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Ex-Tax Academy head’s controversial acquittal on corruption charges revoked

Halya Coynash

The acquittal of Petro Melnyk, one of the 10 most dubious recent rulings, according to a study by Transparency International in Ukraine, has been revoked by the Kyiv Regional Court of Appeal, and a new court examination ordered, with a different panel of judges. 

The former dean of the National Tax University in Irpin (Kyiv oblast) was arrested in July 2013, allegedly while receiving a bribe of 120 thousand UAH.  He was placed under house arrest on Aug 1 that year, but escaped, after removing his electronic bracelet.  He was in hiding in the USA until April 1, 2014 when he was arrested at Boryspil Airport on his arrival from London.  He was then released on bail.

He was tried by the Irpin City Court, in the same town where Melnyk has business interests.  The trial dragged on for an entire year and ended in his acquittal on July 9, 2015, with the court finding that there was ‘not enough proof’ that the 120 thousand UAH he was alleged to have received was not a ‘donation’.

Ukraine’s Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko reacted to Melnyk’s acquittal by saying that it demonstrated that the judicial system was rotten to the core.  The prosecutor’s office immediately appealed the ruling and Melnyk was detained the next day.  He has been under house arrest ever since.

As reported, a recent study carried out by Transparency International Ukraine and the Internet publication ‘First Instance’ found that only one in five court rulings on corruption charges against high-ranking officials ends with the person convicted and imprisoned.  More often they get off with a fine or suspended sentence, and if they are sentenced to terms of imprisonment, most often get released early.  The anti-corruption researchers pointed out that in a number of cases, the defendant had been acquitted despite a considerable weight of proof of guilt. 

The research was based on an analysis of 100 court rulings passed over the last three months under Article 368 of the Criminal Code (gaining illegitimate gains).  

The analysts also found that the higher the bribes the officials took, the less likely were their chances of ending up behind bars.  The average bribe alleged to have been taken where the suspect was acquitted was 112 thousand UAH.  The average bribe where a person got a suspended sentence was 79 thousand.   Those who received a real term of imprisonment had, on average, paid 40 thousand UAH.

The nearly 50% who were convicted and fined all paid amounts which were suspiciously close to the amounts the person had taken as a bribe. 

Melnyk’s acquittal was fourth on the analysts’ ‘top 10’ of dubious court rulings.

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