Evidence has emerged that Chief Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytsky may himself be corrupt — blocking or subverting investigations against powerful suspects like Odesa Mayor Gennady Trukhanov and firms owned by tycoons Oleh Bakhmatyuk and Kostyantyn Grigorishin.
Kholodnytsky’s office works in tandem with the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine to investigate graft. He has denied the accusations of corruption and other crimes, saying he would refute the allegations in detail later.
The NABU on April 4 released audio recordings implicating Kholodnytsky in wrongdoing. In the recordings, Kholodnytsky is heard pressuring anti-corruption prosecutors and courts, urging a witness to give false testimony, and tipping off suspects that their properties were about to be searched.
Kholodnytsky on April 4 confirmed that the tapes were authentic but said they were “out of context,” claiming that the meaning would be different if the NABU had published entire conversations instead of fragments.
The Kyiv Post has also obtained a copy of a document detailing Kholodnytsky’s alleged wrongdoing, drafted by the NABU, and sent to the Qualification and Disciplinary Commission of Prosecutors.
On March 30, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko said that he had asked the Qualification and Disciplinary Commission of Prosecutors to fire Kholodnytsky.
The commission has up to two months to consider his dismissal but it is not clear when it will do so. Kholodnytsky said on April 3 he will voluntarily step aside from his job during the investigation against him, but he remained in office through April 5.
NABU Chief Artem Sytnyk told the Dzerkalo Tyzhnya newspaper in a March 30 interview he had asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to approve a notice of suspicion for Kholodnytsky.
Last year the Prosecutor General’s Office and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine started investigating a criminal case against Kholodnytsky. Bugging devices were installed by the NABU in an aquarium in Kholodnytsky’s office more than a month ago.
“The continuation of this situation won’t save anything, and even the creation of an anti-corruption court will not help if this continues,” Sytnyk told the Kyiv Post.
“From a moral standpoint, we had no right (not to make the information on Kholodnytsky public).” He argued that many rank-and file anti-corruption prosecutors were “good guys” who were ready to work well but they had been constantly pressured by Kholodnytsky.
Even before the NABU recordings, Kholodnytsky had been accused of corruption and was apparently being kept on a short leash by the Presidential Administration due to those accusations, which he denied.
When Kholodnytsky was the first deputy chief prosecutor of Crimea in 2014 to 2015, prosecutors of the Crimea prosecutor’s office were arrested and investigated over allegedly extorting a bribe for releasing a suspect. A source who was not authorized to speak to the press said that Kholodnytsky was implicated in the case.
Conversations in Chief Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytsky’s office recorded by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.
On Feb. 7, Kholodnytsky told his deputy Volodymyr Kryvenko not to carry out investigative actions and not to prosecute Odesa Mayor Hennady Trukhanov in a Hr 100 million embezzlement case.
“He’s holding Odesa by the balls and he’s making sure it stays in Ukraine,” Kholodnytsky said. “Who the fuck knows what will happen if someone else replaces him?”
When NABU detectives came to Odesa for searches, Trukhanov was abroad and was apparently trying to reach a shady deal with courts, Sytnyk said.
Sytnyk said that Kholodnytsky had leaked information to suspects in the Odesa case.
Kholodnytsky has also pressured his first deputy Maksym Hryshchuk to change charges against a suspect in the graft case that involves the Lviv Armor and Tank Plant, and Hryshchuk refused, Sytnyk told the Dzerkalo Tyzhnya newspaper.
Moreover, Kholodnytsky has refused to sign some notices of suspicion for some cases for one and a half or two years, Sytnyk said.
Such cases include those into power company Cherkassyoblenergo, which is co-owned by oligarch Kostyantyn Grigorisgin, and railway monopoly Ukrzaliznytsa, he added.
Kholodnytsky also ordered anti-corruption prosecutor Maksym Kravchenko to transfer several embezzlement cases against agribusiness tycoon Oleh Bakhmatyuk to another law enforcement body. The cases also involve alleged abuse of power by National Bank of Ukraine and State Fiscal Service officials.
Kholodnytsky told Kravchenko that anti-corruption prosecutors should stop the investigations against Bakhmatyuk.
On March 7, Kholodnytsky transferred the Bakhmatyuk cases to the National Police despite his subordinates’ wishes. Bakhmatyuk, the owner of UkrLandFarming, has been accused of robbing bank depositors but has escaped being charged or arrested.
The National Bank of Ukraine accuses him of owing the state Hr 37.9 billion ($1.5 billion).
In one of the recordings, Kholodnytsky talks to a prosecutor about Natalya Korchak, an incumbent top official of the National Agency for Preventing Corruption and the agency’s ex-chief.
Korchak is under investigation for failing to declare a Skoda Octavia A7 car.
