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Cases Against Poroshenko: What Ukraine's State Bureau of Investigations is Looking Into
12 August, 2019
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Former President of Ukraine and head of the European Solidarity party Petro Poroshenko speaks to journalists after interrogation at the State Bureau of Investigations in Kyiv, Ukraine on July 25, 2019. Maksym Polishchuk / Unian

The State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) has recently become a key law enforcement agency. At least, this is the impression media headlines create: the body summons senior government officials for questioning almost every day. The fifth president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko has also been a guest of the agency.

Hromadske sent a request to the SBI regarding the number and content of proceedings in respect of the former head of state. On the day of another interrogation of Poroshenko, we gathered 12 cases currently hanging over him. As things stand, Poroshenko is currently a witness in all these cases.

Kerch Strait

This is SBI’s first enforcement action against Poroshenko. It was opened on the allegation of Andriy Portnov, former deputy head of the Presidential Administration of Viktor Yanukovych. It was opened the day after Volodymyr Zelenskyy's inauguration and Poroshenko's loss of presidential immunity: on May 20.

SBI is investigating Poroshenko's possible involvement in the Kerch Strait crisis under the article "Treason". Portnov claims when giving the order to transfer, the commander-in-chief knew how things would turn out and intended it to happen. Moreover, in his statement, Portnov asserts that the attack on Ukrainian sailors was part of Poroshenko’s plan to disrupt the presidential election and usurp all power. At the call of Poroshenko, the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) for the first time in the history of Ukraine introduced martial law - for one month in 10 regions in Ukraine.

READ MORE: Ukraine Declares Martial Law in Regions Bordering Russia and Unrecognized Transnistria

Admittedly, Poroshenko did initially ask NSDC to introduce martial law for 2 months. Such a timetable would not have allowed holding elections in a timely manner, which in turn would have provided Poroshenko time to try to increase support.

Kuznya on Rybalsky Plant

The day after the first allegation, Portnov submitted a second complaint. The fifth president had allegedly "laundered" $300 million from the sale of his factory Kuznya on Rybalsky to Serhiy Tihipko through a Cypriot company, and failed to pay taxes.

First, Tihipko was interrogated in this case, and later Poroshenko himself.

Pryamyi TV Channel

Another investigation into possible tax evasion and legalization of funds against Poroshenko concerns the TV channel Pryamyi.

The official owner of the media is the ex-Party of Regions’ Volodymyr Makeyenko. But many directly link Poroshenko to the work of this channel, despite the official owner denying it.

During both the presidential and parliamentary campaigns, Pryamyi openly favored Poroshenko. According to Media Detector watchdog, Pryamyi was one of the most manipulative channels in the run-up to the election campaign.

In his statement about the channel, Portnov also claims that the fifth president of Ukraine took possession of this media, having acquired it through the offshore company Parlimo Trading Limited, which is controlled by Makeyenko. Allegedly, in a similar fashion, during the purchase, Poroshenko had also "laundered" the funds and did not pay taxes.

Judge Chaus

One of the recent investigations by the SBI concerns the alleged assistance provided by the previous president and his entourage to the fled corrupt judge Mykola Chaus.

The reason for the opening of this case was Anton Shevtsov’s interview with Strana.ua news site. Shevtsov is a "high-ranking police officer close to Poroshenko", who was accused of treason and tried to escape to Russia.

Shevtsov said that in 2016 Poroshenko's personal protection secretly took former Kyiv Dniprovsky District’s judge Chaus to the airport, where he got on a plane without passing control and flew to Moldova. There he was detained by local law enforcement officers, but has not yet been extradited to Ukraine.

Judge Chaus is suspected of receiving a $150,000 bribe. The police found these funds in two glass jars, which the judge personally buried in the yard of his own house.

Impact on courts

A separate block of SBI proceedings concerning Poroshenko lays out the potential impact on the work of the courts and other institutions in the judicial system.

In particular, the influence on the Supreme Council of Justice (SCJ). It is a judicial governing body that appoints, dismisses, agrees to detain, suspends, and disciplines judges. In reality, it is the highest judicial review body.

The alleged abuse by the previous president was to appoint two SCJ members outside the rules and procedures.

The selection resembles this: the selection committee selects candidates for office, and subsequently submits a list of winners for presidential approval. If the commission does not select enough candidates, it announces re-selection.

On April 10, Poroshenko received a list of persons recommended for appointment to the members of the SCJ. The list was short of two people. But instead of another competition, the then-president issued a decree that changed the procedure for appointing SCJ members. New rules stated if the commission does not elect members, then they are nominated individually by the president.

Thus, Poroshenko appointed Andriy Vasylenko and Mykhailo Isakov as members of the SBI. This happened on May 13 – 6 days before Zelenskyy’s oath. It was also Portnov's statement that caused proceedings on these facts to be opened.

Another case concerns the likely pressure on the judges of the Kyiv District Administrative Court in the case of the nationalized PrivatBank.

The meeting of the National Security and Defense Council chaired by Poroshenko that took place after the court found the nationalization of the bank illegal is cited. It happened three days before the second round of the presidential election, accompanied by Poroshenko's appeal to the people about a possible default and economic crisis.

The following day the district court issued a statement: the government intervenes in the work of the court. With this statement, the Shevchenkivskyy District Court of Kyiv obliged the SBI to open proceedings against Poroshenko.

Two more facts, which are being investigated by the SBI on Poroshenko, concern the untimely appointment of judges to their posts and possible interference in the work of the Kyiv Court of Appeal.

Other Proceedings

Four other SBI proceedings include:

  • Parliament’s appointment of the Cabinet of Ministers headed by Volodymyr Groysman. The alleged crime is that then-Speaker of the Parliament Andriy Parubiy and President Poroshenko allegedly forged documents on the existence of a coalition in order to appoint officials to key positions. It was also Portnov’s statement that initiated the case.

  • Possible loss of material storage media. After taking office, acting Secretary of the NSDC Oleksandr Danylyuk announced that servers containing secret information had disappeared from the Presidential Administration's situational room. The equipment was subsequently found.

  • Possible violations in the cancellation of the orders of local administrations: land plot of 1,500 hectares was added to the state land bank.

  • Unlawful seizure of the Ivushka guest house belonging to the Ukrainian Society of the Blind. It is claimed that Poroshenko was allegedly trying to seize the property in the upmarket village Kozyn near the capital and attach the complex to the recreation center Chayka (“Seagull”) which belongs to the Roshen factory. For this purpose, he had allegedly used company OJSC Soyuz-Invest and further resold the property to various natural persons.