Ex-Prosecutor General Shokin defends oligarch Firtash
Viktor Shokin, the fired Ukrainian prosecutor general at the center of the whistleblower scandal that launched an impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump, has given testimony in support of Ukrainian gas tycoon Dmytro Firtash, who is fighting extradition to the U.S. on bribery charges.
In a sworn affidavit, Shokin comes forward with more allegations against former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. He claims that Biden pressured the administration of former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko not only to fire him to protect Biden’s son, but also to illegally block the return of oligarch Firtash to Ukraine.
Shokin is currently trying to win his job back through the Supreme Court of Ukraine.
A copy of what appears to be Shokin’s affidavit, notarized on Sept. 4, was shared online on Sept. 26 by John Solomon, an opinion contributor to The Hill news site who helped spread allegations about Joe Biden and his son and claims that Ukrainian officials interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In a July 25 phone call, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate these allegations, according to a de-classified memorandum reconstructing their conversation and an official whistleblower complaint against the U.S. president.
A highly unpopular prosecutor general, Shokin was fired in April 2016 after months of demands from the country’s pro-reform and anti-graft community for his failure to investigate the corruption of fugitive President Victor Yanukovych’s regime. Yanukovych was ousted in the EuroMaidan Revolution in 2014 and fled to Russia.
But Trump and his personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have been pushing a different narrative: “tough corruption fighter” Shokin was fired at the request of Biden in order to protect his son Hunter Biden’s employer, oil and gas extraction company Burisma Holdings, from prosecution.
The accusations against the Bidens are not supported by any available evidence.
“I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma Holdings,” Shokin said in the affidavit.
In Shokin’s words, then-President Poroshenko asked him several times to wind down the investigation into Burisma, but he refused. Then Poroshenko asked him to resign because Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in subsidies for Ukraine until he was removed from office.
Shokin clamed this was not the only time Biden exerted his influence over Poroshenko and Ukrainian officials.
He claims that Biden pressured the Ukrainian administration to block the return of Firtash to Ukraine in December 2015, when Shokin was still in office.
Oligarch Firtash was accused by the U.S. Department of Justice of conspiring to bribe officials in India with $18.5 million for a permit to develop titanium mines in the eastern coastal Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The produced titanium was supposed to be sold to Boeing, an airplane manufacturer with headquarters in Chicago.
Arrested in Vienna in 2014, Firtash has been fighting extradition to the U.S. with varying degrees of success. Most recently, an Austrian court and the country’s justice minister allowed his extradition to stand trial in Chicago. His lawyers have appealed.
Previously, in April 2015, an Austrian judge rejected his extradition. After that, Firtash planned to come to Kyiv to address the Federation of Employers, an organization he chaired, on December 2, 2015.
However, according to Shokin’s testimony, Ukrainian officials did everything to prevent this from happening “under intense pressure of Biden.”
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced that Firtash would be arrested immediately upon return to Ukraine. In addition, he mobilized the Azov Battalion, a far-right nationalist organization which is widely believed to be subordinate to Avakov, to patrol the Kyiv airports as an intimidation technique. The government also closed Ukrainian airspace to private jets.
But Shokin claimed there was no evidence that Firtash had committed any crime.
“I would have never allowed the general prosecutor office (sic) to be used for political purposes of unfounded criminal prosecution of a person in the absence of sufficient evidence that such crimes had been committed,” Shokin said in the affidavit.
Firtash was a close ally to Yanukovych and is still a business partner of the ex-president’s chief of staff, Serhiy Lovochkin. In his early days, he allegedly worked with organized crime boss Semyon Mogilevich and profited from a murky scheme to resell Turkmen gas.
As he grew his influence and fortune through close alliances with politicians, Firtash privatized gas distribution networks and monopolized the fertilizer market. According to an investigation by Ukrainian journalists, he de-facto controls a state-owned chemical plant in Sumy.
Daria Kaleniuk, head of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, wrote on facebook that Shokin’s affidavit may be used by Firtash’s lawyers as evidence of political subtext in his prosecution.
According to Austrian law, extradition is impossible if the prosecution is politically motivated.
Recently, the oligarch’s defense team hired two attorneys connected to Trump, Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing. Both have advanced the idea that Ukraine interfered in the U.S. election and other related claims in the media.