Anti-cor­rup­tion pros­e­cu­tor saves his job, loses all trust

Kyiv Post - - National - BY OLEG SUKHOV [email protected]

Ukraine’s High Qual­i­fi­ca­tion Com­mis­sion of Pros­e­cu­tors on July 26 de­cided not to fire Chief Anti-Cor­rup­tion Pros­e­cu­tor Nazar Kholod­nyt­sky, who stands ac­cused of ob­struct­ing top cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and merely rep­ri­manded him.

The Na­tional Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bu­reau of Ukraine in April re­leased tapes from Kholod­nyt­sky’s of­fice where he was recorded pres­sur­ing his sub­or­di­nates to ob­struct cor­rup­tion cases against Odesa Mayor Hen­nady Trukhanov, Natalia Kor­chak, the for­mer head of the Na­tional Agency for Pre­vent­ing Cor­rup­tion, Peo­ple’s Front law­maker Ge­orgii Logvyn­skyi, and other pow­er­ful fig­ures.

“The rep­ri­mand was ex­pected,” Daria Kale­niuk, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Anti-Cor­rup­tion Ac­tion Cen­ter, said on Face­book. “The sys­tem doesn’t give up on its mem­bers. You think you can hide from us be­hind 10 se­cu­rity guards and (In­te­rior Min­is­ter Arsen) Avakov’s thugs? This hide­out is very tran­si­tory.”

The de­ci­sion was also lam­basted by the U. S. Em­bassy to Ukraine, which has de­nied a visa to Kholod­nyt­sky, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent in­ter­view with NABU Chief Artem Syt­nyk.

“In a mod­ern democ­racy, pros­e­cu­tors who en­gage in wit­ness tampering and ob­struc­tion of jus­tice re­sign for the sake of the in­sti­tu­tion and in sup­port of rule of law prin­ci­ples,” the em­bassy said on Twit­ter.

In March, Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral Yuriy Lut­senko asked the pros­e­cu­to­rial com­mis­sion to con­sider fir­ing Kholod­nyt­sky. Syt­nyk also asked the Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice to bring charges against Kholod­nyt­sky, which they did not do.

Kholod­nyt­sky and his sub­or­di­nates from his of­fice ar­gued at the com­mis­sion meet­ing that they did not in­ter­pret the ac­tions recorded in the tapes as pres­sure. They ex­plained warn­ings for sus­pects about planned searches and crim­i­nal cases as at­tempts “to gain trust.”

Olek­sandr Ko­valchuk, a mem­ber of the com­mis­sion, has pre­pared a re­port con­firm­ing that Kholod­nyt­sky vi­o­lated pros­e­cu­to­rial ethics and rec­om­mend­ing that he be rep­ri­manded.

The re­port is seen by anti-cor­rup­tion ac­tivists as an at­tempt to save Kholod­nyt­sky in­stead of fir­ing him. Now it’s up to the Coun­cil of Pros­e­cu­tors and Lut­senko to ei­ther con­firm or re-con­sider the de­ci­sion.

Kholod­nyt­sky has blocked all NABU cases since the tapes were re­leased, Vi­taly Shabunin, head of the Anti-Cor­rup­tion Ac­tion Cen­ter's ex­ec­u­tive board, and a NABU source who was not au­tho­rized to speak to the press, told the Kyiv Post. Kholod­nyt­sky has de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions of sab­o­tag­ing NABU in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Kholod­nyt­sky’s of­fice and the Qual­i­fi­ca­tion and Dis­ci­plinary Com­mis­sion of Pros­e­cu­tors did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Dzen­z­er­sky case

Ahead of the pros­e­cu­to­rial com­mis­sion meet­ing, NABU said on July 25 that pros­e­cu­tor Va­len­tyn Musiyaka from Kholod­nyt­sky’s of­fice had closed the case against Peo­ple’s Front law­maker Denys Dzen­z­er­sky, who is ac­cused of failing to de­clare fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions worth Hr 4 bil­lion stem­ming from court rul­ings.

Kholod­nyt­sky’s op­po­nents ar­gue that this was an at­tempt by him to gain fa­vor with Peo­ple’s Front heavy­weight and In­te­rior Min­is­ter Avakov in an ef­fort to keep his job.

