Tense standoff of Ukraine's two key anti-corruption bodies: Qui bono

Author : Yaroslav Konoshchuk

Source : 112 Ukraine

President’s Administration and Minister of Internal Affairs control the conflict between the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office
09:13, 1 August 2018

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Head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAP) Nazar Kholodnytsky stays on his post. As our sources in the coalition factions have previously predicted, the meeting of the Qualification and Disciplinary Commission of Prosecutors, held on July 26 on the appeal of Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko and of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) head Artem Sytnyk, against Kholodnytsky ended with a reprimand for the latter. However, this is not the end of Kholodnytsky’s career on this post – SAP is undertaking ambiguous steps.

Related: Ukrainian Anti-corruption Prosecutor remains in office

In March, the media spread the information that the cabinet of the anti-corruption prosecutor and deputy of Lutsenko is being bugged, and the corresponding equipment was found in his aquarium. According to sources in the law enforcement agencies, the initiator of the wiretapping was the Prosecutor General's Office. As noted by Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, his deputy is a figurant of the criminal case; that is why they have been bugging him with the participation of the NABU representatives. Lutsenko did not disclose any details. According to the media reports, the head of SAP is suspected of aiding and abetting a bribe of $ 2 million to close a criminal case. In addition, he was assisted to the defendants of certain criminal proceedings. After a short time, Lutsenko and NABU head Artem Sytnyk, based on these materials, sent a complaint to the qualification and disciplinary commission of prosecutors with a proposal to fire Kholodnytsky. At the same time, as the Prosecutor General later specified, he is not talking about bringing his deputy to criminal liability.

Kholodnytsky presented his report in the parliament, saying that for two years he had been subjected to discrediting. People's Deputy Serhiy Leshchenko asked Kholodnytsky about a person that would replace the official, and the head of SAP ironically offered his chair to the deputy.

However, Kholodnytsky refused to voluntarily leave his post. Allegedly the US Embassy in Ukraine called him and offered to voluntarily resign after the published audio recordings, but he said during the meeting that "he is now power."

Related: Is it possible to fight corruption in Ukraine?

Why did Kholodnytsky manage to keep his post? First, the dismissal of Kholodnytsky was not Lutsenko's original purpose. Ukraine’s political elites were not enthusiastic about the imposed alternative vertical of security agencies and in every possible way tried to compromise them. Let us recall the clash of detectives of NABU with representatives of one of the Departments of the Prosecutor’s Office, the disclosure of the NABU agents by the Prosecutor General's Office. After the investigation of the so-called “amber case,” one of its defendants MP Maksym Polyakov said about the compromising information on the director of the NABU. And after the “promotion” of the case against the son of Minister of Internal Affairs Olexandr Avakov the minister promised Sytnyk that he would “pay the debt.”

However, the coalition's attempt to fire the Director of the NABU Artem Sytnyk, bypassing the procedure to replace him with a more loyal leader, led to a tough reaction among the Western partners. Embassies of the G-7 and IMF countries started talking about the suspension of the visa-free regime. And therefore the authorities decided to act in a more sophisticated way.

Related: Law on creation of Anti-Corruption Court comes into force in Ukraine

With the ruling elite feed out, a conflict between the NABU and SAP erupted. Heads of the departments have even stopped communication, although they should act together. In such a situation, Kholodnytsky’s dismissal does not make sense, because now he has become a counterweight to Sytnyk. And vice versa. In addition, the journalists of the "Schemes" program in their investigations have repeatedly noted that the opposing President and the Minister of the Internal Affairs have found their own approaches to the heads of the anti-corruption bodies. President’s Administration has found its approach to Artem Sytnyk, and Arsen Avakov – to Nazar Kholodnytsky. In the context of the conflict between the heads of the NABU and SAP, it becomes easier to control them.

According to the labor legislation, the second reprimand for Kholodnytsky would mean dismissal. At the same time, the SAP services for the "National Front" – closure of cases against Olexandr Avakov and the People's Deputy from "National Front" Denys Dzendzersky – could help the anti-corruption prosecutor remain in his office. A striking episode of the last days was a scuffle near the offices of SAP and NABU, in which the people close to Avakov took an active part, openly speaking against Sytnyk and supporting Kholodnytsky. By the way, Sytnyk was noticed at the president's house.

Related: Corruption rate in Ukrainian companies grew by almost 20 percent in two years, - survey

This situation is more than deplorable in terms of the consequences for the country. Despite many investigations into cases allegedly conducted by anti-corruption bodies, there are no court verdicts. This plays into the hands of corrupt officials close to the authorities, who thus avoid the responsibility. The plan to discredit the anti-corruption bodies has been successfully carried out, and the heads of these bodies themselves have directly or indirectly put it into practice, trying to stay in their seats.

And what about the Western embassies, who are unofficially credited with supervising over NABU and SAP? The US Embassy has publicly advised Nazar Kholodnytsky to resign voluntarily. That is, it took the side of NABU. However, according to sources in diplomatic circles, the West’s priority is the launch of the Anti-Corruption Court, without which "effective activity of NABU and SAP is impossible." And the court is unlikely to work until the presidential elections. Most likely, such a stalemate will be resolved after the elections.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or 112.International and its owners.

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