In 2017, Anatolii Matios claimed that ex-minister of Revenues and Duties Oleksandr Klymenko stole USD 12 bln from the budget. If you compare this figure with the budget of Ukraine for 2021, it is a third of our money.
However, Klymenko’s story went nowhere, despite the wide resonance and publicity. Seizure of property worth hundreds of millions, “dramatic” detentions of suspects, half a thousand searches, high-profile press conferences, using thousands of budget man-hours, and, consequently, tens of millions of taxpayers’ money spent on all of this.
And no result. Time passes, cases are being closed, arrests of assets are being lifted, and the property is being returned to the owners. It is also difficult to positively evaluate the work of government agencies in this case.
We only mentioned one case, and there are dozens of them.
In this story, a really positive result was demonstrated by one structure — the Asset Recovery and Management Agency. In this case, the ARMA was assigned the task of preserving the economic value of assets, so that in the future the budget or the owner (depending on the court decision) would receive these funds, and not looted and mutilated “nothing” like it usually happened in the Ukrainian reality.
The body, to whose management the apartments, cars, and freight cars in the framework of the case of the ex-minister of Revenue and Duties were transferred, still, managed to do its job, despite the media and corruption scandals, the blocking of its work by the decision of the KAC judge.
The 1,000 freight cars arrested in 2017, which, according to law enforcement officers, were the result of laundering of the USD 12 bln, could remain under the control of the owner or turn into garbage, standing idle in warehouses at the expense of the budget. Only for the safety of these freight cars did the ARMA managers spend in one quarter of 2021 tens of millions of hryvnias, and none of these hryvnias was from the budget.
The assets “did not work” for the former senior official during the criminal proceedings, although the state budget would have received real money in the event of a guilty verdict. That is, we are talking about real compensation for at least part of the damage caused by crimes, and not zero, as is usually the case.
Such work of the seized asset management body is not a Ukrainian invention. Almost for 10 years the EU legislation has envisaged the functioning of such institutions, and all of them have demonstrated their effectiveness during this time, and this can be seen not only in Europe. French AGRAC at the beginning of its work sold assets worth EUR 6.63 mln, and in 2019 — in the amount of EUR 8.37 mln. In Romania, the ANABI throughout 2020 realized assets in the amount of EUR 1.68 mln. Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office in 2015 sold 4.052 assets for THB 145.7 mln with an almost twofold increase in the starting price.
Similar bodies in the Czech Republic, Peru, Colombia, New Zealand, and other countries of the world demonstrate effective management of frozen assets, including through their realization.
But then what’s the problem? Why is this not the case in Ukraine?
As strange as it may sound, the problem is with the MPs. They consider the normal functioning of the seized asset management body in Ukraine unnecessary.
Moreover, the MPs seriously want to cut the positive capabilities of the Agency. As of today, a draft law has been registered in the Verkhovna Rada which should “cripple” the functionality of the ARMA, without looking back at international experience, international legislation, and Ukrainian realities, not to mention more efficient preservation of economic value for property that cannot be transferred to a manager and effective realization. MPs believe that medical masks, cars, mobile phones must be destroyed because of time in warehouses at public expense. In these cases, not a penny goes to the budget, and the owner does not have any trouble because then they will receive compensation, again, from taxpayers’ money.
All these negative changes in the legislation are taking place under the slogans of fighting corruption in the ARMA, fighting raiding, and the “improvement.”
However, why are the accents put this way? Maybe, if there are facts of corruption and raiding in the ARMA, it is necessary to bring those responsible to justice?
Why then does our country need law enforcement officers and courts at all? Is it better to “cripple” the functionality of a state body for the convenience of very specific individuals?
According to this logic, MPs should deprive themselves of legislative initiative because some of their fellows like, according to the NABU and the Prosecutor General, to receive perks for making amendments to draft laws. Likewise, judges should be deprived of the opportunity to administer justice through colleagues who take bribes for convenient solutions.
After all, what is currently happening around the agency, and how MPs react to these events, looks very little like a desire to improve something. But it can come at a cost for us all.