It was meant to be a birthday present for Viktor Yanukovych-era ecology minister Mykola Zlochevsky: an end to the state investigation of one of his allegedly illegal enrichment schemes.

Zlochevsky’s henchmen’s brilliant plan was to slip $6 million in cash to the country’s top anti-corruption officials, Nazar Kholodnitskiy, head of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO), and Artem Sytnyk, head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU). It was the biggest reported bribe attempt in Ukrainian history, meant to bury this investigation once and for all.

The officials played along and faked the case’s termination, at which point they were handed the $6 million.

Yet in a stunning setback for the conspirators, Kholodnitskiy and Sytnyk ordered their arrest. Three suspects were taken into custody and  Kholodnitskiy and Sytnyk displayed the plastic bags full of dollars at a June 13 press conference.


“The plan was to get the best possible outcome – to close the criminal proceedings and ensure the return of Mr. Zlochevsky to Ukraine,” Sytnyk said.

Zlochevsky is suspected of numerous wrongdoings mainly related to accumulating wealth via numerous energy companies that he owned while serving as energy minister.

The official fled the country in 2014 after the EuroMaidan Revolution ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych. The investigations started shortly after.

Zlochevsky’s best-known company is Burisma Holding, which appeared at the heart of U.S. President Donald Trump’s impeachment probe last year. Trump had asked his Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky, to do him a favor and investigate Burisma, which once employed Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s challenger in the upcoming presidential election.

However, SAPO reportedly said that they would not look into the Bidens while investigating Burisma. Hunter Biden was the company’s board member from 2014 to 2019 which was after Zlochevsky lost his government role and his influence and escaped from Ukraine.


The case that Zlochevsky’s aides so badly wanted closed concerns the former minister’s alleged participation in the embezzlement of a stabilization loan that Ukraine’s central bank issued for Real Bank OJSC, which belongs to Serhiy Kurchenko, a fugitive tycoon and a close ally of Yanukovych.

The trio arrested for the attempted $6 million bribe includes the first deputy of the Kyiv State Fiscal Service, Sytnyk said at his press conference. Lawmaker Leo Geros wrote on Facebook that the deputy’s name is Mykola Iliashenko, a career clerk, who owns many luxury cars and expensive real estate along the Black Sea coast and elsewhere.

The other two suspects are Zlochevsky’s aides, according to Sytnyk.

“One is related to, and this is being verified right now, Burisma, and is a trustee of Zlochevsky,” said Sytnyk. “Another person is also an employee of the State Fiscal Service and an ally of Zlochevsky.”

The NABU is currently looking into whether employees of the Prosecutor General’s Office were involved.

The alleged bribe-givers were in a rush to please their boss in time for his birthday, Sytnyk said.

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