In the semicircular hipster-style glasses, tan skinned, no papers and no advisors, the expert in the giant fish catching, the chair of Transparency International, thrashed the Ukrainian anti-corruption agencies. Jose Carlos Ugaz Sanchez was appointed the Prosecutor General a year and a half ago and jailed a hundred of high-ranking corrupt officials including the president of Peru Alberto Fujimori. By the way, the president Fujimori was a person appointed Jose Ugaz the Prosecutor General.
The year has passed since the first and the only meeting between the chair of Transparency International, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and the Prosecutor General, Yurii Lutsenko. Taking into account the period mentioned above, it is difficult to evaluate the causes of anti-corruption stagnation of the new government.
The Prosecutor General of Ukraine personally responded to accusations of delaying the case against Viktor Yanukovych and his counterparts.
Flooded with thoughts about the Prosecutor General Office, disruption of failed e-declaration and anti-corruption policies in Ukrainian, the chair of Transparency International Jose Ugaz shared with journalists of Ukrayinska Pravda (UP) some of his ideas at the hall of “Presidential Hotel” at about 9:30 PM.
THE WORST CONSEQUENCE FOR THE COUNTRY AND THE GOVERNMENT IS THE LOSS OF CONFIDENCE
– You stated publicly that it was a great surprise for you when you know about the fact that there is any trial or legal investigation against the former president Yanukovych. What price can Ukraine, as a state, pay for the inadequate performance in the heated anti-corruption investigation?
- I believe it an issue of confidence.
There is another bizarre case, which demonstrates mere nonfeasance of the Ukrainian public figures, but also reveals their stance on proactive prevention of returning these $23 mln from the UK back to Ukraine.
– Obviously, this also signals the lack of political will to fight against corruption. The current establishment came into power in the wake of the Revolution of Dignity. This government has sufficient grounds to encourage advances in professional investigation of high-level corruption. However, we, as journalists, remark the exact opposite.
– It is hard to figure out, why there are still no results. NABU is doing its utmost for its part.
But it is odd indeed, when the institution whose task is pushing the anti-corruption process forward, suddenly stumbles upon a bill which limits NABU’s capacities in cases that are under investigation of other agencies.
It’s a trap! If you can manipulate other institutions and are able to open and close a fake proceeding – this way you are literally putting handcuffs on NABU, and it leaves no chance for organising a serious investigation.
This bill should have never been supported by the Parliament.
Meanwhile, when the anti-corruption NGOs like Transparency International Ukraine or the Anti Corruption Action Centre are forced to report their income in e-declarations – this definitely sounds like intimidation.
Why are the Parliament and various political actors in Ukraine trying to harass and attack the anti-corruption NGOs?
Something fishy is going on over there.
Some hidden force is trying to restrict NABU’s activities, attack anti-corruption NGOs – and simultaneously ensure impunity for kleptocrats of the highest level.
On the one hand, there is a clear message articulated: ”Yes, we shall fight against corruption”. However, in practice we witness actions directed against those who are trying to fight against corruption. It’s a very frustrating situation! Impunity is the direct result of it.
THERE IS NO SENSE OF HAVING E-DECLARATION SYSTEM IF NACP (NATIONAL AGENCY ON CORRUPTION PREVENTION) ARE FAILING TO PERFORM THEIR IMMEDIATE OBLIGATIONS.
– 3 months ago you sent an open letter to the President of Ukraine. Actually, it was a public request to encourage cooperation between Transparency International and law enforcement bodies of Ukraine on search and recovery of assets stolen by the government officials of the Yanukovych regime. What response did you receive? And did you have a chance to discuss this subject with Petro Poroshenko?
– I have not received a response to our request, but my intention was different. Namely, to voice the message to the government that we have already heard strong statements about fighting against corruption – in fact, not only have we not seen the results, but also we have noticed negative processes going on.
From the very beginning, we have been offering our support to agencies whose goal is to fight corruption. Today we met with the heads of these institutions. We have been insisting that we would like to cooperate, but we seem to lack some information.
It is not easy to help if there is still no answer to the question “What is going on here?”
We believe there should be a public registry, which will publish information for the citizens and for organizations like ours.
– Can the poor results in the fight against corruption be explained by the backroom conflict between the Prosecutor’s Office and NABU?
– There are some split-ups, no question about that; in the beginning, when there are actually two institutions, which conduct investigations, it is a natural thing, to a certain extent.
Instead, it is imperative for these two bodies to sign a cooperation agreement and to work out their discrepancies.
