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Nation’s law enforcers have dismal track record

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Dec. 11, 2009, 2 a.m. | Ukraine — by Peter Byrne

Numerous high-profile cases involving sensational and public events remain unsolved by the nation’s law enforcers.

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Numerous high-profile cases involving sensational and public events remain unsolved by the nation’s law enforcers, including the powerful General Prosecutor’s Office, headed since 2005 by Oleksandr Medvedko. The track record shows a national criminal justice system that has never worked properly since independence 18 year ago, whether because of bribes, politicization, incompetence or a combination of all three factors. While the biggest cases are widely known, no one knows how many unsolved crimes and injustices lurk beneath the public’s radar, uncovered by the news media and uninvestigated by police and prosecutors at local levels.

Fresh crimes are happening that follow the same dismal pattern as the old unsolved cases: Loud and indiscrete public accusations followed by prosecutorial silence and inaction. Among them:

Nadra Bank. While depositors still can’t get their money back, the bank’s top managers and chief executive officer Igor Gilenko went into hiding this fall, allegedly after up to $1 billion was embezzled from the bank through false loans and other fraud. Much of this money came courtesy of the National Bank of Ukraine, which has never explained why it did not more rigorously oversee a $13 billion bank recapitalization and refinancing program involving many of the nation’s most troubled banks. An arrest warrant was issued on Oct. 9 against Gilenko and other top bank officials as investigations continue into Nadra and other troubled banks;

Pedophilia. The mother of two children on April 16 told Interior Ministry police that the minors had been sexually abused; six months later, in October, the Prosecutor General’s Office took over the case after parliamentarians and officials of a popular children’s camp in Crimea were implicated. Since then, the case has dropped out of sight;

Murder suspect Victor Lozinsky, a member of parliament with the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko, was stripped of his Verkhovna Rada seat on July 3. By then, however, he had gone missing and is now is a fugitive whose arrest was sanctioned on July 8 by Kyiv Pechersky District Court, acting on a request by the General Prosecutor’s Office. Lozinsky lost his lawmaker’s status after becoming a suspect in the June 16 murder of Valeriy Oliynyk, a 55-year-old resident of Kirovohrad Oblast who died of gunshot wounds;

Alleged corruption charges against ex-Lviv Judge Ihor Zvarych. On Dec. 3, 2008, prosecutors opened a criminal case on suspicion that Zvarych had taken a $100,000 bribe. The next day, the offices and apartments of Zvarych and another seven judges of the court were searched. Some $1 million and over Hr 300,000 were discovered at Zvarych’s home. He was arrested in Lviv on March 9, but the case is still dragging on;

The deaths of scores of pedestrians mowed down by fast-moving state and local officials. One of the latest incidents under investigation involves Oleksandr Omelchenko, a Verkhovna Rada deputy and former mayor of Kyiv, who on Nov. 25 struck and killed a pedestrian on the zebra-striped pedestrian crossing near the elite Koncha Zaspa district. Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko said the investigation could drag on until March at least.

Along with these cases are some of the most sensational ones in the nation’s history, old cases that seem increasingly likely never to be solved. Among them:

The hundreds of hours of secretly recorded conversations made in former President Leonid Kuchma’s office during 1999 and 2000. The so-called Melnychenko tapes, named for the former presidential bodyguard who reputedly made the recordings, describe dozens of high-level crimes that could keep teams of prosecutors busy for years – and many of the nation’s highest-level current and former officials in prison for a long time. Nearly a decade after their release, authorities are still debating the authenticity of the recordings rather than establishing whether the crimes discussed on the recordings actually occurred;

The alleged suicides by gunshot wounds of former Transportation Minister Heorhiy Kirpa on Dec. 27, 2004, and Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko on March 4, 2005, also remain mysteries;

The 2000 murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze, who was kidnapped, forced to dig his own grave, choked to death with his own belt and beheaded. Hopes briefly flickered in summer that the nation would finally learn who ordered the murder of the investigative journalist who co-founded the Ukrainska Pravda online news site. Ex-Interior Ministry general Oleksiy Pukach, who allegedly helped strangle Gongadze before going into hiding for nearly six years, was arrested in Zhytomyr Oblast in July. But, even though investigators said he was cooperating and naming names from the start, nothing has come of the arrest thus far – except a recent pre-trial extension of Pukach’s confinement until after the Jan. 17 presidential election;

The dioxin poisoning of presidential candidate Victor Yushchenko in 2004;

The 2004 election fraud. Despite what appears to be convincing evidence pointing to high-level involvement in the Kuchma administration and the Central Election Commission, no criminal charges have been filed against top officials in the rigged presidential election that triggered the 2004 Orange Revolution. In fact, one of the top election-fraud suspects, former CEC head Serhiy Kivalov, is a Regions Party deputy who heads parliament’s Judiciary Committee;

The murky and alleged corrupt role of energy middlemen, such as RosUkrEnergo, which Tymoshenko claims has links to her political opponents, namely presidential front-runner Victor Yanukovych and incumbent President Victor Yushchenko;

Dozens of cases from Ukraine have been filed with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, a sign that more Ukrainians have given up hope at home and are seeking justice abroad;

Ihor Honcharov, a retired police officer and alleged member of a gang of former police officers, died in police custody in August 2003 after telling investigative journalist Oleh Yeltsov that police tracked Gongadze before his abduction;

Ihor Bakai, who is suspected of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars as head of Ukraine’s state gas monopoly Naftogaz. Bakai took a job in Kuchma’s presidential administration before fleeing to Moscow before Ukraine’s Orange Revolution; and

Volodymyr Shcherban, former Sumy Oblast governor, who was charged with extortion and other crimes. In October 2005, Shcherban was detained in Miami, Florida. He returned to Ukraine in November 2006 and remains free.

Kyiv Post staff writer Peter Byrne can be reached at byrne@kyivpost.com.
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Anonymous Dec. 11, 2009, 3:14 a.m.    

Gilenko, a Russian citizen, chaired Nadra Bank from July 1997 until Feb. 10, when the NBU took over and placed the bank under a temporary administrator.

Born and educated as an engineer in Moscow, the Russian citizen spent the early 1990s jumping from various ventures. He got his first banking experience in Russia. But it was in Ukraine, where he served as president and chairman of Nadra, that his banking career took off and eventually crashed.

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