Editors’ Note Lawmaker Yegor Sobolev explains why he is leading drive to dump Shokin
Yegor Sobolev, the lawmaker leading the charge to fire the prosecutor general, says that President Petro Poroshenko is resisting because “loyalty is more important for Poroshenko than real eradication of corruption.”
This seventh issue of the Legal Quarterly is devoted to three themes – or three Ps: prosecutors, privatization, procurement. These are key areas for Ukraine’s future.
In the first one, prosecutors, all is not well. More than 110 lawmakers led by Yegor Sobolev are calling on President Petro Poroshenko to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Not only has Shokin failed to prosecute high-level crime in Ukraine, but critics call him the chief obstructionist to justice and accuse him of tolerating corruption within his ranks. “They want to spearhead corruption, not fight it,” Sobolev said of Shokin’s team. The top prosecutor has never agreed to be interviewed by the Kyiv Post.
As for the second one, privatization, this refers to the 3,000 state-owned enterprises that continue to bleed money – more than $5 billion alone last year – through mismanagement and corruption. But large-scale privatization is not likely to happen soon, at least until a new law on privatization is passed by parliament. The aim is to have public, transparent, competitive tenders – not just televised ones. The law, reformers say, needs to prevent current state directors from looting companies that are sold and ensure both state and investor rights.
As for the third one, procurement, much more progress has been coming in terms of e-procurement aimed at competitive and transparent state purchases of goods and services. If successful, it could eliminate a big black hole of corruption into which more than $2.3 billion in taxpayer money is lost through overpricing and needless intermediaries.
The three Ps – prosecutors, privatization, procurement – show the battle for Ukraine’s future rages on, with the nation's 43 million people having huge stakes in the outcome of all three contests.
In July, Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin announced with great fanfare that a court had authorized the trial in absentia for disgraced ex-president Viktor Yanukovych.
But, almost two years after the Euromaidan Revolution began, not a single indictment in corruption cases against the former president or his allies has been sent to court.
Yegor Sobolev, a lawmaker from the Samopomich party and chairman of the Verkhovna Rada’s anti-corruption committee, believes that Shokin is stalling all high-profile investigations and covering up corrupt prosecutors.
The only way out is to replace Shokin, a loyalist of President Petro Poroshenko, with a truly independent prosecutor able to deliver impartial justice, Sobolev says.
Andriy Demartino, a spokesman for the Prosecutor General’s Office, declined to comment.
Inefficiency and sabotage at the Prosecutor General’s Office has gotten out of hand to such
an extent that even diplomats are using tough language.
Geoffrey R. Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said on Sept. 24 that “corrupt actors” under Shokin “are making things worse by openly and aggressively undermining reform.”
This damning indictment of Shokin’s performance since he was appointed in February has given a boost to efforts by Sobolev and civil society to fire him.
Sobolev has so far collected 114 signatures in parliament for dismissing Shokin, still well short of the 150 signatures needed to put the issue on the agenda.
He said in an interview with the Kyiv Post that not a single signature has been collected since the Sept. 17 arrest of Radical Party lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk on suspicion of bribery. Critics see the arrest as political revenge by Shokin for Mosiychuk’s support for his firing.
“After Ihor’s arrest everyone started thinking ‘what if this happens to me tomorrow’?” Sobolev said. “One of Shokin’s goals is to show to lawmakers what consequences could happen to those who submit signatures for his dismissal.”
He attributed the slow pace of the drive to oust Shokin to a lack of principled lawmakers.
Many lawmakers are reluctant to back the sacking of Shokin because they are part of the system that covers up corruption, Sobolev said.
The president refuses to fire Shokin because “loyalty is more important for Poroshenko than real eradication of corruption,” Sobolev says.
Shokin was a protégé of Poroshenko as early as 2005, when he was a deputy prosecutor general, according to Sobolev. At that time Shokin told Sobolev, then a journalist, that Serhiy Kivalov and other members of the Central Election Commission accused of vote rigging in favor of Yanukovych in the 2004 presidential election would be soon convicted.
“These cases didn’t lead to convictions,” Sobolev said. “This is the main reason why we voted against his appointment as prosecutor general. Unfortunately his work proved that we were right.”
Shokin’s choice of four people for the commission to select the chief anti-corruption prosecutor also proves that he is not
Mariana Antonovych Kyiv Post Legal Affairs Reporter All of our contacts are available online at http://www.kyivpost.com/contacts/
Brian Bonner Kyiv Post Chief Editor
Euan Macdonald Kyiv Post Editor