On April 16, 2020 freedom-loving people of Ukraine and the whole progressive humankind will be celebrating a memorable event of the recent history—a fifth anniversary of appointing Artem Sergiyovych Sytnyk a Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine. In these five years, Ukraine earned a reputation of one of the most corrupt countries in the world, public officials introduced extortions even for minor athletes, and the scandal caused by Sytnyk’s and his first deputy Uglava’s involvement in embezzlement of Ukroboronprom funds was covered by practically every world media.
One could spend hours talking about this outstanding fighter against corruption and not get bored. But today we will focus only on one episode in Artem Sytnyk’s exciting life and go over the circumstances of him becoming a happy owner of a one-bedroom apartment in Brovary (Kyiv Region).
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An idea to establish the NABU originated in spring of 2014 during negotiations between the government and the International Monetary Fund’s delegation on giving another loan. Initially the intention was to establish a new division within the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine to criminally persecute top officials. However, Serhiy Pashynskyi, a Head of the Administration of the President, recalled that on February 26, 2014, after Yanukovych had fled, it was announced from the stage of Maidan that an Anti-Corruption Bureau would be established, with Pashynskyi’s ally Tetiana Chornovol as its head.
Thus, to fulfill the will of Maidan and to restore historical justice, it was decided to establish a separate law enforcement agency specifically for Chornovol, so that its name would include anti-corruption activities.
However, tranche never came in December of 2014, and establishing the NABU became pointless. But since the process had already started, it slowly went on. Upon election of Petro Poroshenko as president, Pashynskyi lost his power and could not lobby appointing Ms. Chornovol a Director of the NABU. Instead, the banner of fight against corruption that dropped out of Tetiana Mykolayivna’s hands was picked up by the professional “civil activists” who were making money off lobbying interests of pharmaceutical companies and promoting certain medications to the Ukrainian market. Among them were Vitaliy Shabunin, a private entrepreneur (specializing in selling goods from tents), Dmytro Sherembei, sentenced three times for apartment burglaries, Oleksandra Ustinova who had never worked before, and other selfless currency enthusiasts.
They managed to receive grants from the International Renaissance Foundation and the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine for lobbying the draft of the Law “On the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.” The bill itself was being drafted by such prominent lawyers of our time as Viktor Chumak, a former legal advisor of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, Ruslan Riaboshapka, an employee of a pseudo-NGO named Transparency International Ukraine, and Oleksandr Danylyuk, a Deputy Head of the Administration of the President, under supervision of Yuriy Kosiuk, a Hero of Ukraine and an owner of the Mironivsky Hliboproduct agricultural holding and Nasha Riaba trademark.
And here a flashy performance began: first, selection of a team of “civil activists” proclaimed to be venerable Ukrainians bestowed with the right to select two candidates for the prospective post of the Director of the NABU and then to propose them to the president; second, selection of these two candidates.
And so, in April 2015, leading venerable men selected the first Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine. Yuriy Butusov, a national expert in all fields, Yevhen Nyshchuk, a Minister of Culture, Yaroslav Hrytsak, a history professor, and other specialists in managing pre-trial investigation, having looked at 176 candidates, settled on Artem Sytnyk. Obviously, what contributed to this was the fact that Artem Sergiyovych had a firsthand knowledge of corruption, as he had been fervently catering to corruption cash flows in the prosecutor’s office for 10 years.
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Upon graduating from the Yaroslav Mudryi National Law Academy in 2001, Artem Sytnyk obtained a plum position of an assistant DA of Lenin District in Kirovohrad, thanks to connections between his father, a director of the district road service in Kirovohrad Region, and Oleksandr Hardetskyi, the Prosecutor of Kirovohrad Region. Soon enough, the then Prosecutor General Potebenko fired Hardetskyi on his order of November 20, 2001 quoting extreme tyranny and abuse of authority. But in 2005, Hardeskyi re-emerged as a head of the Office of the Prosecutor of Kirovohrad Region, where Sytnyk already worked as a senior detective, and appointed Artem Sergiyovych a head of the Investigations Division.
