Leaked tapes implicate Constitutional Court chief in alleged corruption
Newly leaked audiotapes implicate Oleksandr Tupytsky, chairman of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court, in corruption, according to an investigation published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Schemes show on Dec. 21.
Tupytsky has faced harsh public criticism since Oct. 27, when the Constitutional Court issued a ruling that effectively destroyed Ukraine’s entire asset declaration system for state officials, eliminating a crucial pillar of the country’s anti-corruption infrastructure. Like several other judges, he voted for the decision despite having a conflict of interest, according to the National Agency for Preventing Corruption.
Since then, President Volodymyr Zelensky has tried but failed to remove the 15-judge court and appoint new justices. His attempt to reshape the court has stalled.
Now, the audiotapes raise further questions about Tupytsky’s integrity as a judge, showing him allegedly engaging in corrupt practices in concert with other questionable judges and businesspeople.
In response to Schemes, Tupytsky said that he does not have any relationship with the people named in their report. He added that investigators had questioned him on the issue and he could not reveal investigative information.
The tapes published by Schemes were recorded by Vladyslav Dreger, a businessman from Donetsk Oblast, in October 2018. At that time, Dreger was cooperating with investigators looking into a corruption case against another controversial judge, Viktor Tatkov, and Tupytsky met Dreger to dissuade him from testifying against the judge. Tupytsky was not aware that he was being recorded.
“I just wanted to warn you that you shouldn’t do that shit,” Tupytsky told Dreger in the tapes. “It will not lead to anything. It will only result in worse relations.”
In 2009, Anton Yaitsky, a frontman for Tatkov, received a 40% stake in Dreger’s Zuivsky Energy and Mechanical Plant in the city of Zugres in Donetsk Oblast, according to Ukrainian investigators. Tatkov allegedly got the stake in exchange for his help in commercial disputes.
Currently, the plant is located in Russian-occupied territory.
In the tapes, Tupytsky also discusses having received a 4% stake in the Zuivsky Energy and Mechanical Plant for being an intermediary between Tatkov and Dreger.
In 2009, Borys Rumak, an apparent frontman for Tupytsky, became a co-owner of the factory. Tupytsky had previously granted Rumak power of attorney to drive his car.
When Dreger was prosecuted and arrested during a business conflict with ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s son Oleksandr, Yaitsky and Rumak increased their stake in the plant to 100% — allegedly to protect Dreger’s property from the Yanukovych family.
In 2018, Tupytsky proposed meeting Tatkov and splitting the company among the three co-owners involved, according to the tapes.
“We should meet, look at its debits and credits and make a decision — split it up and sell it,” he said.
Another option would be to open a criminal case against Tatkov for “financing terrorism” in the Russian-occupied territories and then extort money from him for resolving the situation, Tupytsky said.
In the tapes, Tupytsky also appears to extort a bribe for helping Dreger and Tatkov solve their legal problems.
“If you and he deemed it necessary to give me a kopeck for my participation in these matters, I wouldn’t refuse,” he said.
Tupytsky also complained in the tapes that, when he worked as a judge in Dnipropetrovsk, he couldn’t receive bribes himself and had to channel them to higher-level officials.
“Nobody even gave me a f—g kopeck, and everything was channeled above,” he said.
In 2010-2013, Tupytsky was a judge at commercial courts of appeals in Donetsk, Lviv and Dnipropetrovsk. In 2013, Yanukovych appointed him as a judge of the Constitutional Court. Tupytsky became its chairman in 2019.
Tupytsky also acquired land in Russian-annexed Crimea in 2018, but did not indicate this in his asset declaration, according to an Oct. 28 report by Schemes.
Tupytsky’s alleged partner, Tatkov, was the chairman of the High Commercial Court under Yanukovych. Tatkov and his ex-deputy, Artur Yemelyanov, were officially charged in 2016 with illegally interfering in the automatic distribution of cases and issuing unlawful rulings under Yanukovych, and Tatkov fled to Austria.
Other ex-High Commercial Court judges voted to effectively get rid of the automatic distribution of court cases by assigning just one judge to each judicial specialization, which would allow Tatkov and Yemelyanov to handpick judges for cases that they wanted to profit from, according to Vitaly Tytych, ex-coordinator of the Public Integrity Council, the judiciary’s civil society watchdog.
Bohdan Lvov, current deputy head of the Supreme Court and a former judge at the High Commercial Court under Tatkov, and several other current Supreme Court judges who used to work at the High Commercial Court are also under investigation in the Tatkov-Yemelyanov case. However, they have not been officially charged yet and have denied the accusations of wrongdoing.
Editor’s Note: This report is part of the Investigative Hub project, within which the Kyiv Post team monitors investigative reports in the Ukrainian media and brings them to the English-speaking audience. The project is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.