The Ukrainian state continues to attack its anti-corruption activists. The Investigative Department of the Kyiv Fiscal Service initiated criminal proceedings against the managers of the Anti-Corrution Action Center NGO (AntAC), the center announced on 2 August 2017. However, activists don’t have a clue what the official reason for it is.
Applying for the details of the case, a lawyer representing the AntAC figured out that the investigation was started 2 months ago. The appeal was filed by some “third party.”
The activists consider the actions of the tax police as pressure on the organization. They suspect that the “third party” is a former assistant of the gray cardinal of Ukrainian politics Mykola Martynenko, MP Pavlo Pynzenyk.
On 23 May 2017 during a briefing in the Verkhovna Rada [Parliament], Ukrainian MPs watched a documentary about AntAC members allegedly embezzling funds. Pynzenyk initiated the screening. According to him, the materials which he obtained contained facts that “despite the high wages of the members of this association [Anti-Corruption Action Center], additional funds were transferred to individual entrepreneurs.” Back then, the activists refuted the allegation and said that it was a campaign directed at shutting down the NGO. They consider the recent proceedings continue the campaign of attacks.
“He threatened to deprive us of a non-profit status. His accusations are so absurd and groundless that even the Fiscal Service officials could not qualify them according to the Criminal code,” said Vitaliy Shabunin, Head of the Board at the AntAC.
Anastasiya Krasnosilska, an advocacy officer at the Anti-Corruption Action Centre, told Euromaidan Press that the fact that the Fiscal Service could not come up with an accusation over two months proves the proceedings are groundless. Considering the previous experience, she concludes that opening criminal proceeding can help provide the government officials access to documents of the NGO and to the conversations of its managers.
“It was the same when Viktor Shokin [ex Prosecutor General in 2016] had opened criminal proceeding against us with absurd accusations. That we somehow received money for the reform of the Prosecutor General Office which should have been received by Prosecutor’s General office,” recalls Krasnosilska.
She adds that back then the case was used as a reason to receive access to documents, letters, and, possibly, conversations of the AntAC.
Before the NGO was complaining at becoming a target for other attacks from the state. For example, one of them was an SBU-organized fake protest near the house of Shabunin.
The activists say that in the situation with the investigation, they really can’t defend themselves. When there are no accusations, there isn’t an opportunity for defense.