Artem Sytnyk: We will stand our ground, if the public supports us

18.08.2016 11:44

The Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau Artem Sytnyk asks not to consider the recent events between the officers of the NABU and the General Prosecutor’s Office as an interagency war. According to him, both bodies must "jointly fight corruption, which appears to be the main evil that prevents Ukraine from development." Besides the relations between the law enforcement bodies, Artem Sytnyk commented on a number of high-profile criminal cases. In particular, according to the NABU Director, a member of the Ukrainian parliament Oleksandr Onyshchenko will be put on the international wanted list this week.

RBC-Ukraine: How would you characterize your relationships with the current General Prosecutor’s Office?

Artem Sytnyk: I would like to refrain from speculations that there is a war with the General Prosecutor’s Office. I really want to believe and I think that there is no war between the NABU and the GPO, as well as there is no war between me and the General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko. Of course, there are some questions concerning certain departments but, overall, I think the GPO and the NABU, within their authorities, should jointly fight corruption, which appears to be the main evil that prevents Ukraine from development.

RBC-Ukraine: You made the same statement on August 15 at the press conference. A few hours later in the internet there appeared a video, where the NABU special forces were professionally packing the prosecutors...Is this a demonstration of "no war"?

Artem Sytnyk: In that respect you would better not use the word "pack". In that situation the officers of the General Prosecutor’s Office, without any reason, tried to deprive the NABU officers of freedom and free movement, even though the NABU officers were acting according to the law – on the basis of the investigator’s order. And the NABU special forces simply let our officers out of the building, where they were illegally blocked by the GPO officers. Therefore, there was no "packing"...

On the contrary, if you have a closer look at this video, you can notice visible provocations from the GPO officers. For example, Dmytro Sus (the Deputy Head of the Department for Investigation of Particularly Important economic cases - ed.) jumped and then grabbed one of our officer’s throat. This video is comprised of the fragments which, in the opinion of that Department, speak in their favor. But apart from horrifying background music ("Moonlight Sonata" by Ludwig van Beethoven - ed.), the video has more evidence against the Prosecutor’s Office - it clearly shows how one of its officers is pulling a gun to make a provocation. Good thing that the gun was stricken from his hands in time.

RBC-Ukraine: Whom the NABU detectives were conducting surveillance on?

Artem Sytnyk: There is a number of criminal proceedings upon people’s statements, and they contain information on corrupt practices by the members of this Department according to the investigation of economic criminal proceedings.

But do you know what shocked me the most? Violence towards the NABU officers. I couldn’t believe in that, until I saw what prosecutors had done to those two officers, whom the General Prosecutor actually ordered to free. And on making such an order the General Prosecutor flew to Israel. So, those GPO officers, who tortured the NABU officers, actually backstabbed the General Prosecutor.

RBC-Ukraine: You were conducting the surveillance. Are there any evidences that may become the subject of the criminal case against officers of the General Prosecutor’s Office?

Artem Sytnyk: Considering the fact, that the case, under which we conducted the undercover operational activities, still has the security label, I cannot disclose the content of information received. But I want to emphasize that within this proceeding we had received the court order on undercover operational activities and then conducted them.

I think that in the nearest future the security label will be removed and we will talk on our actions.

RBC-Ukraine: You said that the incident between the GPO and the NABU was initiated "to protect the private interests of some executives and officers of the Department for Investigation of Particularly Important economic cases of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine." But can you somehow assume that the ultimate goal was not just the upholding of private interests, but your removal from the post of the NABU Director? Do you consider this option?

Artem Sytnyk: I would not put it so flatly. I have a prompt information about upcoming defamatory campaign against the NABU in the fall. No doubt, we will stand against it. If the public continues to support us, we will stand our ground, if people won’t keep on supporting us – we would be done. Now we have entered into the phase where the NABU’s work and its results are of a great concern for those, who are against the changes in our country. These are influential people and they influence media, in particular. So, we will definitely see attempts to defame us.

