KYIV, Aug. 10 – Ukrainian political leaders are misleading the West about the fight against rampant corruption by delaying a crucial reform of the legal system, a top law enforcement official said Thursday.
Artem Sytnyk, director of the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine, or NABU, said the leaders have been persistently refusing to create independent Anti-corruption Court, essentially undermining the reform.
“All our efforts will not matter” unless the court is created, Sytnyk said at a press conference. “This is the main test for our [leaders]. Stop crying that NABU is involved in political persecutions and go ahead and calmly prove that you have willingness to complete the anti-corruption reform.”
Ukraine’s failing battle against senior level corruption has become a focal point in discussions with Western governments and international financial organizations. The IMF has threatened to delay disbursement of lending to the country unless progress is made in curbing corruption.
NABU, a Ukrainian FBI, an independent agency was created in April 2015 under pressure from the IMF and the European Union as part of a package relaxing visa restrictions on Ukrainians traveling to the EU. The independent agency was needed because all other law enforcement agencies, such as the Prosecutor General’s Office and police, have been deeply flawed and failing to fight corruption for decades.
Sytnyk, who received special training in the U.S., escalated the battle and launched several high-profile investigations against senior and former government officials. But most cases started to fall apart shortly after reaching the courts with judges apparently quietly working to delay trials.
“Jointly with prosecutors we have formed an anti-rating of cases that have long been in the courts,” Sytnyk said. “There are so many examples.”
One of the most recent high-profile cases was the arrest of Roman Nasirov, the head of the State Fiscal Service, an ally of President Petro Poroshenko. Nasirov is charged with massive fraud and illegal decisions in the energy sector in May 2015 through March 2016 that led to UAH 2.019 billion in losses for the state.
The trial and conviction of Nasirov would pose a threat to other senior officials, analysts said.
Another cold case is the arrest of Andriy Pasishnyk, a former executive director of the national energy company Naftogaz Ukrayiny. “This case has been motionless in courts since the fall of 2016,” Sytnyk said. “The situation in courts is very bad.”
Sytnyk said it is important for Parliament to set up the Anti-corruption Court not later than the fall of this year. He also sounded an alarm that the political leaders have been trying to mislead the West by suggesting replacing the Anti-corruption Court with a special court panel that will be a part of existing judicial system.
“The fall is crucial for Parliament, for the leaders, to create the court,” Sytnyk said, noting that currently a process is underway “to deceive our [Western] partners by suggesting separate panels that will have even worse results than we have in current courts.” (nr/ez)