How Manafort case is an in­dict­ment of Ukrainian law en­force­ment

Kyiv Post - - Front Page -

Ukraine's lead­ers should take a les­son from the U.S. crim­i­nal in­dict­ments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, and the guilty plea of Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, all an­nounced on Oct. 30. The con­trasts are glar­ing. Ukrainian au­thor­i­ties have been putting up smoke­screens with di­ver­sion­ary de­bates over such bo­gus is­sues as the au­then­tic­ity of sig­na­tures on the "Black Ledger," ex-Ukrainian President Vik­tor Yanukovych's record of $2 bil­lion in il­le­gal pay­ments un­cov­ered last June. They have a long his­tory of ob­struct­ing jus­tice with such ruses. Any­body re­mem­ber the de­bates over the au­then­tic­ity of the Mel­ny­chenko tapes, which showed ex-President Leonid Kuchma run­ning the na­tion like a mafia thug?

By con­trast, U. S. Spe­cial Pros­e­cu­tor Robert Mueller has shown how a pro­fes­sional works. His team got search war­rants. They se­cured tax and bank trans­fer records that they al­lege will prove that Manafort and his pro­tégé, Gates, re­ceived $75 mil­lion in il­licit pay­ments from Ukraine. Manafort worked as a Yanukovych and Party of Re­gions ad­viser from 2006 to 2014, then helped the Re­gions' holdovers form the Op­po­si­tion Bloc in 2015, be­fore be­fore be­com­ing man­ager of Don­ald J. Trump's suc­cess­ful 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Mueller also got ev­i­dence against Pa­padopou­los, a Trump for­eign pol­icy ad­viser, who pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to ly­ing about meet­ings he had with Rus­sians as early as March 2016 over hacked emails from Hil­lary Clin­ton. Then they of­fered Pa­padopoulous a plea bar­gain to get him to "flip," or giv­ing ev­i­dence of crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing against oth­ers.

Of course, the big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween Amer­ica's ju­di­cial sys­tem and Ukraine is that Ukraine's po­lice, pros­e­cu­tors and judges are not sup­posed to seek jus­tice or pun­ish those who steal bil­lions of dol­lars and mur­der peo­ple with im­punity. They're sup­posed to pre­serve and pro­tect the in­sid­ers who steal — keep­ing the klep­to­cratic oli­garchy in place. President Petro Poroshenko, since com­ing to power on June 7, 2014, has been might­ily re­sist­ing an in­de­pen­dent le­gal sys­tem.

So Ukraini­ans con­tinue to be im­pov­er­ished need­lessly by their cor­rupt elite. Some $40 bil­lion went out dur­ing the Yanukovych era from 2010 to 2014, when it was brought to an end by the EuroMaidan Rev­o­lu­tion. Some $20 bil­lion was taken from Ukraine's banks, with­out a sin­gle bank fraud con­vic­tion. Bil­lion­aire oli­garch Ihor Kolo­moisky's theft of $6 bil­lion from Pri­vatBank is Ex­hibit A. There's also shady busi­ness go­ing on today in the na­tion's $5 bil­lion se­cu­rity and de­fense bud­get.

Western na­tions, fa­vored des­ti­na­tions of ill-got­ten gains, of­ten can­not crack down on sus­pi­cious or il­le­gal money un­less Ukrainian au­thor­i­ties de­velop crim­i­nal cases against the cul­prits at home and for­ward the ev­i­dence. That al­most never hap­pens, even though ev­i­dence of cor­rup­tion and theft is abun­dant if Ukrainian law en­forcers re­ally wanted to find it.

Poroshenko re­lies on the pri­mary jus­tice block­ers — Pros­e­cu­tor General Yuriy Lut­senko, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov and Se­cu­rity Ser­vice of Ukraine head Va­syl Hryt­sak. The new anti-cor­rup­tion in­sti­tu­tions be­come con­ve­nient scape­goats and ex­cuses for why the reg­u­lar in­sti­tu­tions — with 150,000 po­lice of­fi­cers and in­ves­ti­ga­tors, 15,000 pros­e­cu­tors, 9,000 judges and 40,000 spe­cial ser­vice agents — aren't do­ing their jobs. While the Na­tional Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bureau of Ukraine may be do­ing its job, its work is ul­ti­mately point­less with­out trust­wor­thy courts. All in­ves­ti­ga­tions are still con­trolled by the General Pros­e­cu­tor's Of­fice, in­clud­ing court ver­dicts. In­stead of pur­su­ing jus­tice, th­ese over­staffed Soviet holdovers ha­rass op­po­nents and cor­rup­tion-fight­ing ac­tivists. They de­ter for­eign in­vest­ment by at­tack­ing en­trepreneurs. There is no other rea­son for an eco­nomic unit of the Se­cu­rity Ser­vice of Ukraine.

Amer­ica has had more suc­cess in fight­ing Ukrainian cor­rup­tion than Ukraine. U.S. courts in 2006 con­victed ex-Ukrainian Prime Min­is­ter Pavlo Lazarenko of laun­der­ing $114 mil­lion; he spent three years in prison. Now the U.S. jus­tice sys­tem is go­ing af­ter Manafort. But the money al­legedly stolen amounts to less than 1 per­cent of the theft dur­ing the Yanukovych era alone. In other words, there are hun­dreds of Ukrainian Manaforts get­ting off scot-free. This has dire con­se­quences. If Yanukovych had been pros­e­cuted for the 2004 elec­tion fraud that trig­gered the Or­ange Rev­o­lu­tion, he would have been in prison in­stead of elected president in 2010. If Ukraine's law en­forcers keep fail­ing to con­front cor­rup­tion, Poroshenko will only have him­self to blame if he loses re-elec­tion in 2019. Un­til Ukraine de­feats its in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized cor­rup­tion, the na­tion has no hope of be­ing taken se­ri­ously by the West or in­vestors. A vic­tim­ized so­ci­ety will, more­over, jus­ti­fi­ably al­ways be on the brink of its next rev­o­lu­tion.

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