Instead, Trepak’s work cost him his job after powerful corrupt vested interests fought back with a vengeance, prompting him to resign.
He is now a professor at the Security Service of Ukraine’s (SBU) academy who is facing a criminal investigation on suspicion of divulging state secrets.
Last year, as acting head of the SBU’s anti-corruption department, he took part in the arrest of two top prosecutors in a highly publicized bribery case. Earlier this year, after he left the post, he exposed a $2 billion bribery network run by ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s allies.
As usual, President Petro Poroshenko’s spokesman Sviatoslav Tsegolko did not respond to a request for comment, while Olena Hitlianska, an SBU spokeswoman, said that Trepak resigned on his own accord and was not forced out.
Trepak, 46, of Lviv, is just one of a growing number of victims of how the nation’s anti-corruption drive is being obstructed by Ukraine’s top leaders.
“The decisionmakers understand clearly that, if existing anti-corruption tools are used to the fullest, the top leadership will fall apart,” Trepak said in an interview with the Kyiv Post.
Such anti-corruption measures as electronic property declarations and new investigative bureaus are “being carried out by the authorities only under heavy pressure from civil society and the international community,” Trepak said. “It’s very simple – the authorities’ political will is being blocked by their fear of being held to account.”
Trepak started working as first deputy chief of the security service and head of its anti-corruption department in July 2015. Prior to that, he had been sent by the SBU to the front to defend Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.
“When I became head of the anti-corruption department, I gave a clear signal: the Security Service of Ukraine will end all shadowy, corrupt and other dubious schemes,” he said. “But then I first heard that very influential people were unhappy with me. Subsequently, this played a role in my fate.”
In July 2015, Trepak and deputy prosecutors general Vitaly Kasko and Davit Sakvarelidze arrested top prosecutors Oleksandr Korniyets and Volodymyr Shapakin on suspicion of bribery. They are known as the “diamond prosecutors” because of gems found in Korniyets’ house.
The case is currently being heard in court.
“The case of the diamond prosecutors is a landmark one, because it revealed a hydra of corruption at the highest level of the law enforcement system, with links to the political leadership,” Trepak said. “Hence such violent resistance.”
He said Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, a Poroshenko loyalist, had pressured him to stop helping the investigation.
“I would describe his role as that of main defense lawyer… At one of our meetings Shokin, who was unhappy with my position on the case, told me openly: ‘I will put you in jail!’” Trepak said. “His resistance to the investigation of this case was violent. The leadership of the Prosecutor General’s Office was tearing into investigators and prosecutors over this case.”
Forms of pressure
Almost everyone responsible for the case against Korniyets and Shapakin has faced pressure.
Kasko was forced out in February, while Sakvarelidze was fired in March. Their subordinates were either fired or suspended by Shokin and former acting Prosecutor General Yury Sevruk.
Incumbent Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has reinstated some of them, but they will be suspended again as part of a reorganization of the General Inspection Service, Inna Gryshchenko, a spokeswoman for Sakvarelidze, told the Kyiv Post. The service’s work was paralyzed after Sakvarelidze’s dismissal because its head, Maxim Melnychenko, a Shokin loyalist, “is not interested in cleansing the system,” she said.
Trepak said that his successor on the job, Pavlo Demchyna, was planning to fire the security service employees who helped to prosecute Korniyets and Shapakin.
The Prosecutor General’s Office has also opened criminal cases against Trepak and his subordinates, accusing them of divulging state secrets. It has also opened cases against Sakvarelidze and Kasko, as well as their subordinates.
Trepak said that there was a risk of the “diamond prosecutors” case collapsing in court due to pressure by the authorities.
“We have to understand that certain people are successfully taking the court system under their control, partially under the guise of judicial reform,” he said. “The case of the diamond prosecutors is in their sphere of interests.”
Poroshenko has been accused of trying to increase his control of the judiciary through the ongoing judicial reform, while his political allies, lawmakers Ihor Kononenko and Oleksandr Hranovsky, have been accused of continually interfering into the law enforcement system. They deny the accusations.
Trepak wrote on Facebook on Aug. 10 that Poroshenko had an “excessive desire to accumulate unconstitutional powers and increase them by changing the Constitution.”
Quitting the SBU
In the end, Trepak’s stance on the diamond prosecutors led to his resignation.
He said Poroshenko had proposed that he step down as head of the anti-corruption department and take a government job of equal importance but with different functions – not necessarily at the Security Service of Ukraine.
“There were no grounds for such a reshuffle,” he said. “First, no work-related complaints were made against me, and second, behind me was a team that hoped a genuine fight against corruption would begin at last after the Revolution of Dignity… I rejected all those proposals. As an officer, I understand the notions of honor and duty.”
Trepak submitted his resignation in November, saying he could no longer work because all anti-corruption efforts were being blocked by Shokin.
Poroshenko approved his resignation in April and Trepak retired from the security service in July.
Trepak was replaced in his job by his former deputy Pavlo Demchyna, an ally of Kononenko and Hranovsky.
Trepak said that Kononenko and Hranovsky played a role in prompting his resignation.
“They were talking to my first deputy, Demchyna,” he said. “I constantly felt they desired to expand his powers. I even had to talk to them about his attempts to interfere in areas for which he was not responsible, including anti-smuggling efforts. I told them that I wouldn’t allow this.”
He added that the Yanukovych-era institution of “smotryashchie” – a Russian term for politicians’ placeholders responsible for specific corruption schemes – was currently being actively revived.
Analysts speculate that Demchyna has become the power behind the throne at the security service, and is running it instead of its formal chief, Vasyl Hrytsak.
“This process may lead to key decisions at the security service being made not by its head but by another person or people,” Trepak said. “Then the intelligence agency will turn from a security service into a factor of insecurity.”
Critics expect Demchyna’s anti-corruption department to become something similar to the anti-corruption department at the Prosecutor General’s Office headed by Volodymyr Hutsulyak and Dmytro Sus, former subordinates of Shapakin.
The department is accused of fabricating political cases on behalf of Kononenko and Hranovsky, including those against Sakvarelidze and Kasko, and thus protecting the diamond prosecutors.
Demchyna has also protected Korniyets and Shapakin by helping to prosecute investigators who went after them, according to Kasko.
After his resignation, Trepak continued his anti-corruption fight in May by submitting to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau documents that he said prove Yanukovych’s Party of Regions paid bribes worth about $2 billion.
Under Yanukovych, Trepak had problems similar to his current ones: he had a conflict with Oleksandr Yakymenko, then head of the security service. Yakymenko fired him from the position of the internal security unit’s head and even tried to oust him completely from the security service, though this attempt failed.
“I’ve already talked about the existence of close ties between representatives of the Yanukovych regime and the current government,” Trepak told the Kyiv Post. “These ties stem from the fact that the former and current authorities have a similar view of power being a means of enrichment, and have joint business and political projects.”
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