The anti-cor­rup­tion pros­e­cu­tors cited ex­perts who claimed that fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions can­not arise as a re­sult of court rul­ings. But NABU dis­agreed, say­ing it would dis­pute the clo­sure of the case.

In July 2017, NABU and Kholod­nyt­sky’s of­fice asked Lut­senko to strip Dzen­z­er­sky of im­mu­nity from pros­e­cu­tion. Lut­senko re­fused to sub­mit the mo­tion and de­manded that it be im­proved.

Avakov case

Mean­while, on July 12 Kholod­nyt­sky’s of­fice said it had closed the em­bez­zle­ment case against Avakov’s son Olek­sandr Avakov and the min­is­ter’s ex-deputy Ser­hiy Che­b­o­tar.

A NABU source who was not au­tho­rized to speak to the press told the Kyiv Post that bu­reau de­tec­tives be­lieve that Kholod­nyt­sky, who has been ac­cused of block­ing and sab­o­tag­ing NABU cases, had reached a deal with Avakov and other top of­fi­cials. Ac­cord­ing to the deal, Kholod­nyt­sky would keep his job in ex­change for clos­ing the Avakov case.

Kholod­nyt­sky’s deputy Volodymyr Kryvenko de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions, say­ing that the de­ci­sion in the Avakov case had been made in­de­pen­dently from Kholod­nyt­sky.

And In­te­rior Min­istry spokesman Artem Shevchenko dis­missed all the ac­cu­sa­tions against Avakov as “non­sense.”

Olek­sandr Avakov, Che­b­o­tar and al­leged me­di­a­tor Volodymyr Lytvyn, are ac­cused of em­bez­zling Hr 14.5 mil­lion in a case re­lated to the sup­ply of over­priced back­packs to the In­te­rior Min­istry. The sus­pects deny the ac­cu­sa­tions and call the case a po­lit­i­cal vendetta by NABU.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion against Avakov and Che­b­o­tar was al­ready com­pleted and ex­pected to be sent to trial, but anti-cor­rup­tion pros­e­cu­tor Va­syl Krychun had closed it.

The anti-cor­rup­tion pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice said that Lytvyn had pled guilty to fraud and doc­u­ment forgery and given tes­ti­mony that Olek­sandr Avakov and Che­b­o­tar had not been in­volved in the scheme. This ver­sion con­tra­dicts the video footage in­ves­ti­gated by NABU in which Che­b­o­tar and Olek­sandr Avakov ne­go­ti­ate the cor­rupt deal.

Ex­am­i­na­tions

The ver­sion of Kholod­nyt­sky’s of­fice is com­pletely at odds with a vast amount of ev­i­dence in Avakov’s case that has been pil­ing up for years.

In 2017, NABU said that an ex­am­i­na­tion of the video con­firmed the au­then­tic­ity of the voices of Avakov and Che­b­o­tar, while an­other ex­am­i­na­tion de­ter­mined that the video had not been tam­pered with, and there were no dis­crep­an­cies be­tween au­dio and video tracks.

In 2016, an au­dit re­vealed that Dniprovend, the back­pack sup­plier, did not com­ply with the qual­i­fi­ca­tion re­quire­ments for back­packs, ac­cord­ing to NABU. Dniprovend did not re­spond to a request for com­ment.

Dur­ing the same year, a hand­writ­ing ex­am­i­na­tion con­firmed that the sig­na­ture on be­half of Kostyan­tyn Ku­bets, CEO of Dniprovend, was made by an­other per­son in the doc­u­ments sub­mit­ted for the back­pack ten­der, NABU said.

Ex­am­i­na­tions con­ducted by NABU also de­ter­mined that back in Fe­bru­ary 2015 the mar­ket price of equiv­a­lent back­packs was Hr 555 per unit, com­pared with Hr 2,899 per unit paid for back­packs sup­plied by Dniprovend.

Dniprovend ten­der

In 2016, a court con­victed Dniprovend CEO Ku­bets of “fic­ti­tious en­trepreneur­ship” as part of the back­pack case.

