Ukrainian authorities have detained the supreme court docket chief justice for allegedly having taken bribes from an oligarch, as Kyiv steps up its anti-corruption efforts whereas at struggle with Russia.
Vsevolod Kniaziev was accused of receiving a bribe value $2.7mn, in keeping with Ukrainian anti-graft prosecutors who mentioned that the cash was a “reward” for a ruling made “in favour of the proprietor of the Finance and Credit score group”. That group is managed by mining tycoon Kostyantyn Zhevago.
The high-profile case marks the newest in a sequence of probes focusing on the nation’s oligarchs, as Ukrainian officers have vowed to additional crack down on corruption, a situation for continued western monetary and army help, in addition to integration into the EU and Nato army alliance.
“The pinnacle of the Supreme Courtroom has been detained and measures are being taken to examine different people for involvement within the felony exercise,” Oleksandr Omelchenko, a prosecutor at Ukraine’s SAPO specialised anti-corruption prosecutor’s workplace mentioned on Tuesday.
The supreme court docket eliminated Kniaziev from its publish on Tuesday, with a brand new chief justice prone to be voted in quickly. “This can be a darkish day within the historical past of the Courtroom. We should be worthy and face up to such a blow,” the court docket mentioned.
Kniaziev couldn’t be reached for remark.
Particulars of the case, together with pictures of piles of money on a sofa and diagrams of the alleged bribe scheme, had been laid out by SAPO in a joint assertion with Ukraine’s NABU anti-corruption bureau.
Zhevago has been combating extradition to Ukraine associated to a separate alleged financial institution fraud case. His press service denied his involvement within the alleged bribe and refuted claims by authorities that the supreme court docket probe pertains to a authorized battle over belongings belonging to his London-listed iron ore producer Ferrexpo, Ukrainian media reported.
A spokesperson for Zhevago didn’t instantly reply to Monetary Occasions requests for remark.
It was not instantly clear how the incident would have an effect on the court docket, which was reformed earlier than Volodymyr Zelenskyy took over as president in 2019. Zelenskyy’s administration has but to completely reboot the nation’s tainted constitutional court docket, with which he clashed earlier than Russia’s full-blown invasion.
For many years, Ukraine’s oligarchs used their media and political affect to deprave state establishments and bolster their companies. However their affect has been weakened by anti-corruption measures and harm to their company pursuits by Russia’s struggle.
On Monday, Ukraine’s SBU state safety service mentioned that it had issued a discover of suspicion to Dmitry Firtash, one other oligarch, accusing him of embezzling practically $500mn value of pure gasoline. Firtash, exiled in Vienna the place he has fought extradition prices to the US since 2014, denied the claims of wrongdoing by an announcement issued by his Group DF holding that described the probe as a part of an “ongoing marketing campaign of corrupt stress”.
The oligarch is a former associate of Russia’s Gazprom within the multi-billion-dollar enterprise of supplying Ukraine with gasoline, and was sanctioned by Kyiv final yr.
The SBU has this yr additionally secured court docket orders freezing the belongings of one other Ukrainian-sanctioned oligarch, Vadim Novinsky.
On Tuesday, yet one more Ukrainian sanctioned oligarch, Pavel Fuks, in a Telegram assertion described a brand new SBU case in opposition to him as “groundless”.
“This as soon as once more demonstrates that [authorities are] deceptive the president of Ukraine and Ukrainian society, guided by their very own pursuits, and never the pursuits of the Ukrainian society, which is an indication of remarkable cynicism throughout a full-scale struggle,” he added.
Further reporting by Sam Jones.