Ukraine's Anti-Corruption Court is built on consensus: Qui bono?

Author : Yaroslav Konoshchuk

Source : 112 Ukraine

Long live the Anti-Corruption court in Ukraine! However, we do not know, when and in what form it would be created
09:20, 11 June 2018

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"This is a key issue on the agenda not only of the Verkhovna Rada but of our state ... It is most likely that we will adopt the decision on Thursday," Parliament Speaker Andriy Parubiy said during the meeting of the Parliament's Conciliation Council, speaking of a bill on the Anti-Corruption Court.

However, this was the case when it seemed to be compulsory, but no one knew how to do it. At the beginning of the week, not all parliamentarians from the majority shared the mood of the head of parliament. A number of majority members from the "National Front" and "Bloc of Petro Poroshenko" fractions called for the creation of the Anti-Corruption Court a marasmus. If individual deputies perceived such a court as a direct threat and they turned their noses up from the idea of its creation, the political elite did not like the wording of the document on which the West insisted. Our international partners doubted that without these levers of control such a court could be independent in the existing realities, and official Kyiv was afraid to hand over these levers in hands, which cannot be “beaten” at the right time. The hitch concerned the powers of the international experts.

Related: Law on Higher Anti-Corruption Court submitted to Presidential Administration

In the corridors of the parliament, deputies discussed the possibility of disrupting the IMF tranche. As you know, the Fund has called the creation of the Anti-Corruption Court as the main condition for the resumption of lending.

According to sources in the parliamentary coalition, the US Embassy in Ukraine embarked on the persuasion of those who had the dissenting opinion. "Our people played the blame game to the Poroshenko’s Bloc (in the matter of voting for the law on the Anti-Сorruption Court – Ed.). There were guarantees that the whole fraction will vote. The Americans, on their part, said - okay, let's see how your deputies vote," said our interlocutor from "National Front" faction. According to our sources, in case of failure of the bill or its approval in the primary version, certain influential VIP-persons were hinted at arresting property abroad.

Another stimulus was the IMF letter to the Ministry of Finance with a warning about the delay of the tranche for an indefinite period. "The IMF was warned that if the bill on the Anti-Corruption Court was not adopted before the end of the session, our country will receive the next tranche of the loan only after the presidential election, without any specific deadline. It was also noted that taking into consideration the external debt pay off, our country would face a default," our secret sources in the government claimed.

Related: Parubiy signs bill on Supreme Anti-Corruption Court

However, these arguments could not convince the necessary number of deputies, until the president gave a go-ahead. Bankova, however, was bargaining to the last. According to sources in the coalition factions, the situation became clearer after consultations with the United States and international organizations on the night of June 6-7.

Negotiations with the IMF and the Venice Commission ended early in the morning on March 7. As a result, it was possible to work out a compromise formula, according to which the number of members of the Council of International Experts was reduced to six, while the citizens of Ukraine can now be members of the council, whereas it was originally planned that only foreigners could be there. Applicants for the position of a board member must have at least 5 years of foreign experience in supporting public prosecutions in cases involving corruption.

Related: Corruption in Gazprom as an instrument for fighting Russia

The Council will be able to vet the candidacy of the judge to the Anti-Corruption Court (with at least three votes). But this veto can be overcome by a majority vote of the joint commission, which will include members of the Higher Qualification Commission of Judges and the Council of International Experts.

What such a compromise meant to the parties? Kyiv has got the right to promote Ukrainians to the Council (although it will not be so simple given the serious demands to the candidate), and there is no clear proportion how many Ukrainians and how many foreigners the Council includes. In addition, international experts will no longer participate in the primary qualification selection, and can "reject" applicants for the position of judge of the Anti-Corruption Court only on the initiative of at least half of the council. The decisions on candidates will not be adopted without the international experts, although it is not possible to say that the last word belongs to them. However, after the voting, supporters of the Anti-Corruption Court creation were convincing that over time the role of the council of international experts will increase. How so?

President Poroshenko personally came to persuade the deputies to vote for the bill. Speaking before the deputies, he noted that the bill on the Anti-Corruption Court is not adopted for the IMF. Shortly after the speech of the head of state, Parliament Speaker Andriy Parubiy declared a break to consider the final version of the amendments to the law. In fact, behind closed doors, the search for missing votes began.

Related: Actually, the West’s anti-corruption policy is correct

Earlier, there were rumors that those doubting would be offered some kind of bonuses for voting “for”. Two-hour efforts were not in vain, and 315 MPs supported the bill.

The bill was supported by both faction coalitions, and most opposition and neutral factions and groups - except for the Opposition Bloc and the Radical Party. The Opposition Bloc leader Yuriy Boyko has already announced his intention to appeal against the adoption of the draft law on the Anti-Corruption Court in the Constitutional Court.

After the vote, President Poroshenko called the decision of the parliament a real victory. When asked how to further live with the legalized external administration, one of the members of the coalition philosophically remarked: "What else could be done?"

The adoption of the bill has already been welcomed by the Venice Commission. Its chairman, Gianni Buquicchio, said that the updated version of the document is in line with the recommendations of his department. IMF is not in a hurry to conclude. The representative of the organization, Goesta Ljungman, said that the Fund's experts will check the final version of the document for compliance with the reform program (but what the international experts have to do with the program of Ukrainian reforms?).

However, the court itself, most likely, would be created not earlier than the end of the presidential election campaign. In accordance with the procedure prescribed in the adopted law, applications from candidates will be accepted for 25 days, then this data will be checked for 3 months, and then the High Qualification Commission and the Council of International Experts will sit for another 3 months. And then another examination of judges would last for three months. In total, it would take about 10 months.


Related: Poroshenko thanks Venice Commission for position on Anti-corruption court

Lawyer Volodymyr Vasylenko, following to the quota of the parliament, was appointed an auditor of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), whose cases will be mainly considered by the future Anti-Corruption Court. Deputies from the "Euro optimists" group believe that he will become a "gravedigger of the NABU".

"Poroshenko's script has played its role here," People's Deputy Serhiy Leshchenko wrote on Facebook, reacting to the appointment of a "puppet" Bureau auditor. Recall that the audit committee of the NABU consists of one representative from the president, the Cabinet, and the Rada. In case of recognition of the unsatisfactory work of the NABU Director, he might be dismissed. However, not all deputies share this opinion, referring to the influence of Vasylenko.

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

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