NABU, SAPO expose criminal organization in Odesa

08.10.2021 00:00

On Oct. 6, 2021, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), the National Police Internal Security Department, and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAPO) notified 16 persons of suspicion of embezzling the assets of the Odesa territorial community and legalizing illegally obtained income.

10 of them are members of a criminal organization (CO), namely*:
the crime boss;
the Odesa mayor;
the Head of the Standing Commission on Communal Property of the Odesa City Council (OCC);
the OCC Land Commission Head;
the OCC Legal Department Head;
the OCC Communal Property Department Head;
the OCC Communal Property Department Deputy Head;
three persons who carried out financial control, legal support, and coordination of the CO members.
* positions at the time of committing the crime
Six other persons who acted as accomplices in the crime were notified of suspicion as well. They are the Odesa Deputy Mayor, the former head of one of the municipal enterprises, the Odesa Region ex-prosecutor, the owners and executives of a construction company.
The actions of the suspects fall under Part 1 Art. 255, Part 4 Art. 28, Part 2 Art. 364, Part 5 Art. 191, Part 3 Art. 209, Part 4 Art. 368, Part 3 Art. 369 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
Some of the suspects, including the crime boss, had fled Ukraine and were notified of suspicion in accordance with Art. 135, Art. 278 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine.
NABU and SAPO have already prosecuted some of the suspects for other corruption offenses, for example, the purchase of the Krayan plant building in Odesa at an inflated price.
As established, the members of the CO jointly with other persons developed a mechanism to embezzle public funds and land. During 2016-2019, the Odesa territorial community lost at least six land plots with a total area of 15.9 hectares and UAH 131 million. The officials illegally overpaid these funds from the budget for the purchase of non-residential real estate and plots that were allegedly planned to be used to expand the nearby cemetery.
As for the land plots, NABU and SAPO have established that during 2016-2019, they were allocated for construction purposes to pre-determined companies without any tender procedures. As a result, the Odesa territorial community lost potential profit, while the money - UAH 100-200 million for each land plot - was paid to the CO. The CO in turn used controlled persons in the Odesa City Council to ensure necessary land lease decisions.
According to preliminary expert estimates, the total damage under the above episodes made UAH 689 million.
The CO strictly followed security measures and used counterintelligence techniques. The recruitment of new CO members involved the use of a lie detector. 
NABU and SAPO have also established that the representatives of local law enforcement, regulatory and judicial authorities were involved in the criminal activity.
In exchange for making decisions in CO’s favor they received various illegal benefits: money, apartments in new buildings constructed on the stolen land, etc.
NABU detectives have also found evidence of legalizing the embezzled funds by the CO.
It's worth mentioning that in recent months, NABU and SAPO have exposed a number of local government officials abusing their offices. In August, the Mykolayiv Deputy Mayor was nabbed receiving a UAH 26,8 million bribe, while the Kharkiv Regional Council Head who demanded over UAH 1 million was caught red-handed as well.

According to Article 62 of the Constitution of Ukraine, a person is considered non-guilty in the commission of a crime and cannot be subject to criminal punishment until he or she is found guilty by court.