Groups bat­tling bu­reau­crats win sev­eral fresh vic­to­ries

Kyiv Post - - Front Page - BY OLEG SUKHOV AND OLENA GONCHAROVA [email protected], [email protected]

Ukraine’s ma­tur­ing com­mu­nity of ad­vo­cacy groups has seem­ingly won sev­eral vic­to­ries in its bat­tle with Ukraine’s pow­er­ful bu­reau­cracy.

One of them is that, a-yearand-a-half af­ter ousted Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych fled the coun­try, some progress is fi­nally be­ing made in the land­mark cor­rup­tion case against him. Another is that Volodymyr Huzyr, a con­tro­ver­sial high-level pros­e­cu­tor ac­cused of cov­er­ing up cor­rup­tion, stepped down on July 28. Yet another vic­tory is that the re­formist Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral Vi­taly Kasko will be ap­pointed as head of the depart­ment in charge of cases against top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and re­triev­ing stolen as­sets, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment made by Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral Vik­tor Shokin on July 30.

Cause for cel­e­bra­tion may

be pre­ma­ture. The in­dict­ment in the Yanukovych case has not yet been sent to court. More­over, months of pro­cras­ti­na­tion have al­lowed some of his al­lies to flee and un­freeze and shift as­sets to other firms.

Huzyr’s re­place­ment, Yury Sevruk, has been called a Huzyr pro­tégé by watchdog groups, in­clud­ing the An­tiCor­rup­tion Ac­tion Cen­ter and the Civic Lus­tra­tion Com­mit­tee. Sevruk de­nied any such links on July 29. Shokin, who has also been blamed for stalling high-pro­file cor­rup­tion cases and foil­ing the crack­down on cor­rup­tion at his agency, has kept his job.

Crit­ics at­tribute Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko’s re­luc­tance to fire Shokin to his un­will­ing­ness to have an in­de­pen­dent pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral, rather than a loyal man at his beck and call. On July 2, par­lia­ment passed amend­ments that place anti-cor­rup­tion pros­e­cu­tors de facto un­der the con­trol of the pres­i­dent, as op­posed to the newly es­tab­lished Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bureau.

The pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice did not re­ply to an e-mailed re­quest for com­ment, while An­driy De­martino, a spokesman for the of­fice, de­clined to com­ment by phone.

Shokin caught public at­ten­tion at a brief­ing on July 28 when he spoke about the agency’s sup­posed achieve­ments. He said that Kyiv’s Pech­ersk Court had au­tho­rized a cor­rup­tion trial in ab­sen­tia for Yanukovych.

Ser­hiy Hor­batiuk, who heads the tri­als in ab­sen­tia depart­ment at the pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice, told the Kyiv Post that he could not say when the Yanukovych trial would be­gin.

Although he is still wanted, in­for­ma­tion on Yanukovych’s wanted no­tice has been re­moved from In­ter­pol’s web­site pend­ing an ap­peal by his lawyers, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal branch of In­ter­pol in Ukraine.

Yanukovych’s lawyers said on July 29 that he had agreed to tes­tify in the case by video con­fer­ence from Rus­sia, where he cur­rently re­sides. Shokin also said his of­fice would soon file no­tices of sus­pi­cion for Yanukovych un­der the or­ga­nized crime, abuse of power and state trea­son ar­ti­cles of Ukraine’s crim­i­nal code. Pre­vi­ously, Yanukovych was charged with or­ga­niz­ing the mur­ders of Euro­Maidan protesters and for large-scale em­bez­zle­ment.

Last week the court also per­mit­ted tri­als in ab­sen­tia for ex-Health Min­is­ter Raisa Bo­hatyry­ova and ex-Deputy Tax and Rev­enue Min­is­ter An­driy Ih­na­tov. How­ever, pros­e­cu­tors have not yet sent the re­spec­tive in­dict­ments to court.

