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Activists propose candidates for NABU auditor: three prosecutors with international expertise

Kyiv, March 21, 2017.

Ukraine continues selection of candidates for the post of auditor of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU). Following the choice of the Parliament and unexpected difficulties (available in our latest weekly digest), it is time for the Cabinet of Ministers to suggest their candidate. Representatives of expert and anti-corruption NGOs proposed to the Cabinet of Ministers three candidates which would be the best choice.

Representatives of Transparency International Ukraine, Reanimation Package of Reforms and Anticorruption Action Center on behalf of the Government proposed three candidacies for the post of NABU auditor. “These candidacies are in compliance with legislative requirements and with the highest standards of proficiency and integrity. All the three are prosecutors with a solid international experience,” said Taras Shevchenko, co-head of the Reanimation Package of Reforms, during a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “Ukraine has not had experience of such audit before, that’s why it is very important that among these candidates there are people who conducted audit for the most powerful law-enforcement bodies in the world, for instance, American law enforcement agencies,” he added.

Who are they?

The first candidate is Martha Boersch, American prosecutor. Thanks to her Pavlo Lazarenko, former Ukrainian politician, was convicted and sentenced to prison in the US for money laundering, fraud and extortion. “She speaks Russian fluently, moreover, she knows Ukrainian political environment very well,” noted Yaroslav Yurchushyn, executive director of Transparency International Ukraine.

The second candidate is Carlos Castresana, Spanish prosecutor and former head of the UN International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. He managed to reveal top-corruption in Guatemala and bring to account even ex-president Alfonso Portillo. “There were many attacks on him. The Prosecutor’s General Office in Guatemala, which was not reformed, impeded his investigation, but pressure by Castresana, media and civil society helped to dismiss two Prosecutors General,” noted Daryna Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti Corruption Action Center. He had been to Ukraine many times and advised to Ukrainian law enforcement bodies.

The third candidate is Giovanni Kessler, Italian prosecutor who has already been nominated to this post by the European Commission on request of the civil society. Yaroslav Yurchyshyn reminded that this is thanks to his uncompromising stand that the NABU was created as an independent law enforcement body.

Activists also considered the candidacy of Juta Strīķe, former head of Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau, and José Ugaz, head of the board of Transparency International. However, both of them approved other three candidacies selected by the activists. “Robert Storch, who was suggested by Parliamentary Anti Corruption Committee, would be an ideal candidate too, but it is up for the Parliament to choose. We did not include him into our list of suggested candidacies because we hope that the Parliament will vote not for “a ski instructor”*, but for this internationally renowned professional,” added Daryna Kaleniuk.

*In the time of Yanukovich presidency Ukraine signed a USD 1,1 billion investment agreement with a Spanish company “Gas Natural Fenosa”, represented by Mr. Jordi Sarda Bonvehi. Later it turned out that Bonvehi was a ski instructor and had nothing to do with the company. Kaleniuk refers to this story to emphasize that there is not enough information about Nigel Brown’s background – UCMC comment.

NABU’s independence at stake

Activists believe that behind persistent attempts to promote candidacy of Nigel Brown lies the intention of country’s leaders to take control over the NABU, because negative auditors conclusion is the only possible way to dismiss the head of the NABU. “This person [one of the suggested candidates] will have only one voice of the three. But if this will be a powerful international candidate, he will stay in touch with all international partners, and his authority will prevent “pocket” auditors from preparing an unfounded conclusion,” explained Yaroslav Yurchyshyn. According to him, there are no Ukrainian auditors of such professional level.

The activists hope that selection of a decent candidate on the part of the Government will have a positive impact on the President’s choice of the candidate. “If this will be Ms. Borsch, Mr. Castresana or Mr. Kessler, President will have to suggest a candidacy with the same level of expertise,” explained Yaroslav Yurchyshyn. He added that among those willing to submit their candidacy there are officials who formerly were “preventing corruption” in the Ministry of Defense in the time of Yanukovich presidency, and this is a dangerous perspective. “Should it happen, three months later we will surely have a negative conclusion,” he says.

Daryna Kaleniuk stressed that auditors will have access to classified and sensitive information, so there must be no doubt about integrity of the person appointed to this post. “Should this access be given to someone with questionable reputation, or someone who has a potential conflict of interests (and we know little about former activities of Nigel Brown and his private company), there is a significant risk that it will result not only in a biased and predictable conclusion, but also in leak of data that may ruin several cases,” she emphasized.

Daryna Kaleniuk reminded that this process is a focus of attention for Ukraine’s international partners. The requirement about international audit of the NABU was one of the key suggestions of the IMF. Moreover, IMF wants technical tasks of the audit to be coordinated with them.

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