The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) has launched a pre-trial investigation into allegations of extortion carried out by officials at its sister anticorruption agency, according to a NABU spokeswoman. The National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NAZK), which was set up after the Ukrainian revolution to spearhead Kyiv’s anti-graft drive, is under investigation for paying its officials “undue benefits in especially large amounts, combined with extortion of such benefits.” The NABU spokeswoman said that officials at other state bodies were also under investigation but gave no further details. The case, which was opened on November 10, is partly based on information made public by the head of the NAZK’s financial control department, Hanna Solomatina, who blew the whistle on the suspicious payments in her own department. According to Solomatina the online tool supposed to be used by officials to declare their wealth and assets has become compromised.
“The electronic declaration system is being used to cover up for officials loyal to the authorities, for crackdowns on dissidents, and for the personal enrichment of the NAZK’s chief and members of the NAZK’s collective leadership,” Solomatyna said. “The NAZK is not an independent agency. It is completely controlled by the government.”
Furthermore, earlier this week Solomatina published alleged correspondence with Oleksiy Horashchenkov, an official at the Presidential Administration in which he asks her to “attack” two opposition politicians and a prosecutor. In one of the messages, Horashchenkov allegedly asks Solomatina to “start an attack on (Batkivshchyna party leader) Yulia (Tymoshenko) and (Opposition Bloc lawmaker Vadym) Rabynovych as soon as possible.” In another message he says she should “deal with” and “crack down on” Volodymyr Nechyporenko, a prosecutor in Odesa Oblast. Solomatina said that she decided to publish the alleged correspondence on Facebook and in the Kyiv Post newspaper for fear that Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, would confiscate her phone and destroy the evidence.
The NAZK was set up in 2015 as a cornerstone of Western-backed efforts to root out the endemic corruption that plagued public life in Ukraine under the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. Since then however President Petro Poroshenko has been accused of using it as a tool for political persecution against his opponents. Last year, the head of NAZK, Natalia Korchak, was criticised for paying herself bonuses of around $20,000 while the agency went after a former customs official and associate of Mikheil Saakashvili – one of Poroshenko’s presidential rivals – for paying herself a bonus of $18.
The agency has denied Solomatina’s accusations calling them “an effort to discredit a successful anti-corruption reform in Ukraine.”