When you have several institutions being at each other’s throats instead of tackling corruption side by side – this might be one of the reasons why the result is so poor.
Both on my first visit and on the current one, we are sharing cases and experiences, which could be of service to Ukraine.
Our next steps, what should they be? I think we must stop and check. I am talking about the top ranking officials now. Check the practice of anti-corruption investigations and anti-corruption actions to make the final diagnosis – why there are still no results? And finally correct it.
Outside there are a couple of interested parties – governments of some other countries and NGOs like ours, who are willing to cooperate. Moreover, we are indeed trying to cooperate. But we are extremely discouraged by the lack of results.
– In an open letter to Petro Poroshenko you also mentioned the NACP’s ineffectiveness management of e-declarations. For material “Deputies’ updates. Any changes in MPs declarations“ we compared the deputies’ e-declarations over the past two years.
It turned out that people’s representatives keep buying pricy property, even if their official income does not allow for luxury shopping. How to stimulate the effectiveness of e-declaring?
– E-declaring will keep proving ineffective unless there will be people who commit to analysing and monitoring of e-declaring updates on a regular basis.
– But there is a special agency created for that exact purpose, it is called NACP, and what you have just described is partially their duties.
– Yes, but they fail to perform those duties! That’s the thing. If they are not able to handle their job on processing and analysing data, e-declaring is of no use. This tool is designed for tracking the movement of assets, finding evidence of enrichment from dubious sources and analysing whether there is sufficient evidence to launch an investigation against a corrupt official. However, we do not observe signs of anything like this. This agency (NACP – UP) is not fulfilling its direct duties, does not monitor information or analyse any of it. In this case, it makes no sense to have e-declaring in the country.
JOURNALISTS ARE NOT OBLIGED TO SHARE THEIR INFORMATION SOURCES TO ANYONE. THIS IS PRESPOSTEROUS!
– Talking about the work of anti-corruption agencies – both NABU’s and Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office’s – it is crucial to mention the so-called ‘information leaks’ which appear in media during high-profile cases. How do you assess such close ‘cooperation’ with media?
– Cooperation with media is not an issue when the information remains under control of the institutions. Investigative reporters can send the collected data to the official
The issue emerges in case when institutions are using the media as a tool for misleading the public or spilling the beans to harm the investigation.
In this case, these institutions are operating improperly. Such institutions should be sanctioned for compromising the success of the investigation.
– In the Ukrainian mediacommunity there is a going on public debate between mediacritics and investigative reporters about the investigation of murder of our colleague Pavlo Sheremet. Mediacritics insist on investigative reporters sharing their findings with the General Prosecutor’s Office before the publishing them in media. What are your thoughts on this?
– This is ridiculous. Journalists have international rights, which protect their sources of information. Journalists are not obliged to share their information sources with anyone.
This is insane to force journalists to share information with the investigation, and only then publish this information in media. This sort of thing does not happen in any other country of the world. This is preposterous!
– Do you also consider preposterous the fact that the Prosecutor General of Ukraine has no education in legal field?
– Apparently, Ukraine is the only country in the whole world, who’s Prosecutor General has no practice whatsoever in the legal field. But this does not necessarily constitute a problem, I suppose.
He could put together an excellent team of advisers or lawyers who would have supported his activities. He could become a great manager, a great leader or a great visionary who would determine what should be done institutionally. This is not necessarily a problem.
We got a problem when one does not have practice in the legal field and, in addition, one obviously does not have a team that could provide anti-corruption investigations with enough energy, leadership and proactive stance.
– By the findings of the Radio Svoboda investigative reporters, the Office of Prosecutor General is occasionally visited by some MPs in the middle of the night. Yuriy Lutsenko has long run a faction of the current President, Petro Poroshenko’s Block. In what way might the political concerns of the head of this party influence the work of the Prosecutor General?
– Political influence has always been a problem. Anticorruption and criminal investigations should remain independent. I heard that some MPs are trying to put pressure on official investigators to shut the investigation down and release the people who are involved in it. But I have no specific information from NABU concerning these cases.
– How would you compare the current situation in Ukraine to the one that used to be in Peru when you were running the Prosecutor General’s Office?
– The biggest difference lies in the fact that we received a result in a very short period. We began our investigation in the first week of November and by the second week of December we already had our first custody of a top public official who at that time had a status of political immunity.
After this arrest, we launched 250 criminal cases against 500 people. In the course of half a year, we put 150 of in custody. At that time, we have already returned $75 mln from abroad. We had very specific results in a short period. This is why it came to me as a big surprise that after 3 years of work, Ukraine still has no tangible results.