The previous Prosecutor General ceased to be a “go-to,” and it was necessary to find a person closer and handier. That’s when Iryna Venediktova came onto the stage.
A year ago, on March 17, the Verkhovna Rada voted for appointing Iryna Venediktova Prosecutor General of Ukraine. The president’s candidate was then supported by 269 MPs, and it seemed a signal symptom of the end of the independent prosecutor’s office.
You would think that spring is time for something new, for instance, “new” people in politics as was promised. However, the events that took place before this appointment and the number of decisions of the Prosecutor General that followed, only confirmed the fears.
“I promise the people of Ukraine to perform my duties in good faith, honestly and diligently.”
First of all, it is worth mentioning why this appointment took place at all. After all, if changes took place, does that mean that the predecessor failed?
Especially considering that in the summer of 2019, in conversation with Trump, Zelenskyy called Venediktova’s predecessor, Ruslan Riaboshapka, “his go-to.” And later the mono-majority of MPs in the parliament, controlled by the president, expressed their distrust of him.
At that time, neither public statements nor appeals from international partners helped. A “go-to” ceased to be someone to go to, so, it was necessary to find a closer and handier person. That’s when Iryna Venediktova came onto the stage.
At the same time, the newly appointed Prosecutor General herself from the very beginning did not hide her intentions to fully support Bankova’s stance. She was biased from the start.
And her words later that “Office of the Prosecutor General is the ‘Ober-Procurator,’ and the Prosecutor General is ‘President’s justice deputy’,” confirms that Iryna Venediktova works only for the head of state.
Such one-sided game resulted in the fact that for a year Iryna Venediktova did not understand the marrow of the suspicion in some cases, while delaying the lifting of immunity in others; and sometimes even did everything possible so that a potential suspect not only avoided punishment but also viable investigation.
And, perhaps, at some point we would have even thought that such decisions are Iryna Venediktova’s personal stance, if she herself had not repeatedly proved the opposite.
“I promise not to sell the cases. Not to dis them.”
It appears there is not a single Ukrainian prosecutor who is scandal-less. It seems to come with the job description.
But, unfortunately, in Ukrainian history, prosecutors are mostly associated not with those whom they rightly imprisoned, but with those whom they punished “on request” and whom they “covered” or “bailed out.”
In a year, Iryna Venediktova also collected a bunch of similar cases.
The case of the brother of Yermak, the head of the Presidential Administration.
In the spring of 2020, the “mono-majority” MP Geo Leros released videos in which a person who looks like Denys Yermak, agrees on the employment of the parties concerned for positions in government.
The story immediately became public, and the journalists of the “Schemes” project, for their part, established, who recorded “Yermak films” and who got featured in them.
A scandal? Definitely. Moreover, it is the first corruption story in the President’s team.
And what does the PGO do? The Prosecutor General’s Office did not open proceedings at the request of Geo Leros’ defense attorney. But the Pechersk District Court of Kyiv obliged prosecutors to do it.
And in response, after the Prosecutor independently “discovered” the crimes, at the State Bureau of Investigation the second, third and fourth cases were opened in this regard, but no longer on corruption, but on the alleged illegality of the creation and publication of the films.
Information about this crime was provided by Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and Prosecutor Andrii Liubovych.
Blocking the extradition of Bakhmatiuk, who is hiding in Austria.
In February 2020, the Pechersk Court obliged the Prosecutor General to close the proceedings against the owner of VAB Bank and the owner of Ukrlandfarming agroholding Oleh Bakhmatiuk. Then in late May, the HACC Appeals Chamber canceled this decision and in absentia sent the ex-MP into custody.
However, right after that, the wanted Oleh Bakhmatiuk asked the Office of the Prosecutor General to intervene in the NABU investigation, and Iryna Venediktova recalled the order of the Pechersk District Court of Kyiv and closed the case.
The Prosecutor General’s Office later refused to sign a request to Austria to extradite the wanted Bakhmatiuk and for several months caused delay in the extradition procedure itself. Finally, at the request of the NABU the HACC suspended investigation in this case.