In ad­di­tion, pros­e­cu­tors have asked the Pech­ersk Court to per­mit tri­als in ab­sen­tia for for­mer Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Ser­hiy Ar­bu­zov, ex-Tax and Rev­enue Min­is­ter Olek­sandr Kly­menko and Bo­hatyry­ova’s sus­pected ac­com­plice, Olek­sandr Stashchenk­o.

Shokin also said that the for­eign ac­counts of Yanukovych’s al­lies worth a to­tal of €9 mil­lion, $26 mil­lion and 85 mil­lion Swiss francs had been frozen so far.

Shokin’s re­port on his of­fice’s pre­sumed achieve­ments, com­bined with the res­ig­na­tion of his first deputy Huzyr, is seen by crit­ics as a face-sav­ing ges­ture in­tended to pre­serve the pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral’s job.

Huzyr quit amid public pres­sure af­ter ev­i­dence emerged that he, Shokin and another of Shokin’s deputies, Yury Stol­yarchuk, had been pres­sur­ing the sub­or­di­nates of deputy pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­als Davit Sak­vare­lidze and Vi­taly Kasko to halt a cor­rup­tion case. Shokin and Huzyr deny this.

Sak­vare­lidze and Kasko later said the lead­er­ship of the Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice had started two crim­i­nal cases against the in­ves­ti­ga­tors in charge of the bribery case against two pros­e­cu­tors, Volodymyr Sha­pakin and Olek­sandr Korniyets, who were ar­rested in early July.

Karl Volokh, an ac­tivist of the Civic Lus­tra­tion Com­mit­tee, told the Kyiv Post that noth­ing would change at the Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice with Huzyr’s res­ig­na­tion.

“Yesterday one top pros­e­cu­tor sent me an SMS say­ing ‘con­grat­u­la­tions on Huzyr’s res­ig­na­tion and the ap­point­ment of the young Huzyr,’” he quipped. “Huzyr be­haved in a stupid and crass way. And his re­place­ment, if he’s more cau­tious, will do the same stuff but will sabotage ma­jor cases more care­fully, and we won’t even see this.”

The Anti-Cor­rup­tion Ac­tion Cen­ter has said Sevruk could be sub­ject to the lus­tra­tion law, which en­vis­ages fir­ing Yanukovych-era of­fi­cials, but he him­self de­nies this.

Fir­ing Huzyr is not enough, crit­ics say. His al­leged in­volve­ment in the al­leged cor­rup­tion of Korniyets and Sha­pakin, as well as his al­leged links to vi­o­la­tions at oil firm BRSM-Nafta, have to be in­ves­ti­gated.

Amid the cor­rup­tion scan­dals at the pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice, and the slow pace of high-pro­file crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions, law­mak­ers have been col­lect­ing sig­na­tures for Shokin’s dis­missal. So far, 106 sig­na­tures have been col­lected, while 150 are nec­es­sary to put the is­sue on par­lia­ment’s agenda.

Nataliya Katser-Buchkovska, a law­maker from the Peo­ple’s Front party, said by phone the is­sue will be placed on the party’s agenda for dis­cus­sion.

Alex Ryabchyn, a law­maker from the Batkyvshch­yna party, told the Kyiv Post that he didn’t want to play “po­lit­i­cal games” and hadn’t signed the pe­ti­tion for Shokin’s dis­missal be­cause he didn’t know who would suc­ceed him.

Hanna Hopko, a law­maker from the Samopomich party who signed the pe­ti­tion, be­lieves the only way out is to re­place the old guard with a new team of pro­fes­sional and hon­est peo­ple.

“The old pros­e­cu­to­rial mafia, which has been sit­ting there since the Soviet pe­riod and sur­vived un­der (ex-pres­i­dents Leonid) Kuchma and (Vik­tor) Yanukovych, should be purged,” she told the Kyiv Post by phone.

Ac­tivists rally against Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral Vik­tor Shokin and his deputies Volodymyr Huzyr and Yury Stol­yarchuk, near the Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice in Kyiv on July 24. (Volodymyr Petrov)

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