The competition for the selection of the NABU Director reaches its final stage — interviews on the integrity and competence of candidates. On February 20, the first applicants for this important position will come to talk with the selection commission. 

Experts of Transparency International Ukraine analyzed all available public information about the participants of the competition and formed their questions to them.

Why is this competition so important to us?

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau is one of the most important elements of the anti-corruption system of Ukraine.

That is why the competition for the election of a new director of the NABU has become the most popular topic for the media and the authorities.

That is why, in its conditions for providing financial assistance to Ukraine, the EU mentions this extremely important selection. The election of a professional and honest director is a condition for the beginning of negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the European Union.

In total, 21 candidates passed to the final stage of selection. According to the results of testing for knowledge of legislation and general abilities, 22 people had to pass to the interview stage, but after additional verification, the selection commission found that Ruslan Habrielian did not have enough leadership experience, so, he was not allowed to participate further in the competition.

On February 13, the Commission approved the schedules of the final stages of the competition — interviews for integrity and competence. Thus, during the integrity interviews, the commission will consider the compliance of candidates’ income with their expenses and property, the lifestyle of the candidates, the level of their professional ethics, political neutrality and other possible violations of integrity.

Transparency International Ukraine has analyzed all available information about candidates for the position of the NABU Director.

Traditionally, our experts tried to fully investigate the data that could indicate the level of integrity of the applicants, but this year, it has been much more difficult to conduct such an analysis. Since access to the register of electronic declarations is limited, the basis of our verification was the information that is publicly available and the documents published by the selection commission.

Unfortunately, these data may not fully reflect the picture of the property status of candidates, but they provide an opportunity to formulate questions for the selection commission and we hope to get a fuller picture of the candidates’ compliance with the requirements during the interviews.

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In its conditions for providing financial assistance to Ukraine, the EU mentions this extremely important selection. The election of a professional and honest director is a condition for the beginning of negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the European Union.

Where do the money and property come from? 

Data from declarations is one of the first sources from which representatives of the public can get information about the integrity of candidates. But complete and detailed responses during integrity interviews can dissolve most of the questions we have identified. As, for example, the issue of costs for the purchase of a car.

We understand that used cars can be bought at auctions, and the cost of such cars depends on the year of production, mileage, and damage.

Thus, the current leader, according to the results of two stages of testing, Ruslan Kravchenko (head of the Bucha district prosecutor’s office of Kyiv Oblast), allegedly underestimated the cost of his wife’s car.

According to his declaration for 2021, the cost of Mercedes-Benz S250 in 2013 was UAH 124,000 (about USD 4,500 according to the then exchange rate), then today, the market value of such a model is USD 11,000-18,000. Kravchenko also declared USD 53,000 in cash in the declarations for 2021 and 2022, but the source of these funds remains unknown.

There are also questions about the cash savings to the deputy head of Kyiv Oblast Vitalii Vlasiuk. He indicated almost USD 155,000 and EUR 57,000 in cash in the declaration for 2021. Therefore, the candidate should explain to the commission how he managed to save such an amount.

There are also many questions about cash and property to Oleksandr Vikul (Head of the Department of Representation of State Interests on Land Relations of the Vinnytsia Regional Prosecutor’s Office).

In the declaration for 2021, the candidate noted that he had almost EUR 48,000 in foreign currency accounts, while in his questionnaire, he wrote that the source of these funds has no connection with his work in the prosecutor’s office. But any other source of funds, except for wages, is not indicated in the declaration.

There are also doubts about the accuracy of the amount of purchase of the 2007 Mercedes Benz E-200 — according to the declaration as of August 2008, it was UAH 149,000 (about USD 6,700 at the then exchange rate), but even in 2023, such a car costs about USD 8,500-10,000.

There are also questions about the real estate of Vikul: in the information from the register of property rights to real estate, the value of his apartment is indicated at UAH 39,018, but in the declaration of the candidate for 2021, this same apartment is estimated at UAH 100,000. The question arises: what caused the difference in the cost of the apartment in the documents?

The questions relating to real estate also concern the NABU senior detective Anatolii Nestertsov.

Before working in the Bureau, Nestertsov was an operative in the central management of the SSU. In 2017, the candidate’s wife bought an apartment in Kyiv region worth almost UAH 600,000, but it is unclear from which profits such a purchase was made because the declared profits of the wife were not enough for this.

In addition, according to the declaration, the candidate keeps USD 80,000 and his wife — USD 10,000 in cash. Today, in total, this is about UAH 3.2 mln, which is almost three times the annual income of the family.

For his part, Serhii Naumiuk, deputy head of the SSU’s Operational Documentation Department, declared about USD 140,000 in cash in 2022, but the source of this money remains unclear. There is a similar question to Serhii Hupiak, head of the fourth investigative department of the Territorial Management of the SBI in Khmelnytskyi. According to the 2021 declaration, most of his monetary savings are in cash, including the currency — dollars and euros.

