Inside Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Bureau: Five Takeaways From Its Report
12 August, 2017
Photo credit: Oleksandr Synytsia/ UNIAN

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) has published a report evaluating its performance. In the document, NABU Director Artem Sytnyk recounts the number of criminal cases the agency is investigating, explains why the courts are not enforcing sentences, and identifies who is resisting the bureau’s work the most.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) is a Ukrainian Government anti-corruption agency which investigates corruption in Ukraine and prepares cases for prosecution. It was created on April 16, 2015. Its creation was a demand from the IMF.

Hromadske has analysed the NABU report and highlighted the five main takeaways.

*this graphic is based on NABU report

Waiting for sentences

By the end of June 2017, NABU detectives, together with the Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, had investigated 371 criminal cases against Ukrainian officials of various ranks. The detectives identified 219 people as corruption suspects and pressed charges against 121 individuals. Among them were senior state officials, prosecutors, judges, and the heads of state enterprises.  

However, only 15 cases ended with sentences and were actually put into effect. Moreover, in almost all the cases, Ukrainian law enforcement came to agreements with these ‘minor participants in corrupt schemes’ in which the suspects agreed to admit their guilt. NABU attributed this outcome to the lack of judicial reform in the country and the slow speed of the cases.

Since the start of 2017, the anti-corruption agencies have sent 31 indictments to court. This includes one connected to the high-profile ‘gas case,’ which also involves MP Oleksandr Onyschenko, who fled the country in 2016 and is wanted in Ukraine. The allegations against Onyschenko go like this: he’s accused of being at the head of a “gas scheme,” in which he allegedly embezzled 116,000 USD through Ukrhasvydobuvannia PJSC (Ukraine’s state-owned gas extractor). After three months, the Kyiv court has still not started hearing the case.

Corrupt losses

Total losses from the crimes under investigation by NABU exceed $3.4 billion. They come from the looting, squander, and misuse of state funds. From this, NABU has frozen 590.7 million UAH (22 million USD), 80.2 million USD and 7.3 million euros (8.6 million USD). Detectives have also seized 83 cars, 128 plots of land, 206 apartments and buildings, and corporate rights to the sum of $12.5 million.

The bureau also claims to have prevented thefts totalling $34.3 million, and compensated the state with $5.3 million.

Electronic declarations

After NABU’s launch in September 2016, Ukrainian officials were required to submit annual e-declarations of their income and property. The Prosecutor General’s Office and NABU have carried out inspections of individuals who provided false information in these e-declarations.

Read More: Should Ukrainian Anti-corruption Activists Declare Their Wealth?

NABU is currently investigating 61 officials as a result of e-declarations. This includes 18 MPs, 17 judges, seven heads of executive governmental bodies, and even two heads of law enforcement agencies. The bureau is carrying out the investigations under two articles of the criminal code: ‘illegal enrichment’ and ‘declaring false information.’

NABU is beginning checks of specific officials’ e-declarations following an appeal from the National Agency for Corruption Prevention itself, after media investigations, or if the person in question already figures in an Anti-Corruption Bureau case.  

Corruption in state enterprises

NABU considers the more significant problem to be corruption in state enterprises. As a result, detectives are investigating 102 criminal cases of this type. The energy sector and the military technology and space industries incurred the greatest losses from corruption. The transport and agriculture sectors also suffered notable losses.  

Officials most frequently steal money from state enterprises by purchasing goods, works and services at inflated prices or selling state property at subprime prices. In either case, someone pockets the difference.

Despite the 2016 launch of the ‘ProZorro’ electronic state procurement system, which was meant to clean up government purchases, officials continue to artificially restrict market competition and settling on agreements with their preferred supplier.  

Read More: ProZorro: Ukraine's Key Weapon to Fight Corruption


High-profile cases

In 2017, anti-corruption agencies detained several top officials at once. The most shocking was the arrest of Roman Nasirov, the head of the State Fiscal Service, in early March over the ‘gas case.’ He was accused of abusing his office to embezzle $75 million.  

The next month, NABU arrested its second high-profile suspect, ex-MP Mykola Martynenko. He suspected of involvement in the embezzlement of $17.2 million from a state-owned enterprise, the Eastern Mining and Processing Plant.

Read More: Ukraine Arrests Another High-Profile Official in Anti-Corruption Purge 

The court then chose to release Martynenko on bail. The politician was required to hand over his passport and not leave Ukraine, as two dozen MPs and ministers, including Minister of Infrastructure Volodymyr Omelyan and Minister of Youth and Sports Ihor Zhdanov had vouched for him.   

The last high profile case was the so-called ‘amber scheme.’ According to NABU, MPs Boryslav Rosenblat and Maxim Polyakov were involved. NABU suspects the parliamentarians of extracting a bribe from a foreign amber production company working in Ukraine. After a long committee meeting, the Ukrainian parliament decided to strip Rosenblatt and Polyakov of their parliamentary immunity. However, it did not allow them to be arrested.

In order to investigate the case, NABU employed an undercover agent (referred to as “Kateryna”) for the first time. According to the investigation, “Kateryna” carried out negotiations with the MPs on behalf of a foreign company interested in amber production.

In an August 10 briefing, journalists asked NABU director Sytnyk about the fate of that agent after the operation. “Everything’s fine with that employee,” he said. “In my opinion, they coped well with the work.”

/by Dmytro Replianchuk

/translated by Sofia Fedeczko