Obstruction in the case of scandalous KAC judges
On July 17, 2020, the NABU made public the new “KAC films,” involving 8 judges of the Kyiv Administrative Court (including Pavlo Vovk, the head), Zenovii Kholodniuk, the head of the State Judicial Administration, and several lawyers who had been allegedly used in the sham lawsuit scheme.
On the same day, the NABU accused these individuals of creating a criminal organization to seize power by establishing control over the High Qualifications Commission of Judges, the High Council of Justice, and creating artificial obstacles to their work.
Iryna Venediktova and Prosecutor Andriy Liubovych agreed to serve with charges these 12 people.
However, within ten days, the Prosecutor General eliminated the group of SAPO prosecutors who had been working on the case, and then a week later was ignoring the investigation’s request for the dismissal of Vovk and Co.
And still Venediktova actually covers for Vovk, ignoring the NABU and the HACC. She does not submit to the High Council of Justice a request for consent to detain the head of the KAC and other suspected judges. And the head of the Kyiv Administrative Court himself remains in office, for the sixth time ignoring the call to the HACC meeting for a measure of restraint to be chosen for him.
An investigation into Khalimon’s “servant.”
In the fall, the investigation of “Schemes” stated that the previous summer Iryna Venediktova refused the NABU an investigation of Pavlo Khalimon, MP from the “Servant of the People,” despite audio recordings showing that Halimon seems to be demanding a bribe.
According to the Prosecutor General, in this case there were “no grounds defined by the Criminal Procedural Code of Ukraine for entering the relevant information into the Unified State Register of Pre-Trial Investigations.” However, in late September, after a statement by one of the MPs, Venediktova entered the information into the Unified Register of Pre-trial Investigations.
Blocking the serving MP Yurchenko with charges.
Indeed, the top corruption case of our time, which was so widely discussed also because it was the first suspicion granted an MP from the presidential party.
On September 15, the NABU published videos with the transfer of part of the bribe to Oleksandr Yurchenko, MP from the “Servant of the People” and his associates. At the same time in the session hall of the parliament Iryna Venediktova stated that the materials provided by detectives are not enough to announce suspicion to Yurchenko, which caused real outrage.
However, in two days the Prosecutor General served the MP with charges after all. And again, one would think that this was her professional decision, but for one “but”… Iryna Venediktova put her signature after the Presidential Office publicly “approved” the investigation into Oleksandr Yurchenko.
The case of Deputy Head of the Presidential Office Oleh Tatarov
If there is one person who will always be mentioned in connection with Venediktova’s work in office, it’s Deputy Head of the Presidential Office Oleh Tatarov. Here, the Prosecutor General seems to have done more than she could.
According to the version of the NABU-SAPO, Oleh Tatarov, working as a lawyer at Ukrbud, negotiated an examination with distorted content, which was eventually conducted by the Kyiv Research Forensic Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Later, the construction company referred to this examination, which allegedly showed no damage.
Iryna Venediktova joined this case even before the public became aware of the accusation. On December 1, 2020, the Prosecutor General urgently and without studying the materials changed prosecutors in the proceedings, so the NABU-SAPO could not promptly hand over the suspicion to Tatarov.
It gets better and better. Serhii Vovk, the judge of the Pechersk District Court of Kyiv, obliged Iryna Venediktova to take the case to the NABU and transfer it to “another pre-trial investigation body.”
The Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office promptly appealed the court’s decision in the HACC Appeal, but Venediktova also appealed the same decision in the Kyiv Court of Appeal, which is generally contrary to the procedure under investigation.
And behold! On the same day, the Kyiv Appeal refused to open proceedings against Tatarov. And at the end of the month, Venediktova’s Deputy passed Tatarov’s case to the SBU.
Transparency International Ukraine painted this whole story in detail in the timeline. From the “historical” point of view, you get the feeling that the Prosecutor General is not ready for impartiality. And especially when it comes to the close ones of the president.
