Turns out that in fact only UAH 3,8 billion were returned to budget out of UAH 9,6 billion Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine claims to have returned to the state or to the citizens through court action in 2016. The difference in figures is caused by a specific calculation methodology Prosecutor General’s Office uses, concluded activists of the NGO “Nashi Hroshi”. They examined 5600 court decisions and additional documents provided by the Prosecutor’s General Office to Ukrainian MP Victor Chumak, following his official request. “Our aim was to clarify, what Prosecutor General’s Office means by ‘money was returned’. […] First, we made calculations in the same way as the Prosecutor General’s Office did, and then started to check facts. We included into the list of the Prosecutor General’s Office’s achievements every case where there were grounds for this, even if these grounds were questionable. However, even with this favorable approach, the final figure we have got is only UAH 3,8 billion instead of 10 billion,” said Oleksii Shalaiskyi, editor of “Nashi Hroshi”, presenting results of their analysis at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
Among these court decisions the activists found a lot of cases which, in their opinion, cannot be considered as those bringing benefit for the state. The first type of such cases are cases where Prosecutor General’s Office counts the assessed value of property returned to state from lease as “returned money”; sometimes this includes normative evaluation of land plots. The second type are cases where court decisions deal with fines and debts of state enterprises: de facto the money is moved from one “pocket” of the state into another. The most remarkable case of this kind is litigation between “Naftogaz” and “Kyivenergo”. Other types of cases on this list are litigations between the state and a state/communal enterprise or a municipal authority for the right to use a land plot or premises. There was even a case related to non-paid student’s scholarship, the Prosecutor’s Office mentions this court decision in favor of student as their achievement.
Moreover, in many of these cases participation of the Prosecutor’s Office in the litigation was in fact unnecessary, Shalaiskyi noted. According to him, it looks as “a conscious attempt to ensure benefits for the Prosecutor General’s Office”. “It is important to mention that the Prosecutor’s Office has a special guideline prescribing how to calculate losses or benefits for the state. And this methodology actually aims to ‘puff up’ significant amount of money in situations where this money does not exist at all; the bizarre practice of adding normative monetary evaluation of land into this amount is also prescribed in the guideline,” he added.
Victor Chumak emphasized that all these court decisions were given to him in printed copies. Moreover, among them there is a number of decisions which were cancelled several months later, a number of decisions from 2012 and repeated copies of the same decisions. Some of them seem to be even drafts, as there are prosecutor’s notes in pencil.
In this pool of court decisions there are no criminal cases as a result of which illegal assets were returned to the state. “As we can see, the Prosecutor’s General Office has no normal methodology for reporting about the returned assets. This performance with piles of paper is just a PR-show. There are no cases about returned illegal assets. […] If these papers were analyzed by our organization, we would use another methodology and we would say that the total amount of returned money is zero, because we would take into account only cases with court decisions about confiscation of assets,” concluded Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of Anticorruption Action Center.
“Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko is not the one to blame for these defects of the system – it has been effective long before him. […] But in order to move forward, Prosecutor General needs to know what the Prosecutor’s Office has, and it has no normal database,” Oleksiy Shalaiskyi said. He added that the activist are open for professional discussion with the prosecutors about every of the cases mentioned above.
According to the activists, there will hardly be any improvement with the system without united register of distrained and seized property. The launch of the register is within the mandate of the Agency on Assets Research and Management. “We are waiting for the register to be launched this year,” Kaleniuk stressed.
Daria Kaleniuk also made a critical comment about the statement of Yuriy Lutsenko that Ukraine is going to return UAH 50 billion, or nearly USD 1,5 billion supposedly illegally withdrawn from the country during the years of Yanukovych presidency, and that he will consider to make details of the case classified as a highly sensitive information. “What is the strangest in this story, no one knows where these USD 1,5 billion come from, where these offshore companies took money to buy these obligations and who are beneficiary owners of these companies. (…) There is a very serious risk that the companies involved will take court action and Ukraine will have to give this money back to Yanukovych. In my opinion, this is not a victory, in contrary, this is a way to legalize assets of Yanoukovich’s companions,” she stated.