After a year of investigation by Ukrainian law enforcement, the case of the black ledger — a secret, handwritten list of $2 billion in shady payments by the political party of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych — appears to have stalled.

When reports of the finding of the ledger first surfaced last year, the scandal led to the resignation of the chairman of Donald J. Trump’s presidential election campaign team, Paul Manafort, whose name was found in the ledger next to sums of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine has now passed the black ledger documents to the Special Investigations Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, according to report published by the office on June 9.

Furthermore, due to a lack of evidence, anti-corruption prosecutors have officially stopped the pre-trial investigation into Mykhailo Okhendovskiy, the head of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission and the only person in the black ledger case to be given notice of being a suspect.


“The fact that the black ledger case was passed to the Prosecutor General’s Office means it will from now on be under political control,” Viktor Trepak, the former deputy head of the Security Service of Ukraine, wrote on Facebook on June 11.

The documents show that the party paid bribes worth $2 billion, Trepak said in a May 28, 2016 interview.

“This case is dangerous not only for Yanukovych allies, but also for the current Ukrainian government, as it proves they had secret ties. It is clear for me that somebody gave an order to bury the black ledger, which I consider the most important high-profile corruption case in Ukraine,” he added.

But Sergii Horbatuk, the head of Special Investigations Department of Prosecutor General’s Office and also the main investigator of the EuroMaidan killings, told the Kyiv Post on June 14 that detectives from the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), a supposedly politically independent agency, will continue to work with his department on the black ledger materials.


“The black ledger was passed to us, as it is an important evidence base in several investigations of our department, in particular, the case of the usurpation of power by Yanukovych, and the supposed creation of a criminal gang on the basis of the Party of Regions,” Horbatuk said.

But the prosecutor said he understood Trepak’s concerns and didn’t exclude that somebody might indeed try to influence or slow down the investigation.

“There are some risks of possible political influence in the case, but this could only happen if public interest in … the black ledger case falls,” Horbatuk added.

Much noise, little sense

Sergii Leshchenko, a Bloc of Petro Poroshenko lawmaker and former journalist, obtained the black ledger documents together with Trepak last year. On May 30, 2016, Trepak passed them to the NABU.

The Ukrainska Pravda news website published an article on May 31, 2016, about the Ukrainian Party of Regions making shady payments to top Ukrainian officials.

The black ledger is alleged to show how a Kremlin-backed oligarchic political force gained absolute power in Ukraine.

Ukrainska Pravda has reported that the Party of Regions spent more than $66 million on paid PR on Ukrainian TV channels, radio, and the regional press, as well paying for services from people whose names and initials were identical to top Ukrainian officials, such as Okhendovskiy, former Justice Minister of Ukraine Olena Lukash, Odesa Oblast Council Head Mykola Pundyk, former Foreign Minister of Ukraine Leonid Kozhara, and many others.


In August, the NABU published a report on Manafort’s name being found in the black ledger alongside a list of payments, sparking suspicion that the former adviser to Yanukovych had been involved in bribery, receiving an undeclared $750,000 payment from Yanukovych’s party.

Soon after, Manafort was forced to resign from the Trump campaign amid an international scandal.

However, after Trump was elected U.S. president in November, Nazar Kholodnytskiy, the head of the Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine, told the news website there were no grounds to press charges against Manafort.

He said only Manafort’s last name was found in the Party of Region’s black ledger, and the investigators were unable to prove the authenticity of the signature in the ledger.

In January, the international news website Politico claimed that via the black ledger case, Ukrainian officials had been attempting to aid Hilary Clinton’s presidential election campaign.


“Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by … (disseminating) documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election,” the article read.

Yaroslav Hordiyevych, the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson, in an email to Kyiv Post on June 15 said that the office would not speculate about the political implications of the case.

“We didn’t support the (release of information) by Leshchenko and the NABU,” Hordiyevych wrote.

“Moreover, during a meeting with NABU detectives on the second day of the investigation, the head of the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office strictly forbade the release of any details of the investigation,” Hordiyevych wrote.

Hordiyevych added that the NABU had no jurisdiction to investigate Manafort’s involvement in the black ledger, as he is a foreign citizen.

Stopped, not closed

The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office said in a message published on June 9 that the pre-trial investigation against Okhendovskiy had officially been halted.

In December 2016, Okhendovskiy was given a note of suspicion on charges that he had received $16,000 in illegal compensation for working trips abroad, and $145,000 in unverified payments from the Party of Regions.

NABU detectives said they had gathered enough evidence to prove Okhendovskiy had received at least $16,000 from the Party of Regions. A handwriting forensic examination had proved the authenticity of his signature under the payment in the ledger, detectives said.


However, that’s not enough to convict him of bribery, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office said in a message published on June 9.

“To bring a supposed bribe-taker’s case to the court, it is still necessary to prove not only the fact of him getting the money, but also the fact of using his position to act in the interests of the bribe giver,” the message read.
The investigators still have to prove what concrete actions Okhendovskiy took in the interests of Yanukovych’s party during his foreign trips.

The documents that Ukrainian diplomats provided to investigators had many mismatches, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office message said. Foreign diplomats are the only reliable source left, so it was decided to stop the case against Okhendovskiy until the investigators get documents from foreign partners.

Important evidence

Meanwhile, the NABU has said it has gathered enough evidence to press charges not only against Okhendovskiy but also against at least one more official named in the ledger, although it didn’t reveal the official’s name.


“However only Kholodnytskiy, (the head of the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office), could make such a decision (to press charges), as he was the one who signed the note of suspicion,” the NABU said.

Hordiyevych said the case against election commission head Okhendovskiy is not closed, and he remains a suspect.

But the pre-trial investigation has been halted as Ukrainian investigators are waiting for international legal cooperation.

And unlike other black ledger materials, Okhendovskiy’s case wasn’t passed to Horbatuk’s department.

Horbatuk said that after Trepak passed the black ledger to the NABU in 2016, the Special Investigations Department immediately made a request to create a joint group of investigators.

“At first we just exchanged the materials and information, but then we decided to create a joint group of investigators, as these materials are important evidence in our department’s cases,” Horbatuk said.
“The black ledger documents prove secret payments and bribes were given to officials.”

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