On July 28, the new Prosecutor General Andrii Kostin appointed Oleksandr Klymenko head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.

For two years, Ukraine as a state was unable to solve this problem. And finally, after all the scandals and political games, we have the chief anti-corruption prosecutor. He is a 36-year-old senior NABU detective who investigated cases against Onyshchenko, Tatarov, and others.

We would like to turn the page with the competition and talk about what’s important. What should Oleksandr Klymenko do first of all? And what are the expectations of his management in the first year?

The basic situation in the SAPO and around it

Until February 24, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office had something to work with. A long list of problems and challenges did not allow to significantly gain momentum. As of the beginning of the year, NABU-SAPO had more than 850 proceedings and about 300 indictments in court. 

The nuances in the legislation, the lack of a full-fledged leader, excessive workload, pressure on the defendants and the Kremlin’s narratives about inefficiency are just what comes to mind first.

However, with the beginning of the full-scale invasion, it became even more difficult. After all, it was necessary to preserve all the developments, case documents and protect employees. But this did not cancel the daily work. The SAPO, like other state bodies, had to adapt to the new realities. For example, SAPO prosecutors and NABU detectives initiated the transfer of the largest bribe in the history of Ukraine of USD 6 million for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. 

Personnel and courts

Despite martial law, it is forbidden to reduce or accelerate any form of justice. This also affects the work of prosecutors. At the same time, cases are often delayed because, due to the threat to life and health, some judges, prosecutors, suspects, accused, and lawyers cannot appear for hearings. 

In addition, interim acting SAPO head Maksym Hryshchuk and 12 other SAPO prosecutors went to war. That is, almost every fourth. This cannot but affect the speed and quality of investigations and consideration of cases in court.

Despite this, there are noticeable results. For example, in the first 100 days of the war, detectives and prosecutors did not close a single case and referred high-profile ones to court: the case of the USD 5 million super bribe and the case of the brother of Pavlo Vovk, head of the KAC. They also completed an investigation into the case of MP from the Servant of the People faction Serhii Kuzminykh, who was exposed for receiving a bribe of UAH 558,000. There are also 10 verdicts and a satisfied civil forfeiture claim against Judge Maksym Kovbel

Moreover, in July, ex-head of the ARMA Anton Yanchuk and the other four defendants were served with charges. They are suspected of embezzlement of more than UAH 426 million from the sale of seized property in the SETAM system.

However, are these indicators the limit of possibilities?

Politics and corruption

It depends on the decisions of prosecutors whether the case will end up in court, whether the corrupt official will receive a guilty verdict, whether there will be motions for detention and seizure of property. Ministers, MPs, judges, directors of state-owned enterprises and other officials do not want to be in prison. However, at the same time, they have a significantly greater influence and more powerful tools.

Tatarov’s case illustrates this well. His case has shown, for the first time, but unquestioningly, that the current government interferes in anti-corruption investigations if their person is under suspicion. Despite the evidence collected, Oleh Tatarov still works as Yermak’s deputy and oversees the law enforcement sphere.

Unfortunately, there are only more such examples. Ex-prosecutor Venediktova for almost a week did not sign the suspicion to MP of the “Servant of the People” Yurchenko; another MP of the same faction — Trukhin has not yet been served with charges. And the proceedings were registered only six months after the accident.

Top 3 tasks for the anti-corruption prosecutor in the first year

First of all, Klymenko, after receiving cases from the acting head and getting to know the team closer, should start with establishing the processes inside. It is necessary to review the available resources, in particular human resources, to draw conclusions and propose solutions on how to effectively carry out the priority tasks of the SAPO in the conditions of war. For example, the number of SAPO employees is not enshrined in law. Therefore, if necessary, this issue can be resolved with the Prosecutor General’s Office.

To intensify and find new approaches to the work of prosecutors in court. Klymenko will need to find new approaches to organizing the work of prosecutors in order to minimize the impact of circumstances on the effectiveness of the SAPO in order not to lose the achievements gained by February 24.

Since August 2020, when the first head of the SAPO, Nazar Kholodnytsky, wrote a letter of resignation, the prosecutor’s office did not have a head with all the proper powers. 

We have witnessed numerous attempts to influence certain investigations, to pressure detectives and prosecutors. In particular, through the politically appointed Prosecutor General Venediktova.

Now, we have the authorized head of the SAPO Klymenko and a new politically appointed Prosecutor General Kostin, and also dozens of category “A” officials who are “persons of interest” to detectives and prosecutors. This means that external pressure will not weaken. Especially in conditions of war, when the state has more acute priority tasks than to promote and maintain the anti-corruption ecosystem.

Therefore, it is important for Mr. Klymenko to lead and make every effort to minimize external influence and build an apolitical independent body with his colleagues. 

The two-year competition to elect the head of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office is rather a prelude to what awaits the new leader of the SAPO. There are continuous challenges ahead, such as to complete the investigations that have begun and bring to a logical and preferably successful conclusion the case of Nasirov, Rosenblatt, Onyshchenko and others; the obvious temptations of high-profile officials to make money on the reconstruction that has already begun; political games that have not stopped.

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It's important for Mr. Klymenko to lead and make every effort to minimize external influence and build an apolitical independent body with his colleagues