After equating corruption with treason, some cases may be transferred from Anti-Corruption Bureau to Security Service of Ukraine

27 AUGUST 2023

After the Ukrainian Parliament approves President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s suggestion to equate wartime corruption with treason, the Ukrainian government also plans to let the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU), and not just the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), investigate crimes of corruption if the sum exceeds 24 million hryvnias [about US$650,000 – ed.].

Source:ZN.UA’s sources in the Ukrainian President’s Office; NABU; Ukrainska Pravda sources in NABU

Details: As reported by ZN.UA with reference to a source in the Ukrainian President’s Office, it was originally planned to “introduce changes to the law under which all cases of corruption being investigated in the national defence sector exceeding 24 million hryvnias should be investigated by the SSU”, and it was proposed that corruption cases involving sums less than 24 million hryvnias be left to NABU to investigate.”

Thus the government would show people that now, during the war, large-scale corruption would be equated to treason under the law. Therefore the punishment will be more severe: the sentences will be longer, and there will be no bail,” the source added.

They also stated that after the reaction of Western partners who made it clear that they consider this decision to be an “attempt on the independence of the anti-corruption system”, the President’s Office changed this idea.

Currently, the idea is not to deprive NABU of the right to conduct major anti-corruption investigations, but to grant this right to the SSU as well.

“Legal changes have been worked out under the guidance of the relevant deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine. These include initiating amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine with the goal of making corruption schemes involving more than 24 million hryvnias subject to investigation by the SSU,” the source revealed.

One of the investigative journalists remarked in a comment to ZN.UA that experts in the anti-corruption sector may understand the real motivation behind these changes.

“The SSU, which is completely controlled by the authorities, will be in charge of investigating large-scale corruption cases in the government instead of NABU, which is not controlled by the government,” the journalist explained.

In turn, an anonymous senior official from NABU believes that “it is a bad idea”.

“It would be then possible to take any case away from NABU on a legal basis; Ukraine will lose plenty of cases in the European Court of Human Rights, since mandatory pre-trial detention would violate the convention; in addition to this, relations with international partners will worsen. Pre-trial detention is not punishment, everyone keeps getting confused about this. What is more, 90% of results in the fight against corruption are achieved through administrative measures aimed at preventing it, not at investigating existing cases. If this bill is passed, there will be trouble,” the source added.

Ukrainska Pravda’s sources in NABU confirm the information about the government’s plans to give the SSU the right to investigate corruption cases involving sums of over 24 million hryvnias.

Background: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated in an interview on 27 August that he intends to submit a bill equating wartime corruption to treason.

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  1. I fully agree that corruption in times of war is equal to treason. It’s disgusting and loathsome when people engage in corruption while there are men and women fighting and dying on the front. Maybe the new law will prevent or stop some from doing so, now that they know they will get harsher punishment. Having the SBU involved should in itself have a preventative effect. They have much better means to uncover such rats. I just hope that the added burdens won’t hamper their other efforts in fighting mafia land.

    • I don’t know enough about the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies and their goals and priorities to provide a relevant opinion but being an asshole I’ll provide one anyway. I’ve been impressed by both SBU and NABU but I’m curious why NABU would object, unless this is some kind of turf war. The argument about the European Court is curious…does it really matter that traitors are afforded the protection of Human Rights? I don’t think so? But would the European Court restriction (pre trial detention thing) prevent the European Court from getting these traitors in other countries.

      • Nabu rightly objects because “24 million hryvnias” is less than a million dollars or euros. Why should this bureau, with its impressive track record, suddenly be relegated to investigate small scale corrupt officials, while the military tries to make sense of big industry and finance deals, of which the officers know nothing about? This smells phony. The opposition is highly concerned that this is an attempt by Zelenskyy to bury cases where his own party is involved. I can’t blame them, the details of this reform really look suspicious. I’m all for Zelenskyy as a highly capable wartime president, but this trust doesn’t extend to the rest of his party. We guys from outside the Ukraine need to be aware that while the fighting continues, bad politics as usual go on, too.

      • I’m no lawyer, and I certainly don’t know much about Ukrainian law. But, I hope that such a move will not only provide harsher punishment, but serve as a strong deterrence. I also think that it is best to but such cretins on trial in Ukraine. I’m afraid that they would get off far too light in any other, especially anything that has to do with Europe. They are simply much too pussyfied.

  2. In cases where the military is involved – corruption by officers or bad army contracts – this would make sense. But to deprive Nabu of the right to investigate “large” cases “involving more than 24 million hryvnias” (which is less than a million dollars or euros) ain’t such a good idea. The ukrainian opposition is right, this really looks like Zelenskij actually wants to hinder investigations of crooked politicians of his own party. These include his own chief of staff Andrii Yermak, who has ruined his reputation by being involved in too damn many shady deals that were enriching party friends. Instead of pushing for this very questionable reform, Zelenskyy should get rid of that dubious character. Not the least because the money wasted by corruption within his own party hurts the war efforts considerably. It can’t be that anti-corruption-efforts become misused to safeguard one gang, while bringing up phony cases against politicians of other parties, who only did their jobs!

    • Your argument would assume that the SBU is corrupt. As long as it isn’t, and there’s no evidence that it is, then the argument about Zelenksy’s purported attempt to circumvent investigation/prosecution for corruption with this measure is moot.

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