ity, Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral Yuriy Lut­senko set the na­tion up to be on the los­ing end of any law­suit over those con­fis­cated pro­ceeds. He shrouds the seizure in se­crecy.

Now we know that sig­nif­i­cant amounts of money are go­ing to Poroshenko’s friends, such as agri­cul­tural ty­coon Yuriy Ko­siuk, and oth­ers who have fleeced the na­tion, such as Oleh Bakhmatiuk, whose banks failed be­cause of in­sider or fraud­u­lent lend­ing. He owes tax­pay­ers more than $1 bil­lion, but has friends in high places, so he’s avoided crim­i­nal charges and a civil law­suit.

The na­tion ap­pears to be seiz­ing as­sets that were stolen to re­dis­tribute to peo­ple who might have stolen them. This is not progress. It is more ev­i­dence that en­e­mies within could de­feat Ukraine’s progress.

And Sergii Leshchenko, the mem­ber of par­lia­ment who spe­cial­izes in ex­pos­ing cor­rup­tion, claims that an ally of Vik­tor Medved­chuk, Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s friend, is schem­ing to rig im­ports of liqui­fied pe­tro­leum gas, cor­ner the mar­ket and drive up prices. Th­ese and other schemes must be bro­ken up. Those who put their per­sonal for­tunes ahead of the na­tional in­ter­est, es­pe­cially at a time of war, are traitors, not patriots.

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