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23.02.2006 | Oleksandr Stepanenko

Local self-government bodies are turning into pardoning machines for dodgy deputies (Notes and reflections on a press conference in the prosecutor’s office)

   

According to data from the official of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, the number of refusals to allow charges to be brought against deputies of local councils who are suspected of having committed a crime, stands at 400. In the absolute majority of cases, sessions of local councils rejected prosecutor’s appeals. The Ternopil regional council has not satisfied any of the 5 appeals to lay criminal charges against local council deputies. . The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in turn has considered none of the criminal cases rejected by regional councils and is clearly not planning to review its decision No. 2854-IV “On introducing amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On the status of deputies of local councils””.

Meanwhile, the large-scale epidemic of “absolution” of “people’s representatives” threatens to destroy both of the system of Ukrainian justice and local self-government. It will therefore be no surprise if, as a result of the 2006 elections, we end up with an even more criminal contingent in local councils.

This alarming situation was discussed at a press conference given by Yuri Holub, the Ternopil Regional Prosecutor, which was held on 6 February in Ternopil. The prosecutor commented on specific criminal cases connected with deputies of local councils which have not been passed to court. Since October 2005, when amendments were introduced to Article 30 of the Law of Ukraine “On the status of deputies of local councils”, as a result of which deputies were granted immunity, prosecutor’s bodies have launched 20 criminal cases against deputies of all levels. Only 8 criminal cases have been directed to court, and verdicts handed down. Another 5 cases were closed by courts since councils did not give their consent to bring criminal charges.  5 more cases were closed by prosecutor’s office for the same reason.

The Principal of the Berezhany boarding school, a deputy of the district council, was mentioned among those against whom criminal cases had been started this year. A criminal investigation had found that the had misappropriated more than 3000 UH compiling fictitious documents on aid for the children.

A deputy head of the Berezhany district police department  who is accused of bribe-taking can also not be brought to justice. The “law enforcer” from Berezhany is a deputy of the Pustomytovskiy district council of the Lviv region, and the local deputies, naturally, do not dare to sully his police uniform.  Paradoxically, this policeman is continuing to work in his position at the Berezhany district police department!

The criminal case started against the mayor of the town of Skalat, who is accused of bribe-taking and other crimes, has been closed too “for non-rehabilitating reasons”. A very interesting formulation, is it not?

In December 2005 the Ternopil regional council refused to bring charges against a deputy of the Zborivska district council, the head of the board of the joint-stock company “Zborivgaz”, accused of premeditated evasion of payment to local revenue of the income tax from salaries of employees to the sum of 50 thousand UH. A similar accusation was made by the prosecutor’s office against another holder of a deputy mandate, the manager of the company “Krasiyivske” of the Monastyrsky district. This case was also not passed to court. At the January session of the Ternopil regional council colleagues-deputies “protected” from liability the manager of the company “Vilna Ukraina” of the Buchatskiy district, who illegally used the property of shareholders of the company and did not pay about 187 thousand UH of rent to 821 shareholders. On the same day the regional council rejected the prosecutor’s appeal concerning a deputy of the same Buchatskiy council, the manager of the company “Promin”. The investigation here had concluded that as a result of misuse of state bank loans, he had caused the state losses to the tune of 125 thousand UH…

It is interesting that none of the deputies against whom accusations of crimes have been brought, have acknowledged his guilt. And none of them could explain why they did not want to prove their innocence in court.

Only once have deputies of local councils of the Ternopil region agreed to subject their colleague to criminal charges: having demonstrated a disliking for the head of the architectural department of the Kozivskiy district, a deputy of a village council.

In summing up, Yuri Holub stated that the prosecutor’s office had prepared appeals to have charges brought against other deputies too, but they were not optimistic about their prospects. It is obvious to everybody that the deputies’ closing of ranks is impregnable…

I should point out that the deputies use the unique (from the viewpoint of craftiness) argument for turning down the prosecutor’s appeals to bring charges against their colleagues: “Of course, we have objections against deputy’s immunity! Yet reviewing criminal charges is not the task for local councils. We are not a court, so go away with your appeals – we will not vote either for agreement or refusal!”

Naturally, the largest number of journalists’ questions were connected with the notorious case of the Head of the Ternopil regional council Anatoly Zhukinskiy, especially because recently the press service of the council has communicated that the Head has resumed his work.

In November 2005 the bulletin “Prava Ludyny” informed their readers about the refusal of the regional council to satisfy the prosecutor’s appeal to bring charges against Zhukinskiy. The law enforcement bodies accused Zhukinskiy of large-scale misappropriation of revenue. The regional prosecutor stated that, in connection with the refusal of the regional council to give its consent for bringing charges against Zhukinskiy, the case against him had been closed in compliance with Article 30 of the Law of Ukraine “On the status of deputies of local councils”. He said that the prosecutor’s appeal to the Parliament had not been passed for plenary consideration yet – it had “got stuck” somewhere in the Verkhovna Rada committees. In connection with the closure of the criminal case, the decision about dismissal of Zhukinskiy from his post was cancelled. Yuri Golub stated: that the case had been closed for the same “non-rehabilitating reasons”. This means that the criminal prosecution can be resumed if the legislation is modified. The prosecutor insists that Anatoly Zhukinskiy has already “voluntarily” recompensed some part of the material damage caused to the regional budget, but refuses to pay the rest saying that he is not guilty. However, he does not want to prove in court that he did not steal the almost 100 thousand UH.

The last journalist’s question was the following: “Can the head of the regional council who is still accused of misappropriation of budget money  be elected a deputy again?” It seems so.

Finita la comedia. Curtain, wild applause…

Here the question arise: should deputies not demand from their Head an explanations about the circumstances of his case and his return to the post of the Head of the highest representative organ of the region? Do none of them wish to express an opinion about the inadmissibility of this situation from the legal and moral-ethical points of view? Is it possible that all of them have to pretend that there are no problems and that large-scale stealing of taxpayers’ money can be tolerated?

Unfortunately, during consideration at the past sessions of the questions on deputies’ immunity, only a few deputies appeared on the tribune repeating: «Pereat mundus, fiat Justitio» («The Law must be enforced against all the odds). Unfortunately, the Presidium of the regional council has twice refused to approve the proposal of deputy S. on the early suspension of the authority of the head of the Ternopil regional council Zhukinskiy, who “over nine months has not done his duty, has not given any information about his intentions, about his ability to return to work and about his readiness to prove his innocence in court”.

In conclusion I would like to say that a week ago an open letter by deputy Zhukinskiy was passed to the editor of the newspaper with the fine-sounding name “Svoboda” (“Liberty”), issued by the regional council. In the letter Zhukinskiy expressed his willingness to step down from his post as Head of the regional council. The decision as to whether to publish this letter in the newspaper has not been taken yet.

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