NABU found that the ten­der al­legedly won by Dniprovend was in fact set up.

Lytvyn sub­mit­ted fake doc­u­ments to the bid­ding com­mit­tee and pro­vided a sam­ple of a back­pack al­legedly made by Dniprovend, the NABU said.

In Fe­bru­ary 2015, the com­pet­i­tive bid­ding com­mit­tee ac­cepted Dniprovend’s pro­posal to sup­ply 5,000 back­packs with the de­liv­ery date un­til April 1, 2015, at a price of Hr 2,899 per back­pack.

Lytvyn ar­rived to the In­te­rior

Min­istry and gave a fake doc­u­ment on be­half of Dniprovend’s CEO to rep­re­sent the firm’s in­ter­ests. Then he sub­mit­ted doc­u­ments to the min­istry with fake sig­na­tures and seals, the NABU said.

Ku­bets has also tes­ti­fied that he was not aware of the par­tic­i­pa­tion of his com­pany in the pur­chase of the back­packs, did not sign the ten­der doc­u­ments, was not ac­quainted with Lytvyn and did not is­sue a power of at­tor­ney for him, ac­cord­ing to NABU.

Mean­while, Oleh Shevchuk, for­mer first deputy head of the In­te­rior Min­istry’s pro­cure­ment depart­ment, has con­firmed the con­tent of the con­ver­sa­tion in the video re­gard­ing the back­pack pur­chase, the bu­reau said.

Shevchuk told NABU de­tec­tives that Avakov and Peo­ple’s Front law­mak­ers — al­lies of Avakov — had pres­sured him, the NABU source told the Kyiv Post.

Takhtai video

Mean­while, an­other video has been leaked to YouTube from the same footage from Che­b­o­tar’s of­fice.

In the video, Che­b­o­tar, the In­te­rior Min­istry’s State Sec­re­tary Olek­siy Takhtai and state firm Spetsvervi­s CEO Va­syl Petrivsky, an ex-aide to Avakov, ne­go­ti­ate a cor­rupt deal to sell sand at a rigged auc­tion.

In the video, Che­b­o­tar im­pli­cates the min­is­ter him­self in the deal, say­ing that Avakov is also aware of the scheme and is wor­ried that the sand has not been sold yet. Avakov claims the video is a fake.

Takhtai and Che­b­o­tar were inves- tigated by the Na­tional Po­lice in the sand case but it closed the case against them, the NABU source said.

NABU has tried to take the case from the Na­tional Po­lice, which has been ac­cused of hav­ing a con­flict of in­ter­est in in­ves­ti­gat­ing its su­pe­ri­ors, and re­sume the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but po­lice re­fused to trans­fer it, the NABU source said. The au­then­tic­ity of the video has been con­firmed by foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tions by Ukrainian and for­eign spe­cial­ists, ac­cord­ing to the source. The Na­tional Po­lice de­clined to com­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Ukraine’s court regis­ter, the video was recorded by Ukraine’s Se­cu­rity Ser­vice and has been rec­og­nized as gen­uine.

Petrivsky has al­ready pled guilty and has been given a sus­pended sen­tence for the scheme.

Daria Kale­niuk, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Anti-Cor­rup­tion Ac­tion Cen­ter, speaks at a rally against dis­cred­ited Chief Anti-Cor­rup­tion Pros­e­cu­tor Nazar Kholod­nyt­sky on July 17. She holds a back­pack - a sym­bol of the back­pack sup­plies case against In­te­rior Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov's son Olek­sandr and Avakov's for­mer deputy Ser­hiy Che­b­o­tar. The case was closed by Kholod­nyt­sky's of­fice in July de­spite the am­ple ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing by Olek­sandr Avakov and Che­b­o­tar, in­clud­ing video footage. (Oleg Pe­tra­siuk)

Chief Anti-Cor­rup­tion Pros­e­cu­tor Nazar Kholod­nyt­sky (L) talks to jour­nal­ists dur­ing a meet­ing of the High Qual­i­fi­ca­tion Com­mis­sion of Pros­e­cu­tors on July 26. (AFP)

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