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As derailing of anti-graft prosecutor appointment continues, panel members appeal to Prosecutor General

A meeting of the commission selecting the SAPO Head. Screenshot from broadcast
As derailing of anti-graft prosecutor appointment continues, panel members appeal to Prosecutor General

The saga to appoint Ukraine’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor continues as the Anti-Corruption Action Center (ANTAC) reports new attempts to derail the official approval of competition results. Meanwhile, members of the selection committee who the Anti-Corruption Action Center says are independent call upon Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova to unblock the impasse and finally certify the results.

To receive a new tranche, Ukraine promised the IMF that by the start of December 2021, the seat of the Head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) will no longer be vacant. However, thanks to numerous delays and what anti-corruption activists say is sabotage coming from the President’s Office, Ukraine is entering 2022 without a new anti-corruption prosecutor chief in sight.

On 24 December, for the second time, the committee responsible for selecting the new SAPO head failed to certify the results of the contest, despite the winner clearly being Oleksandr Klymenko, a detective of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau leading an investigation into deputy head of the President’s Office Oleg Tatarov. 

The committee chairwoman Kateryna Koval requested Klymenko resubmit documents for a repeated special vetting of his candidacy, a procedure ANTAC says has no legal basis and may lead to a procedural conundrum that further blocks Klymenko’s appointment.

Appointment of Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Prosecutor chief again blocked in what anti-graft activists say is President’s Office’s fault

Previously, on 21 December, the commission failed to certify the results because of foot-dragging. That same day, a decision of the Kyiv District Administrative Court, an institution known for carrying out decisions in favor of the ruling authorities, invalidated the entire selection process by a decision judicial experts have said is legal nonsense.

Now, ANTAC says it has evidence that the Prosecutor’s General Office has illegally relaunched the special vetting of the runner-up of the contest Andriy Sytnyk. Sytnyk, a prosecutor of the Prosecutor General’s Office, is thought to be the candidate chosen by the Prosecutor’s Office who is known for siding with lawyers from the company of Oleg Tatarov in a prominent case against a self-defense case of well-known activist Serhiy Sternenko.

ANTAC states that Ukraine’s National Agency for Corruption Prevention (NAZK) has explained that a repeated vetting procedure is unwarranted by any legal norms and that the selection committee already has these results for all the candidates.

The anti-corruption NGO stresses the repeated vetting procedure can create more artificial barriers for the appointment process.

As well, ANTAC head Vitaliy Shabunin told that Synyuk is planning to appeal the results of the competition in the Kyiv Administrative District Court, the same court known for serving the elites that invalidated the entire SAPO head selection process. Mykhailo Zhernakov earlier told Euromaidan Press there is a clear link between this court and the President’s Office.

The US Embassy has reacted to the developments, calling upon commission members to finish certifying the contest results.

Selection commission members appeal to Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova

Against this backdrop, the commission members believed to be independent have written an appeal to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova asking to unblock the process.  published by Kyiv Independent.

The appeal, authored by commission members Roman Kuibida, Viacheslav Navrotskyi, Thomas Firestone, Drago Kos, and Nona Tsotsoria, states that on 21 December, the commission determined the winners of the competition: Oleksandr Klymenko for the position of the head of SAPO, Andrii Syniuk for the position of deputy head of SAPO, and Serhii Savytskyi for the position of head of SAPO’s Fifth Unit.

The commission members further state that they did not approve the commission chairwoman Kateryna Koval’s letter to the Prosecutor General to conduct new background checks on the candidates, as all checks have already been made and there is no legal basis for repeat checks.

We believe that a clear statement from you that all the winning candidates have been checked and comply with all applicable legal requirements and that no additional background checks are required by Ukrainian law will be sufficient to convince all members of the commission to certify the results and approve their submission to you.

We believe that such a statement will finally allow the commission to complete its work successfully, but that absent such a statement the process may be further delayed,” the commission members write.

Many attempts to derail appointment of Ukraine’s anti-corruption prosecutor

The position of the head of SAPO, an institution created in 2015 as part of Ukraine’s new anti-corruption architecture, has been vacant since August 2020, when its head Nazar Kholodnytskyi resigned. An independent selection process to select a new SAPO head has been a crucial issue for Ukraine’s reform agenda, as well as its western partners.

Particularly, finishing this appointment before the start of December 2021 is one of the key requirements of the IMF’s agreement with Ukraine. Ukraine also promised in September 2021 to elect the anti-corruption prosecutor chief, as revealed in the joint statement after a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden.

However, the process was constantly delayed. The Anti-Corruption Prevention center claimed that on October 9, members of the commission “controlled by the President’s Office” had disrupted a key stage of the competition for SAP head. On the same day, President Zelenskyy stated he had not heard adequate explanations for this delay.  On 10 December, the commission’s meeting was delayed once again. This followed ANTAC’s announcement on 3 December that it has proof that the President’s Office plans to falsify the results of the contest for the Head of SAPO.

On 21 December, the selection process was invalidated by the Kyiv District Administrative Court in what Mykhailo Zhernakov says is a decision with no legal grounds. On the same day, the SAPO selection commission failed to approve the clear winner Oleksandr Klymenko.

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