According to the 2021 declaration, NABU detective Mykhailo Burtovyi kept USD 54,800 in cash, and his wife, who works at PrivatBank, kept USD 50,700 (in hryvnia equivalent today, it is more than UAH 3.7 mln). Moreover, in the declaration for 2022, the amount of foreign currency cash of the candidate increased by about USD 20,000, but the candidate did not specify the source from which he could receive such a profit.

Experts of TI Ukraine also found an allegedly understated cost of the car in the declaration of the candidate Maksym Vorvul (senior detective — deputy head of the Third Detective Department of the Fourth Detective Division of the Main Detective Division of the NABU). In the documents, he indicated that his 2015 Dodge Journey cost UAH 125,000 at the time of purchase in 2020, (approximately USD 4,500 according to the then exchange rate). At the same time, today the market value of this model ranges from USD 10,000 to USD 15,000.

There is the same question to the cost of the declared car of the head of the “war department” of the Prosecutor General’s Office Yurii Bielousov. According to the declaration, his 2015 Hyundai Grand Santa Fe at the time of purchase in 2017 cost UAH 49,000 (almost USD 2,000 at the then exchange rate), but the cost of such a model ranges from USD 14,000 to USD 25,000. The same question arises about the car of the candidate’s wife: it is noted that in 2019, she purchased a 2012 BMW Mini for UAH 49,000, while today, the market price for this car is approximately USD 8,000.

There are a lot of property questions to the head of the lawyer association “RO LEX” Oleksandr Rudenko. The candidate notes in the declaration that since 2002, he has an apartment in free use, the owner of which is Khamster Club LLC. However, the date of registration of the company is 23.04.2003, which is later than the candidate began to use the specified housing. Therefore, it remains unclear based on what the candidate uses this property for free, and what his connections with Khamster Club are, since we did not find any obvious connections with this LLC from public sources.

Rudenko also notes that he has USD 70,000 and EUR 30,000 in cash. So, the question is whether the candidate can confirm the legality of their source. No less oddly, Rudenko’s declaration does not specify any open bank account, and for the entire past year, neither the applicant for the post of the NABU Director nor his family members had any income. We hope that Oleksandr Rudenko will be able to explain these paradoxes to the selection commission.

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Complete and detailed responses during integrity interviews can dissolve most of the questions we have identified. As, for example, the issue of costs for the purchase of a car.

Who has been exposed to dubious stories or may have conflicts of interest?

As part of the integrity interview, the commission will be interested not only in questions about the property of candidates, but also in factors that can somehow affect the reasonableness and independence of the decisions of the future NABU director.

Thus, according to the declaration, Anatolii Nestertsov’s wife also works in the NABU. As YouControl notes, she is the chief specialist of the Department of Ensuring the Work of the Bureau Director. Therefore, questions arise as to whether the candidate currently has powers that would apply to the wife, and whether the wife can influence him through work.

Moreover, several media published a number of discrediting materials about Nestertsov. For example, regarding the fact that “Nestertsov terrorizes the green energy,” reveals official secrets. The candidate himself noted in the questionnaire that this article on “Antikor” testifies to his professional competence, since in his opinion, there cannot but be such articles on the Internet about persons investigating high-profile corruption. At the same time, Nestertsov did not refute the charges in any way — perhaps he will so during the interview.

Mykhailo Burtovyi may also be asked about the family. According to YouContol, the mother of candidate Oleksandra Burtova owns more than 60 land plots in Cherkasy Oblast. So, the question arises, how did she acquire these plots, when did it happen, and did her status as a member of the local council contribute to the acquisition of these land plots? Oleksandra Burtova filed a declaration in 2016 as a member of Berezivka village council of Mankivskyi district of Cherkasy Oblast.

Moreover, the candidate’s sister and brother also served in the bodies of the National Police in Kyiv. Therefore, it is important to understand whether there were cases during the service of Burtovyi and his relatives when they were subordinate or had the opportunity to influence each other’s career advancement in terms of their powers.

The head of the State Inspectorate of Architecture and Urban Planning of Ukraine, Semen Kryvonos, won the competition for the position of director of the Odesa Territorial Department of the NABU in 2021 but refused the position and returned to work in the customs. Then the candidate explained his refusal by unwillingness to engage in controversy with the journalists who published an investigation regarding him, and the desire to avoid possible reputational risks that could harm the new body. The very investigation concerned dubious facts from the biography of Kryvonos. Thus, according to journalists, with a small income, he and his wife managed to become owners of seven and a half hectares of land, a house, and an apartment with an area of 80 squares near Kyiv. Since the investigation, Kryvonos acquired another 10 land plots, so, the potential director of the NABU will have to explain the source of this property.