Take at least this administrative proceeding that was launched against our employee (this refers to the protocol of Security Service of Ukraine against the NABU employee who was engaged as a teacher while working at the NABU and who is under suspicion of corruption - Ed.). This attempt is a bit ridiculous, but at the same time –  very demonstrative. When the NABU employee falls under suspicion for just delivering three lectures ... By the way, I have also delivered a lecture to detectives! I wonder, if now I delivered another one for 100 UAH, will the SBU launch and administrative proceeding against me? Probably, they will. Maybe, they will even start a proceeding... Nevertheless, I hope that the court will make the legitimate decision regarding our employee. But as you can see, any pretext and any resources will be used in the info-war.

RBC-Ukraine: Do you have any information that the abovementioned GPO Department is influenced by MP Oleksandr Hranovsky or any other representative of the deputies? If there is no war between the GPO and the NABU, but rather some problematic situation with a separate department, what is the cause of the conflict?

Artem Sytnyk: We respond to the cases we receive and, respectively, we plan our operational activities, (including undercover ones) according to the information received and proceedings registered. In this particular case we were acting within a series of such proceedings. I think that it would be rather wrong to call our fulfillment of duties - a “war”.

By the way, I was surprised by the attempt to make a search at the NABU, initiated by the abovementioned Department (it goes about the decision of Pechersk District Court of Kyiv, which allowed a search at the NABU. The reason stated was illegal wiretapping of the defendants in "The sugar prosecutor’s case", namely - the deputy prosecutor of Kyiv region Olexander Kolesnyk who is suspected of 300 million UAH sugar embezzlement - ed.). I was surprised by the court order, which allowed to completely stop the NABU’s work. I can see a bit of a provocation in this actions.

I do not think that the General Prosecutor’s concept is to do his best for the war between us. The war is not beneficial to anyone. I can say that now the word “competition” is often used in the respect of our bodies. And competition is a positive word, because it stimulates development, it makes products better if we talk in terms of economic environment. Competition between bodies is a motivating factor that makes work more efficient. I support such positive competition. You know, we had the right to even turn the GPO officers from the NABU door with that order. But instead in order to prevent speculations like: "They don’t let us in because they have things to hide," we provided all the documents which the General Prosecutor’s Office asked us for. And they were interested in one particular number wiretapping. I showed them the documents on the basis of which the court allowed it. We explained that technically we haven’t even had the possibility to wiretap anyone.

The guys nodded, took the documents and left.

RBC-Ukraine: But still the media talked a lot about special department in the GPO structure, let’s say so-called "business backup office," which is supervised by MPs Oleksandr Granovsky and Ihor Kononenko. Can you comment on that?

Artem Sytnyk: In order to comment on that, I need some evidence. I can’t speak up on the basis of emotions, since I am the Director of the law enforcement body, who operates with facts and evidences only. And the facts are the following: firstly, the Department for Investigation of Particularly Important economic cases investigates cases that are beyond their authority. The court order and the situation in general didn’t require the search. Secondly, there was no reason to deprive our people of freedom and there were no procedural documents for that. Thirdly, the root cause of all the tension lies in this Department. The fact that our employees are marked with signs of tortures is again goes back to this very Department.

RBC-Ukraine: May you consider such thing that you or your staff could really be mistaken with the phone number, and General Prosecutor’s Office employees just decided to correct you and to point out the fact that you were wiretapping the wrong person?

Artem Sytnyk: We started the investigation of the "Sugar prosecutor’s case" jointly with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). The NABU detectives asked to identify the phone number of one of the defendants. We asked the SBU because we don’t have a common phone numbers’ database. This order was signed by the SBU official; I do not remember by whom exactly. When the phone number was identified, on obtaining the answer from the SBU the out detective appealed to the court and received a court order on wiretapping. That's the whole story. If there was a mistake, I am sure that the SBU officer didn’t have any malicious intent. This situation is as simple as that ...

RBC-Ukraine: Well, is it really simple? Just imagine an average, innocent person who suddenly finds out that he or she is wiretapped. But there is a question how the GPO found it out?...

Artem Sytnyk: That's a matter of leakage and disclosure of classified information. There was no information indicating illegal wiretapping. If the General Prosecutor’s Office was interested in puzzling out this matter, they would have sent us a secret inquiry and we would have commented on that.

