US sanctions Ukrainian ex president Yanukovych’s official, Contitutional Court judge for corruption

Oleksandr Tupytskyi, former chairman of Ukraine's Constitutional Court (left) and Andriy Portnov, former official of Yanukovych's time, were sanctioned by the USA today 

International, Ukraine

On International Anti-Corruption Day, 9 December, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has targeted 15 individuals and entities across several countries in Central America, Africa, and Europe. Among those newly sanctioned is one Ukrainian national Andriy Portnov, the deputy head of the Ukrainian President’s Administration from 2010 up until the Euromaidan protests ousted then-president Viktor Yanukovych in late February 2014, and Oleksandr Tupytskyi, former chairman of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court..

In the preamble to the holiday’s addition to the sanction list, OFAC says,

“Today’s actions are taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of corruption and serious human rights abuse.”

Portnov: Yanukovych’s crony

A close ally of Viktor Yanukovych, Andriy Portnov was reportedly an initiator of adopting the so-called “dictatorial laws” of 16 January 2014 aimed at suppressing the Euromaidan protests. Later Portnov denied the crimes committed by police special force Berkut against Euromaidan participants in the winter of 2013-2014.

With the escape of President Yanukovych’s escape to Russia in February 2014, Portnov also fled Ukraine to live for some time in Russia then move to Austria and eventually return to Ukraine on the eve of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s inauguration day in 2019.

In 2014, Portnov was added to the EU sanction list, but in 2015, the EU court in Luxembourg lifted the sanctions. In Ukraine, a criminal case against Portnov was closed in 2016. Then in 2018, the Security Service of Ukraine opened another case under the article Treason but closed it in August 2019.

After his return to Ukraine, Portnov attempted to take revenge at post-Maidan President Petro Poroshenko, filing dozens of lawsuits against the former president and his allies, yet none of Portnov’s allegations worked out.

Why the US sanctioned Portnov and Tupytskyi

The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control says that under former President Yanukovych, Portnov “cultivated extensive connections to Ukraine’s judicial and law enforcement apparatus through bribery.”

“Widely known as a court fixer, Portnov was credibly accused of using his influence to buy access and decisions in Ukraine’s courts and undermining reform efforts,” the OFAC’s press release reads.

According to the agency, in 2019 Andriy Portnov “took steps to control the Ukrainian judiciary, influence associated legislation, sought to place loyal officials in senior judiciary positions, and purchase court decisions.”

“In mid-2019, Portnov colluded with a high ranking Ukrainian government official to shape the country’s higher legal institutions to their advantage and influence Ukraine’s Constitutional Court. Additionally, Portnov has been involved in an attempt to influence the Ukrainian Prosecutor General,” according to OFAC.

Thus, the agency named Portnov “designated pursuant to E.O. 13818” for being a foreign person who is a former government official, complicit in corruption.

“Additionally, OFAC designated the Andriy Portnov Fund pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being owned or controlled by Portnov,” OFAC added.

It also announced the establishment of a Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption, who will integrate and elevate the fight against corruption across all aspects of US diplomacy and foreign assistance.

Regarding Tupitskyi, a press release issued by the US Department of State stated that Tupytskyi was included in the sanctions list “for significant corrupt acts to include the acceptance of a monetary bribe while serving in the Ukrainian judiciary.”

In addition, restrictive measures have also been imposed against his wife, Olga Tupytska, the Department of State said.

In March 2021, President Zelensky fired Tupytskyi from the post of chairman of the Constitutional Court on charges of corruption, which he denied.

However, the constitution does not give the president such a right.

In July 2021, the Supreme Court upheld Oleksandr Tupytskyi’s lawsuit against President Zelenskyy and found illegal the decree dismissing Mr. Tupytsky from the position of judge and chairman of the Constitutional Court.

Therefore, Tupitskyi’s current status as chairman of the Constitutional Court is in the air.

Vitaliy Shabunin, head of the anti-corruption watchdog Anti-Corruption Action Center, said that his NGO started working on enacting western visa bans on Tupytskyi after the Constitutional Court revoked criminal liability for officials’ false income declarations. Their file on Tupytskyi includes having real estate in occupied Crimea, undeclared property, and a history of politically motivated decisions.

The Anti-Corruption Action Center also notes that Olga Tupytska is a shareholder of a US company. 67% of capital of the US company Vega Financial in the USA belongs to her.

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