No less important is the issue of offenses committed by candidates. Thus, the court found Oleksandr Rudenko, already mentioned above, guilty of committing an administrative offense under Article 124 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (“Violation of traffic rules by road users), which caused damage to vehicles or other property”and imposed an administrative penalty of UAH 850. The car in which the candidate got into an accident was undeclared. We hope that the candidate will be able to explain this during the interview.

Updated. After the publication of the analysis of candidates for the NABU director, Oleksandr Rudenko appealed to TI Ukraine to refute the information about this accident. Thus, according to him, presumably he was confused with a namesake because he did not get into a traffic accident, and accordingly, did not receive a fine of UAH 850. And since the car that was in the accident definitely does not belong to him, it could not be specified by him in the declaration.

In response to a question about the engagement in political activity, Rudenko did not mention that he was in contractual relations on the provision of legal assistance with the political parties “Third Force” and “Ukrainians together” from 2018 to 2020.

But perhaps the highest number of ethical questions concern Vitalii Vlasiuk. For example, does the candidate see violations of the requirements for incompatibility of work as deputy head of the Kyiv Regional Military Administration with doing business in LLCs that provide services in the field of law — “EPravo,” “Magnum Partners”? And in general, it is unclear whether Vlasiuk participates in the work of these enterprises, and if so, how?

From 2017 to 2020 the candidate held the position of deputy chair of the ARMA Public Council. It was during this period that Anton Yanchuk was the head of the Agency, who was recently served with charges of abuse of power and embezzlement of more than UAH 426 mln. In addition, Vlasiuk is the head of the Asset Tracing and Recovery Association. Among the founders of this organization is Volodymyr Pavlenko, ex-deputy of Vitalii Syhydyna, ex-head of the ARMA. Vlasiuk himself in his social networks has repeatedly criticized the activities of the ARMA.

He also had misunderstandings with the NACP. When the candidate worked as a lawyer, he represented the Altayur company, which provided servers for placing information from the register of electronic declarations. The cost of the rent was higher than the cost of the leased equipment itself. Therefore, the NABU is investigating a possible collusion of the ex-leadership of the NACP and the Altayur company. Moreover, during the constitutional crisis of 2020, Vitalii Vlasiuk publicly called for the erasure of all information from the seized servers of Altayur, which would destroy millions of declarations of officials. So, the questions arise, what the candidate’s point of view regarding electronic declaration is, and what his position on the episode with Altayur is. In general, it is unclear how he, as the probable head of the NABU, plans to establish cooperation with anti-corruption institutions, the work of which he has repeatedly criticized.

In addition, Vitalii Vlasiuk has a potential conflict of interest. His twin brother Vladyslav is currently an advisor to the head of the Presidental Office. Therefore, it is unclear how Vlasiuk will make decisions aimed at bringing to justice senior corrupt officials from the PO’s entourage, should such investigations take place, and how Vitalii Vlasiuk will act if there is a similar conflict between the performance of his duties and the work of his brother.

Other questions to candidates

Interviews are also an opportunity to get acquainted with the candidates for the NABU Director, to better understand their vision for the development of the institution and the fight against corruption in Ukraine in general.

Although we already know of some of these positions, sometimes such views cause surprise. For example, Oleksandr Vikul has a post on his Facebook page, where he writes the following (the author’s spelling has been preserved): “Why do people abroad believe that we have corruption everywhere? It’s because we tell them about it all the time. We take the money to counter it. We expose “thousands” of dishonest people. <…> And there are very few words about the fact that there are HONEST officials in Ukraine. How can one refute the statement about the existence of corruption? – In no way!!? It is impossible to prove the absence of anything. If there is nothing, there is no proof of it.”

These statements give the impression that, according to Vikul, there is no corruption in Ukraine, but someone is “inventing” it.  And therefore, it is surprising why he is applying for the post of Director of the anti-corruption body.

Deputy head of the NABU department of detectives Oleksandr Rykovtsev points out in his questionnaire when describing his vision of the future of the NABU that one of the priorities in the investigation is social corruption, that is municipal services, tariffs, taxes, or the implementation of citizens’ rights to receive land. But all these topics definitely do not belong to the jurisdiction of the NABU. And it is all the more surprising to hear such thoughts from a person who currently works in the Bureau.

In general, as we can see, our experts have the most questions to five candidates: Mykhailo Burtovyi, Oleksandr Vikul, Vitalii Vlasiuk, Semen Kryvonos, and Oleksandr Rudenko. However, perhaps when talking to the commission, the participants of the competition will be able to give exhaustive answers, especially since the questions were sent in advance.

In addition, we do not know much about many candidates, so, it is the interviews that will allow both us and the selection commission to better understand them.

Transparency International Ukraine has already provided the Commission with all the collected information about the candidates. And the Commission itself has already stated the particular importance of integrity interviews, deciding that candidates who do not pass this stage will not be admitted to competency interviews.

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We do not know much about many candidates, so, it is the interviews that will allow both us and the selection commission to better understand them.