With the beginning of the full-scale war, the work of government agencies has changed significantly. We have already described how the Russian invasion affected the work of the High Anti-Corruption Court. Now, we will share how other anti-corruption agencies, namely the SAPO and the NABU, have adapted to the martial law.
NABU and SAPO continue to work as usual, but the war has forced them to make certain adjustments. Receptions and phone lines are temporarily suspended. The headquarters of these anti-corruption bodies have temporarily moved from Kyiv to Lviv, where law enforcement officers have moved and case materials have been relocated.
NABU and SAPO have focused on maintaining procedural deadlines in cases. This is necessary so that after the victory, investigations can be continued and criminal proceedings can be brought to court.
On the positive side, NABU detectives and SAPO prosecutors have not closed any cases due to the war; on the contrary, the pre-trial investigation is being extended so that detectives can gather all the evidence. What is more, since the beginning of the full-scale war, the NABU and the SAPO have already sent three high-profile cases to court: on the USD 5 million super-bribe, the brother of KAC head Pavlo Vovk, and on Ukrzaliznytsia.
Now, the HACC can start considering the case of former minister of ecology Mykola Zlochevskyi on merits. He is charged with organizing an attempt to bribe anti-corruption agencies for closing the case against him.
Another case concerns Yurii Zontov. The NABU and the SAPO caught him with another lawyer receiving a bribe of USD 100,000. According to the investigation, the money was to be transferred for a positive decision in the case before the Kyiv District Administrative Court. Some media claim this money was meant for head of the court Pavlo Vovk. The case is progressing. On March 14, the NABU and the SAPO sent the indictment to the High Anti-Corruption Court for further consideration.
The last case concerns an official from Ukrzaliznytsia. According to the investigation, in 2017, he organizedprocurement of power devices for passenger train cars at inflated prices, distorting the competition. As a result, Ukrzaliznytsia illegally overpaid UAH 9.6 million. The indictment was sent to court on March 31.
While formally, the HACC can consider these cases on the merits, in reality, court hearings are constantly postponed. During the war, it is challenging to provide the presence of all parties to the case: some are abroad, some are in the army, some cannot be reached. It is also not possible to fully guarantee the safety of all participants in the process. Due to this, the consideration of cases on their merits is postponed. Another problem is logistics: some judges and prosecutors are not in Kyiv, some of the case files are in Lviv and others already in Kyiv. So the process is not easy.
At the same time, in the first month of the war, the High Anti-Corruption Court sent over UAH 100 million to the Ukrainian army via release on bail. In addition, the SAPO reported they lifted the arrest of 38 tank engines, which were also delivered to the army.
In addition to exercising their direct mandate, anti-corruption detectives and prosecutors are assisting the Prosecutor General’s Office with collection of evidence of war crimes committed by Russian troops. They record information from victims and eyewitnesses of crimes, and analysts and lawyers of the Bureau seek the assets of sanctioned officials, oligarchs and others abroad in a joint working group of Task Force UA to seize and transfer this property to Ukraine.
In addition, some members of the NABU and the SAPO have joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine. For example, 15 prosecutors, including acting head of SAPO Maksym Hryshchuk, are defending Ukraine against Russian invaders.
However, the competitions for the election of the NABU director and the head of the SAPO have been suspended. The NABU competition was problematic from the get-go due to issues with the approval of the commission members, and now it has been fully suspended. Artem Sytnyk’s term in office expires as soon as April 15. And while the law prohibits stopping the NABU’s work during martial law, this is about the agency in its entirety, not its head.
The current director’s term of office will expire soon. In this case, all functions of the Director of the Bureau, in accordance with the law on the NABU, will be performed by his first deputy, Gizo Uglava. This will remain the case until the election of the director in accordance with the procedure provided by law. Thus, we will have another acting head, like in the case of the SAPO.
The situation with the SAPO competition is even more complicated. The selection process took about 1.5 years, and in the recent months before the war, it was openly sabotaged. On December 21, 2021, the selection commission announced the final results, but it did not approve the total score and the winner. Detective Oleksandr Klymenko was set to head the SAPO, but during January-February 2022, the commission failed to meet to confirm his appointment. The further fate of the competition is currently unknown.
Thus, the work process in the NABU and the SAPO goes on, but it is currently hanging in the balance. These agencies are doing everything possible to ensure their proper functioning, but naturally, they cannot do everything during the war.