Boris Penchuk released from custody
Boris Penchuk, former Director of the Donetsk shopping complex “Bely Lebed” [“White Swan”], and later co-author of a book entitled “Donetsk mafia” has been released from custody. His lawyer, Oleksandr Plakhotnyk told the Internet publication Ukrainska Pravda that his client’s sentence had been changed to corrective work and that “under certain circumstances the court may substitute the part of the sentence not served for a lighter punishment”.
As reported, in February this year the Supreme Court revoked the sentence of 6 years imprisonment against Penchuk for extortion. It upheld the decision of the Donetsk Regional Court of Appeal which reduced the sentence from 5 to 4 years for knowingly giving false information about a crime.
As reported at the time (The Prosecutor demanded 10 years ) this case gives a number of reasons for concern.
Boris Penchuk was in March 2008 convicted of the same crime he had accused another man, also Boris, of back in 2005. It was this man, Boris Kolesnikov, in 2005 Head of the Donetsk Regional Council and now National Deputy from the Party of the Regions, who made the claims against Penchuk which have led to this sentence. Kolesnikov has never concealed his burning desire to punish all those responsible for four month imprisonment on remand in 2005, and it would be hard to imagine a better form of revenge.
The case in brief
In 2002 Boris Penchuk and members of his family sold a controlling package of shares in the shopping complex “Bely Lebed” to Boris Kolesnikov. According to the Verdict, Penchuk asked for the amount of each share to be given as 0.63 UAH, whereas the real price was 2.60 UAH.
In spring 2005 Penchuk accused Boris Kolesnikov, former Head of the Donetsk Regional Council and a prominent figure in Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions of having extorted the shares for much less than their market level on threat of physical reprisals if he refused.
Kolesnikov was under fire from the new regime following the Orange Revolution and these charges were used to remand him in custody for a few months before lawyers and prominent friends managed to secure his release. The Human Rights Ombudsperson Nina Karpacheva spoke out in his defence. The two were to become political colleagues when they both secured mandates from the Party of the Regions and became National Deputies in the March 2006 parliamentary elections.
In April 2006 the Prosecutor General closed the criminal investigation into the allegations made by Boris Penchuk. As mentioned, Kolesnikov has been vocal in calling for those who had him imprisoned, including the Minister of Internal Affairs, Yury Lutsenko, to themselves be prosecuted. In July 2007 the Donetsk Regional Prosecutor declared Penchuk on the wanted list, and initiated a criminal investigation against him under Articles 383 § 2 (knowingly making a false report of a crime”) and 384 § 2 (“knowingly false testimony”). At this stage, no mention was made of the more serious charge of extortion and Penchuk was never detained, although he made no attempt to hide from the police.
Rather dramatically in October 2007, Penchuk publicly withdrew all his accusations and claimed that he had made them under pressure from the then (and present) Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Lutsenko. The latter denied all such claims.
Boris Penchuk was suddenly taken into custody in October 2008. It is unclear when the charge of extortion was added.
It is extremely disturbing, however, to read in the Verdict used to sentence a man to 8 years imprisonment of an “unidentified individual” with whom Penchuk was supposedly conspiring to commit the imputed crime and who, without identifying himself (!) gave testimony to the police.
Penchuk’s lawyer, Oleksandr Plakhotnyuk, says his client who denies any guilt will be taking the matter further.