In spite of the loud statements of the Ukrainian authorities on active corruption counteraction, there is still a significant increase in the amounts of bribes taken in Ukraine. Last year the average size of a bribe was UAH 40 k, a large increase over the UAH 30 k in 2014. The estimated total value of bribery in 2015 reached more than UAH 19 mln., which is UAH 3 mln. less than in 2014. This can partially be explained by the collapse of the hryvna: corrupt officials keep abreast of the times and raise the cost on their “services”. Representatives of the TI Ukraine and Persha Instantsiia/First Instance online platform on judicial disputes presented these survey results at a press-conference. Up to a thousand of cases under Article 368 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine On Bribing were analyzed between March 2014 and February 2016. We have conducted the survey within the framework of The First Instance is Under Control project, with the support of the Embassy of the United States.
Only one fifth of officials (19%) that were tried for extortion or bribery are in prison now. This is a very low indicator, taking into account that every part of the Article 368 of the Criminal Code provides imprisonment for bribery. The average term of imprisonment was 4 years and 7 months. However, the maximum term for illegal enrichment is 12 years in prison. Not a single corrupt official for the last two years has received a term like that. 9% of the convicted were acquitted and 38% of them received probation. The average probationary period was 2 years 2 months. 34% of offenders were fined. The average amount of the fine barely exceeded UAH 20 k.
“The initial findings show that there is no generalized practice of punishment for bribes in courts. For example, a fine of UAH 17k was imposed on those who received a bribe of less than a thousand UAH as well as those who received more than UAH 20 k. Last year the average fine was even lower than the average size of bribes,” said Fedir Oryshchuk, the editor of Persha Instantsiia/First Instance online platform on judicial disputes.
The survey indicates another annoying trend – the bigger the bribe appears in a criminal case, the greater the likelihood that an official remains out of prison. Thus, out of the five largest bribe-takers, whose appetites exceeded UAH 1 and 2 mln., only one was sent to prison. Others were acquitted or received probation.
“The average size of a bribe or extortion that was not proven in court was UAH 90 k. And the amount of a benefit for which the defendant was given a penalty amounted to about UAH 15 k. It was mostly the officials with an average bribe of UAH 85k who went to prison. When using these figures, one can conclude: the larger the bribe, the better the chances of impunity,” said the analyst of TI Ukraine Iryna Rybakova.
A popular mechanism for mitigation the punishment for corrupt officials is substitution of the Article 368 (receiving undue benefits) with the less stringent articles such as 190 (fraud) or 364 (abuse of power).
Therefore, the judges had more arguments to substitute prison for probation. Thus, about 7% of the condemned were saved from the stigma of being a corrupt official.
In Ukraine, the cases regarding law enforcement officials, about 14% of the total, were most likely to end in a conviction. A very common type of bribe in this area is for closing a criminal case. In the second place in terms of corruption were zoning officials – 10%. Most officials received bribes for land allocation or the promotion of this practice. 8% of cases related to the medical field, 7% to the education sector. Another 7% of cases involved real estate, 6% was related to the tax sector. There were not many cases against judges, only 1% of them. This is probably not due to a low level of corruption in the judiciary sphere, but mostly because the investigations of the judges’ crimes rarely proceed with court hearings.
The study shows that Ukrainian courts have been punishing corrupt officials too mildly. The officials who received bribes on a large scale often managed to escape punishment. In addition, modern courts lack a general practice of punishing the corrupt officials and that enables judges apply different penalties for the same crime and leads to corruption in cases against corrupt officials. Ukraine needs a complete reboot of the judiciary system. This branch of government should work on the principles of justice, integrity and public control. That’s when Ukraine will be able to overcome corruption and establish the rule of law.