Kholodnytsky refused to authorize a search warrant for Korchak in the conversation with anti-corruption prosecutor Andriy Dovhan, and the search warrant request was returned to the NABU.
“Fuck them! Don’t they have any other cases, and they’re playing with Korchak?” he told the prosecutor.
On Feb. 16, Kholodnytsky also told Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, head of Transparency International Ukraine, that he would not prosecute Korchak.
Yurchyshyn told the Kyiv Post he had had numerous meetings with Kholodnytsky over the past six months and they had mostly tried to improve Kholodnytsky’s relations with Sytnyk because there was a conflict between them.
“We never discussed any essential details of the investigation,” Yurchyshyn told the Kyiv Post. “We did talk about Korchak’s case (specifically the parking lot for her undeclared car) and Kholodnytsky told me this case involves a conflict of interest between Sytnyk and Korchak. He said it’s a personal case and it’s not that relevant compared to other cases, but that was it.”
On Feb. 9, Kholodnytsky also told People’s Front lawmaker Georgii Logvynskyi that he had his criminal cases under control and would warn him about investigative actions that would be taken against him.
Logvynskyi is under investigation for allegedly embezzling Hr 40 million at a firm called Belvedere Ukraina and Hr 18 million at Bank Stolytsya. Meanwhile, Deputy Justice Minister Natalia Bernatska, formerly known as Sevostianova, and Borys Babin, the Ukrainian government’s former representative at the European Court of Human Rights, are investigated over allegedly abusing their power by promoting Logvynskyi’s interests in the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling in the case called “Zoloty Mandarin Oil vs Ukraine.”
Serhiy Kozachyna, an anti-corruption prosecutor in charge of the Logvynskyi cases, told Kholodnytsky that he wanted to sign a notice of suspicion for Logvynskyi.
But Kholodnytsky told Kozachyna there is a political motive and that he did not want to quarrel with Logvynskyi’s allies — Poroshenko Bloc lawmakers Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov, Logvynskyi’s wife Hanna Yudkivska, a judge of the European Court of Human Rights, and other judges of the European Court of Human Rights.
Kholodnytsky told Kozachyna that the Logvynskyi cases should be delayed or closed.
Logvynskyi said on April 4 that he had talked to Kholodnytsky for about 15–20 minutes but the recordings only show 6–10 second fragments.
One case discussed by Kholodnytsky in the recordings is against Oleksandr Bohachyov, an aide to Radical Party lawmaker Oleh Lyashko.
According to the investigators, Bohachyov in collusion with Ilya Dikov, mayor of the city of Vishneve in Kyiv Oblast, offered an apartment in the city’s Akvareli-2 housing complex as a bribe to Health Minister Ulana Suprun in exchange for equipment in the Vishneve city hospital.
The case was opened at Suprun’s request.
On March 1, Kholodnytsky warned Serhiy Kaftya, a suspect in the Suprun case and a deputy CEO of Akvareli Development Holding, about searches and urged him to give false testimony by hiding the alleged fact that Dikov had demanded that he allocate an apartment for Suprun.
Kholodnytsky also told Roman Symkiv, an anti-corruption prosecutor, that Kaftya is a friend of his. Kholodnytsky ordered his deputy Volodymyr Kryvenko to intimidate Dikov, according to the document drafted by the NABU.
“Search Bohachyov and Dikov,” Kholodnytsky said in the recordings. “I told you: search him to make him shit himself.”
Later Kholodnytsky ordered Symkiv to punish NABU detectives in the Suprun case by refusing to authorize their motions.
“You’re saying (the NABU detective) didn’t know anything, and they went there without (Kholodnytsky’s) seal,” Kholodnytsky said in the recordings.
“They’re fucking around with you and got the signature of a stupid prosecutor. And that’s it.”
Kholodnytsky also ordered his deputy Kryvenko to call Lyudmila Sheremetyeva, head of the Solomyansky Court, and her deputy Taras Oksyuta not to consider the search motions in the Suprun case.
Subsequently Soloymansky Court Judge Anna Serhiyenko told NABU detective Artem Krykun-Trush that she cannot authorize the search motions because Kryvenko had told her not to issue a search warrant due to an alleged mistake.
“Fuck him… Do you believe the detectives or what?” Kholodnytsky said.
“Krykun-Trush and that pig Vasylchuk (another NABU detective) are fucking around with you, and you’re letting them make fools out of you.”
Anti-corruption prosecutor Ihor Harvanko arrived at the Soloymansky Court and told Krykun-Trush that Kholodnytsky had not authorized the searches, telling Serhiyenko not to authorize the motion due to an alleged mistake.
He did not explain what the mistake was.
However, the court partially authorized the search warrants.
Video footage of Health Minister Ulana Suprun being offered a bribe.
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