Tainted judges to dominate new Supreme Court
More than 20 percent -- 25 of the 111 judges appointed by the High Council of Justice to the new Supreme Court -- do not meet ethical standards and are deemed corrupt or dishonest, according to the Public Integrity Council, a civil society watchdog.
Apart from these, the Public Integrity Council has concerns about the integrity of about 60 more Supreme Court judges.
One of the most controversial new judges of the Supreme Court is Bohdan Lvov, chairman of the High Commercial Court and reportedly the frontrunner to become the Supreme Court’s chairman.
The Public Integrity Council, citing its sources, called Lvov a “placeholder of Viktor Tatkov,” the ex-chairman of the High Commercial Court, who has been accused of spearheading a large-scale corruption scheme – a claim denied by Lvov.
Tatkov and his ex-deputy Artur Yemelyanov have been charged with influencing court rulings by illegally interfering in the automatic distribution of cases during the rule of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych.
The High Commercial Court’s judges, including Lvov, voted to effectively get rid of the automatic distribution of court cases by assigning just one judge to each judicial specialization, which would allow Tatkov and Yemelyanov to handpick judges for cases that they wanted to profit from, according to the Public Integrity Council.
Vitaly Tytych, a member of the Public Integrity Council, believes that this makes Lvov and other High Commercial Court judges accomplices in the Tatkov-Yemelyanov case.
Lvov, who at the time of the alleged crime was one of the judges working under Tatkov, has been investigated in the case but has not been charged. However, he didn’t cooperate with investigators, the council said. Lvov denied commit- ting any violations when he voted for judges’ specialization and said he was cooperating with investigators.
Tatkov and Yemelyanov denied all accusations of wrongdoing. Yemelyanov’s wife has been found to have 13 million Swiss francs on accounts in Liechtenstein.
When Tatkov left his post, Lvov, who replaced him as chairman of the High Commercial Court, helped to maintain Tatkov’s influence on the court’s judges, according to the Public Integrity Council.
Lvov kept Tatkov’s placemen, gave Tatkov a luxury office, and did not initiate the suspension of judges who were involved in Tatkov’s alleged corruption schemes, the council added.
According to the Public Integrity Council, Tatkov schemed to make Lvov his successor as the court chairman after the EuroMaidan Revolution overturned Yanukovych’s regime in 2014.
Lvov took care of his predecessor: The Public Integrity Council believes that Lvov falsified the conclusion that Tatkov is not subject to lustration under the law on the dismissal of top officials who served ex-President Viktor Yanukovych. Tatkov was fired under the lustration law in 2016 and fled the coun- try the same year.
Lvov said he did not have the right to analyze whether lustration applied to Tatkov, and dismissed accusations of wrongdoing.
The Public Integrity Council’s Tytych says that the Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, is covering up for Tatkov, Yemelyanov and Lvov, and is carrying out surveillance over investigators who are pursuing the case. The SBU did not respond to a request for comment.
“If (the investigators) touch these jackals, they’ll be destroyed,” Tytych says. “Pressure is so high on them and will be even worse if they touch Lvov or some of the appointed Supreme Court judges.”
Lvov is also under investigation in a criminal case against High Council of Justice member Pavlo Grechkivsky, who has been charged with fraud, but who voted for Supreme Court candidates nonetheless, according to a court ruling and testimony given by an intermediary charged in the case. According to the testimony, Grechkivsky has promised to help in a legal dispute with Lvov’s assistance for $500,000.
Lvov said the testimony was a lie, although he has admitted being acquainted with Grechkivsky. New Supreme Court judges Vyacheslav Nastavny and Serhiy Slynko participated in the political persecution of Yuriy Lutsenko, now prosecutor general, and the Pavlychenko family under ex-President Viktor Yanukovych.
The European Court of Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have ruled that there were legal violations in the Lutsenko case. The European Union’s parliament and five EU ambassadors have recognized the Lutsenko case as political, while in 2014 the Verkhovna Rada passed a law to rehabilitate Lutsenko and others as political prisoners.
New Supreme Court judge Larysa Moroz lied in her asset declaration in 2016, not mentioning that she inherited in 2013 a 56-square-meter house, which she later sold, according to the Public Integrity Council.
Moroz has also canceled the High Council of Justice’s decision to fire two judges who ordered the unlawful arrest of EuroMaidan activists, the council said.
Another new judge of the Supreme Court, Iryna Saprykina, lied in her asset declaration by not including the property of her daughter, the Public Integrity Council said. She also banned peaceful assemblies in Kyiv in 2013.
Very few new Supreme Court judges stand out as notable exceptions, having good reputations.
One of them is Dmytro Hudyma, who teaches law at the National Lviv University. The Public Integrity council found no violations in his asset declarations and said he is well-known as a pro bono human rights lawyer.
Another is Oleksandr Mamaluy, who was a judge of the Commercial Court of Kharkiv Oblast when he was drafted into the army in March 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Mamaluy served as a sniper in the war zone and won a medal for courage.
Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko sits for trial in Pechersk District Court in Kyiv on Aug. 17, 2012. Lutsenko was sentenced to four years in jail in a case which the Council of Europe later found being politically motivated. Lutsenko’s sentence was endorsed by two judges selected on Sept. 29 for the new Ukrainian Supreme Court. (UNIAN)