Vasyl Hrytsak’s career as Party of the Regions MP ended – for him – on a high note late last year with his seriously dangerous “biometric” law – and the SSAPS Corporation he has close links with finally receiving the green light. A Presidential decree has just crowned this career and given Hrytsak extraordinary scope for reaping personal benefit.
President Yanukovych has made many eyebrow-raising appointments over the last three years. Considering the stiff competition, this may not be the worst, but with respect to corruption it is perhaps in a league of its own. Vasyl Hrytsak has been appointed Deputy Head of the State Migration Service, the body given responsibility for implementing this same highly controversial law.
Vasyl Hrytsak in December 2012 received the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union’s annual anti-award Thistle of the Year. In fact on that occasion he got the Gold Thistle for the most flagrant intrusion into privacy and for the most dangerous legislative initiative in the field of human rights. This was over the Law on a Unified State Demographic Register which gives one private outfit - the SSAPS [Single State Automated Passport System] consortium whose interests Hrytsak has lobbied for years enormous profits by forcing Ukrainians to obtain around 13 biometric documents. The State Migration Service is given overall responsibility for their issue. The law also introduces a single database, without proper protection, with different authorities sharing an unlimited amount of confidential information about each Ukrainian citizen, their signature, biometric details, etc. Hrytsak first received a Thistle of the Year for much the same legislative initiative in 2007. (More details in What Now?)
Serious criticism and calls to veto the law were ignored by President Yanukovych who signed it into law after a brief pretence of a “veto” which in fact made only cosmetic changes.
President Yanukovych, incidentally, also received a 2012 Thistle of the Year, together with the then Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn for contempt for Ukraine’s Constitution and legislation, in particular over their signing of two laws: the Law on the Principles of State Language Policy and the Law on Public Procurement (which removes State enterprises from tender procedure).
The scope for corruption in the effective monopoly given the SSAPS consortium is also massive, especially given the quite inflated number of documents which now need to have biometric data. The excuse for the law constantly presented had been compliance with EU requirements for EU-Ukraine Visa Liberalization. The EU, however, only required that biometric passports for travel abroad be introduced.
Vasyl Hrytsak has now been offered new opportunities. The appointment for those seeking asylum in Ukraine, or for any number of other reasons having dealings with the State Migration Service can only be described as disastrous.
It is probably worth noting the report by Nashi Hroshi [Our Money] late last year which stated then that it was not only Vasyl Hrytsak and the SSAPS Consortium which stood to gain from this law. Yury Nikolov asserted that by signing the law, President Yanukovych had opened the way for officials to pocket large amounts of money which Ukrainians would be forced to pay in “administrative services”. The point, he said, was in three short sentences deftly added to the final provisions of the Law These made changes to the relevant articles of the Budget Code, with the same words each time “including payment for the provision of administrative services”.
What this means in human language, he explained, is that money for such “services” which was previously considered State revenue will now be carved up between officials.
Such “services” are also provided by the State Migration Service of which, in accordance with President Yanukovych’s Decree, Vasyl Hrytsak has now become one of the very top officials.