The fu­ture of Ukraine’s fight against cor­rup­tion ption

Kyiv Post - - Front Page -

Does Ukraine have a fu­ture with­out a suc­cess­ful anti-cor­rup­tion fight? And could Ukraine in­flu­ence other na­tions with vic­to­ries in its war on cor­rup­tion?

Ahead of pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions next year, Ukraine is be­ing pressed hard to re­turn to the days of ex-Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych, where "un­touch­ables" re­mained un­touch­able — and above the law.

Two events high­light an­tag­o­nisms in the rag­ing bat­tle un­der way.

Sergiy Po­tot­skyi, a 52-yearold en­tre­pre­neur who en­rolled for Kyiv-Mo­hyla Academy's An­ti­Cor­rup­tion Cen­ter cer­tifi­cate course, con­fessed to giv­ing bribes to get things done. Then, a vil­lage leader asked for a $90,000 pay­ment. Sergiy de­cided to put an end to the shame­ful prac­tice. He part­nered with the Na­tional An­ti­Cor­rup­tion Bureau of Ukraine, known as NABU. The of­fi­cial was caught red-handed in May. This in­spired Po­tot­skyi to set up a non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion to pro­mote ef­fec­tive tools to fight cor­rup­tion. He came to the pro­gram to learn what more he could do.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, 500 kilo­me­ters east of Kyiv, a top cor­rup­tion case was be­ing buried for good by the new Spe­cial­ized Anti-

Cor­rup­tion Pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice and old courts. Over just a few months, NABU in­ves­ti­gated an Hr 14 mil­lion em­bez­zle­ment scheme in­volv­ing In­te­rior Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov's son, Olek­sandr. Step-by-step, SAP mag­i­cally turned it into an Hr 4 mil­lion fraud case against a scape­goat. Volodymyr Lyv­tyn, who in con­spir­acy with Olek­sandr Avakov, pro­duced and sold to the state low-qual­ity mil­i­tary back­packs. Lytvyn pleaded guilty and in ex­change for softer pun­ish­ment and pro­vid­ing ev­i­dence against an­other per­son — but not against Avakov's son or the deputy min­is­ter. Un­der the plea bar­gain, he con­ve­niently im­pli­cated some­one who died in 2015.

So the ev­i­dence col­lected by NABU against the big fish — the son of the na­tion's top cop and his deputy — will be never pre­sented to pub­lic in the court. The crim­i­nal cases against Olek­sandr Avakov and depu- ty in­te­rior min­is­ter were scan­dalously closed a few weeks ago by Nazar Kholod­nyt­skyi, the se­verely com­pro­mised head of the Spe­cial­ized Anti-Cor­rup­tion Pros­e­cu­tor's Of­fice, who faces al­le­ga­tions of sab­o­tag­ing many cases.

The first ex­am­ple, of Po­tot­skyi, shows that Ukraini­ans will sup­port changes when they start to be­lieve they will ac­tu­ally hap­pen.

But the sec­ond ex­am­ple, of the sab­o­taged case, shows that Ukraine still has its un­touch­ables.

Vot­ers chal­lenge their politi­cians as they check their e-dec­la­ra­tions of in­come and as­sets.

In­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists get valu­able in­for­ma­tion from prop­erty reg­istries.

Civil so­ci­ety con­tests un­com­pet­i­tive pro­cure­ments. Peo­ple ap­peal to NABU for help. But there is no pub­lic trust in the com­pro­mised Na­tional Agency for Cor­rup­tion Preven­tion, the long-awaited new Supreme Court and, now, the Spe­cial­ized An­ti­Cor­rup­tion Pros­e­cu­tor's Of­fice, or SAPO.

While NABU is threat­en­ing cor­rupt elites and re­sist­ing enor­mous pres­sure, SAPO goal seems to be sab­o­tag­ing these in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tions of top cor­rup­tion cases, mak­ing sure they don't pros­e­cuted prop­erly in court.

NABU is an in­ves­tiga­tive agency, set up to col­lect ev­i­dence in cor­rup­tion crimes of top of­fi­cials.

SAPO su­per­vises all NABU in­ves­ti­ga­tions and presents col­lected ev­i­dence to the courts.

So why is there such a dif­fer­ence be­tween these two new in­sti­tu­tions?

To change the fu­ture we have to learn from the past.

In­ter­na­tional in­volve­ment and spe­cific con­di­tion­al­i­ties of for­eign aid played a lead­ing role.

NABU di­rec­tor Artem Syt­nyk was cho­sen by an in­de­pen­dent panel.

SAPO chief Nazar Kholod­nyt­skyi was se­lected by a com­mis­sion in­volv- ing em­ploy­ees of the dis­cred­ited and dis­trusted Pros­e­cu­tor’s Gen­eral Of­fice. In fact, po­ten­tial tar­gets of SAPO cases were choos­ing its lead­er­ship. Would a turkey vote for Christ­mas? But Ukraine is not at a dead end. The way out of this morass is have in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the crim­i­nal case against Kholod­nyt­skyi.

Ac­cord­ing to Ukrain­ska Pravda, one of the na­tion's lead­ing news out­lets, Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral Yuriy Lut­senko has been fail­ing to sign a no­tice of sus­pi­cion for al­most half a year.

And a new head of SAPO must be cho­sen strictly in line with In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund re­quire­ments, which were not fol­lowed in the 2015 se­lec­tion of Kholod­nyt­skyi.

A suc­cess­ful fight against cor­rup­tion is not only a task for Ukraine, but for many na­tions.

The Western world is in­tox­i­cated with dirty money parked there by klep­to­crats from the poor­est so­ci­eties, whose peo­ple suf­fer from their crooked po­lit­i­cal elite. These klep­to­crats are us­ing the high-priced ser­vices of trained Western lawyers, lob­by­ists and no­taries to white­wash dirty money and rep­u­ta­tion — the en­ablers, as the Hud­son In­sti­tute’s Klep­toc­racy Ini­tia­tive calls them. When the West stops ac­cept­ing dirty money, the klep­to­crats will be locked at home.

The bad news is that the world, un­for­tu­nately, has not yet in­vented a golden recipe for the suc­cess­ful fight against top-level cor­rup­tion. The pow­er­ful are still un­touch­able.

But Ukraine is now a lab­o­ra­tory where this recipe is be­ing tried and tested through ups and downs. With tenac­ity and tal­ent, Ukraine could even change its im­age as en­dem­i­cally cor­rupt to in­vent­ing anti-cor­rup­tion tools em­u­lated around the world.

Daria Kaleniuk is the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Anti-Cor­rup­tion Ac­tion Cen­ter in Kyiv.

DARIA KALENIUK

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