However, there were positive cases in Venedictova’s work. For instance,
Advancement in the case of PrivatBank
Back in December, Venediktova denied serving the former leadership of the largest Ukrainian bank with charges, although for 2 weeks she hesitated with their signing. However, in February, the story gained a new dynamic development.
On February 22, a plane at Boryspil Airport was landed, on which the ex first deputy head of PrivatBank’s board Volodymyr Yatsenko tried to flee the country.
Later, it became known that Yatsenko, Oleksandr Dubilet, the former head of PrivatBank’s board, and Olena Bychykhina, the head of the financial management department of the bank were served with charges in the misuse of someone else’s property in the amount of UAH 136 mln.
“The cases of the so-called PrivatBank group are far from being the only trajectory of our joint locomotive with the NABU and SAPO,” the Prosecutor General commented on these events on her social networks. And given the pace of work in these cases, it’s hard not to believe her.
However, we have only now found out that Kolomoiskyi and his mates are no longer friends with the current government, although the cases themselves have been opened for more than a year.
In addition, the United States is investigating criminal cases against Kolomoiskyi, imposing sanctions on banning him and his family from entering the United States, and sanctioning MP Oleksandr Dubinskyi — his “mouthpiece.”
Friendship with Kolomoiskyi now can only harm the government. Apparently, this proves the rule, namely that the progress in corruption investigations takes place only when there is an instruction from above.
“I promise to stand by the rule of law”
Loud cases and odious compliments to the president are not the only things we remember Iryna Venediktova by. And not everything was bad.
Yes, the Prosecutor General succeeded in finishing re-certification of prosecutors of local prosecutor’s offices and military prosecutor’s offices of garrisons. 6,000 prosecutors took part in this large-scale process, and only 4,064 people were able to pass all exams and examinations; one in three did not pass the certification.
Iryna Venediktova also actively promotes a transparent and impartial competition for the selection of the SAPO Head.
Despite the fact that the Prosecutor General herself is significantly abusing her authority to replace the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, since the first meeting of the SAPO leadership selection commission we have never noticed her attempts to interfere in the competition or influence the commission members.
It is obvious that the Prosecutor General’s Office really helps to conduct an independent selection. However, it is too early to draw conclusions, because the competition itself begins only today — with a test of candidates’ knowledge of the law. And before the final choice, much more can change.
These are really positive things worth remembering. But at the same time we have not forgotten how the Prosecutor General rented a state dacha in Pushcha-Vodytsia three times cheaper than the estimated prices of the State Management of Affairs.
We also remember the scandal with the Prosecutor General’s husband, who, after resignation from cyberpolice, received UAH 750,000 in retirement benefits and resumed his position in 10 days.
The couple was also often mentioned in the media last summer for not declaring expensive Swiss watches. Yes, Iryna Venediktova wore Hublot from the Big Bang collection, while her husband wore Hublot Classic fusion tourbillion night out.
Such accessories cost more than 50 subsistence minimums, therefore must be mentioned in their declarations. The owner of the watch herself stated that she declares everything that falls under the declaration.
Despite all these “nothings,” Venediktova remains a confidant of the president, a true “go-to.”
In her pursuit of “justly defending the president,” Venediktova forgets that any president, prime minister, or even best friend is not always just or law-abiding. And every Prosecutor General must be ready for that.
José Ugaz, prominent Peruvian Attorney General and former member of the board of Transparency International Ukraine said that the effective use of anti-corruption tools requires political will, and it is impossible without the real independence of the Prosecutor General.
It was this political will that helped Ugaz 20 years ago send President Fujimori to jail, who had appointed him to office.
However, with Iryna Venediktova everything is entirely different. In this text, I have mentioned quotes from the Prosecutor General’s speech, which she delivered last year immediately after her appointment.
She promised to abide by the rule of law, to be impartial and independent, but within a year, she broke those promises. The reason is that Venediktova misunderstood her role from the very beginning.