RBC-Ukraine: We are getting back again to the relationships with the GPO. The GPO officials constantly complain on the NABU. For example, they said that the majority of cases was prepared not by the NABU detectives but by the GPO investigators, or that your cases are constantly returned back by courts due to your people’s grammar mistakes... Does it have any ground?

Artem Sytnyk: I always wonder how the prosecutors notice the shortcomings of others and completely ignore their own. For example, when a prosecutor calls the detectives "morons", but at the same time can hardly explain where he lives, the complaints should be addressed, first of all, to himself. Or even once we took into custody one very odious figure and the prosecutors addressed the court to select a preventive measure, but you know - their text was returned due to grammar mistakes. So I think that’s not quite correct to comment on the actions of others without providing any evidence.

The prosecutors have to think over the fact that for 25 years the GPO had a full authority to fight corruption. And you see, there was some reason why our Western partners, and members of the Parliament supported the creation of the independent anti-corruption body. Perhaps, after all, the reason lied in the GPO’s inability to implement their full authority. That’s why some GPO officers have a painful reaction on the NABU. Of course, the Prosecutor’s Office will never accept the fact that the monopoly to bring prosecutors to justice had been taken from them. This situation is inconvenient for them and causes resentment. I do not deny the fact that we make mistakes but that's the normal workflow – nobody is perfect. If you have a closer look at the root of the problem, you will see that the origins of the NABU creation lie in the GPO’s poor performance.

RBC-Ukraine: Let's talk about other issues. When will MP Oleksandr Onyshchenko be put on the international wanted list?

Artem Sytnyk: Onyshchenko has already been put on the national wanted list. Right now we are finishing to translate the documents required by Interpol. I think that by the end of this week, all procedures will be completed and the Interpol will issue the Red Notice on him.

RBC-Ukraine: Once on TV Onyshchenko commented on the NABU actions, complaining that you had blocked his accounts in the Latvian bank "Trasta komercbanka". Can you confirm this information?

Artem Sytnyk: There was a relevant court decision, which was sent to Latvia.

RBC-Ukraine: The point is that this bank has been bankrupt for several years...

Artem Sytnyk: The court decision is on several banks, not just the one you have mentioned. The total amount of the funds blocked is about 7 million EURO. The total amount of the assets under distraint (including property) is about 700 million UAH.

RBC-Ukraine: Are there other MPs in this case?

Artem Sytnyk: Actually, there is a number of key defendants, who are currently abroad and thus haven’t been detained yet. They provided the functioning of the criminal scheme, aimed at encashing the margin between the bogus options and the actual gas sale price. Apart from that, there were people who supported this process: those who ran the bogus companies, encashed the funds received. In addition, we are conducting the investigative actions to find out the possible involvement of employees of "Ukrgazvydobuvannya."

RBC-Ukraine: That is a so-called, "the tip of the iceberg." But the shadow withdrawal of funds would be impossible if the Tax Service hadn’t turned a blind eye on it...

Artem Sytnyk: The set of investigative and expert actions is being conducted in that respect too. As far as I know the head of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine Roman Nasirov has already been interrogated as a witness. The point is that the Tax Service made a decision on the deferral of rent payments. Now, we are conducting investigative activities and economic studies on the subject.

RBC-Ukraine: Let's talk about the case of the judge Chaus. How would you comment on the fact that he knew that the NABU was spying on him?

Artem Sytnyk: Probably, the leakage of information took place. We cannot even exclude the possibility that we ourselves could have been the source of leakage. On the other hand, we must understand that all judges think that the NABU conducts undercover operational activities as of them. We analyzed the situation and it appeared that the judge Chaus could hardly understand the episode the NABU was investigating him for. He just understood that someone was investigating something.

RBC-Ukraine: Do the NABU detectives know where he is now?

Artem Sytnyk: Periodically we fix his location but he constantly appears and disappears from our sight. We try to control him, but if he gets to the border and decides to cross it, we can do nothing. We’ve got his foreign passport, but still it doesn’t change anything much.

RBC-Ukraine: Are you sure that the Parliament will agree to restrict his immunity?

Artem Sytnyk: Well, I’m not quite sure that by that time he will not have crossed the border. Also I have no confidence that the Parliament will agree on that. On the other hand, his case is full of conclusive evidence, so that there is nothing to think about. If he crosses the border, thereby he will acknowledge his guilt, and therefore, the Parliament will vote for the immunity restriction. If he cooperates with investigation, then maybe the Parliament will refuse to do this. Everything depends on the behavior of judge Chaus.

RBC-Ukraine: Speaking about Mykola Martynenko, about a month ago there was some information about the NABU detectives, who were making a search in his company’s office. Until now you were mentioning that Martynenko appears in the NABU investigations as a witness. Has his status got changed?

Artem Sytnyk: As of today - no. Everyone is expecting the answers in this case. We are working hard to get these answers as soon as possible. "The case of Martynenko" has beaten a record for the number of countries involved: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Switzerland, Latvia, Austria, Czech Republic. The cooperation with some of them goes in the normal pace, though we face some difficulties with some countries, lfor example - Austria. This greatly affects the process of investigation.

RBC-Ukraine: Is he, somehow, involved in the case of the Odessa Port Plant?

Artem Sytnyk: He’s not among the defendants in this case. Regarding the Odessa Port Plant, I can say that there is one case with two defendants and there are some other cases which are under investigation now. The final decisions will be made soon.

RBC-Ukraine: Ukrainian MP Serhiy Leshchenko said the he had testified to the NABU in the case of Ihor Kolomoisky. What is Kolomoisky suspected of?

Artem Sytnyk: It was the decision of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor. He summoned a very old case, under which Kolomoisky, allegedly, gave bribes to a number of officials in 2003-2004. I do not remember all the episodes, but now this case is under investigation.

RBC-Ukraine: Speaking of Serhiy Leshchenko. He’s got a very harsh conflict with the General Prosecutor, but he strongly defends the NABU and the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO). Is he providing any useful information to the detectives?

Artem Sytnyk: I’d better not comment on that to prevent any speculations. Of course, the NABU doesn’t invite Serhiy Leshchenko for no reason. He carries out his own investigations and he’s got copies of documents, which help the detectives to plan further investigative activities.

RBC-Ukraine: What’s the progress in the investigation of the Party of Regions’ "black accountancy"? Have any new facts appeared?

Artem Sytnyk: Basically, we found out a lot, but many people left the country after Serhiy Leshchenko had brought this case to the attention of the public. And it really harms the investigation, it’s delaying it.  Actually people had been warned and given a signal "they are coming for you." As a result, people were scared and started hiding. That’s the first thing. Secondly, the investigation revealed that some of the case materials relate to the cases, already investigated by Serhiy Horbatyuk (the Deputy Head of the Central Office of Criminal Investigation – the Head of special investigations office of the GPO - Ed.). For example, he’s got an episode about the usurpation of power by Mr. Yanukovych on the basis of the well-known Constitutional Court's decision on the abolishment of the constitutional reform of 2004. The “black accountancy” records demonstrate that under this decision a huge amount of money was allocated to the Constitutional Court. I think that this episode should better be investigated within the case of Horbatyuk.

Also there was a power usurpation with bribing MPs for voting on certain cases. Therefore, we have enabled the GPO to take a look at all the materials for their subsequent application in the criminal proceeding.

But the “black accountancy” contains a number of payments that we can now investigate by ourselves. Right now we’re working on that, by getting the handwriting samples. When the expertise is done, we will make decisions. Also we are conducting a separate investigation on the group that organized the payments of those costs.

RBC-Ukraine: Have you already figured out who was the "money bag" and sponsored all those payments?

Artem Sytnyk: Partially. You know, that we’ve got only a small part of the “black accountancy”.

RBC-Ukraine: Have you got any new copies?

Artem Sytnyk: We haven’t.

RBC-Ukraine: Is it Klyuyev, who did finance the Party of Regions? And is he living in Austria now?

Artem Sytnyk: No comments on this for now.

by Valery Kalnysh and Maksym Kamenev