In 2008, the Prosecutor General Oleksandr Medvedko realized he needed a confident as a Prosecutor of Kyiv Region in order to take over the colossal cash flows and illegal land market in the capital region. That man turned out to be Oleksandr Stepanovych Hardetskyi, a Medvedko’s longtime friend and classmate (they both studied at the Dzerzhinskyi Kharkiv Law Institute, which they graduated from in 1980). In March 2008, after having been appointed the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region, Hardetskyi brought his experienced and tested team along from Kirovohrad, including Artem Sytnyk, who already in August 2008 took charge of the Investigations Division of the regional prosecutor’s office.
One could make a horror movie about what Hardetskyi’s team was doing from 2008 to 2010. Neither before nor after has Kyiv region seen such rampant corruption, such embezzlement of land resources. Sure thing, the head of the Investigations Division of the regional prosecutor’s office Artem Sytnyk didn’t lag behind and became an active participant of a scam organized jointly with Hardetskyi. To collect money from subjects of criminal cases investigated by Sytnyk, they used a charity fund with a pretentious name Free Community Human Rights Foundation, to which these very subjects were supposed to transfer money in exchange for prosecutor bosses’ goodwill. A fund’s founder was a partner of Hardetskyi and Sytnyk in land fraud, a Kozyn village head Valeriy Hartik; his wife, Liliya Hartik, was a fund’s manager.
In April 2008, the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region Hardetskyi and his nephew, a then Brovary Inter-District Prosecutor Sergiy Shcherbina, paid a visit to a manager of the Brovary Plant Construction Factory and started demanding that the factory, which was constructing residential housing in Brovary, sell a couple of new apartments to the prosecutors in the Kyiv regional office at a 60% discount. Fearing that the regional prosecutor might at any time paralyze operations of the enterprise, the manager conceded and six month hence, on November 14, 2008 a preliminary agreement was signed, by which the Brovary Plant Construction Factory pledged to provide Sytnyk, Artem Sergiyovych with a one-bedroom apartment of 82.6 sq.m. at a price of UAH 295,798 at 11-г Cherniahovskyi St. in Brovary upon completion of the house’s construction.
Artem Sergiyovych might be aware that in 2008 as well as now getting such discounts is punishable by Article 364 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine aptly titled “abuse of power or authority” by imprisonment for 3 to 6 years. Moreover, this crime, committed by the former Prosecutor of Kyiv Region Hardetskyi in the interests of the head of the Investigations Division of the regional prosecutor’s Sytnyk, can now be investigated exclusively by the NABU headed by Sytnyk.
But the most exciting was yet to come. According to the preliminary agreement, apartment’s price was estimated at UAH 288 thsd. However, Sytnyk paid only UAH 63 thsd. The rest, in the amount of UAH 225 thsd, was paid on Sytnyk’s behalf by the Free Community Human Rights Foundation charity fund on November 17, 2008. In other words, this charity fund gave Sytnyk this apartment as a gift, having paid on his behalf an amount, equivalent at that time to $28 thsd. Here are respective accounting documents proving the fact of the gift.
In 2010, construction was over, and according to the sales contract ВМТ 194617 of May 26, 2010, Artem Sergiyovych became the owner of the apartment.
Speaking of which, lest unnecessary questions arise regarding legality of Sytnyk purchasing the apartment, the sales contract was registered by a notary public Shcherbina, a wife of the Brovary Inter-District Prosecutor Shcherbina, who, together with Hardetskyi, had been twisting the Brovary Plant Construction Factory manager’s arms. Involving a trusted notary public in this scam became necessary because Artem Sergiyovych did not pay taxes on the value of the apartment gifted to him by the Free Community Human Rights Foundation charity fund.
Rampant corruption of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region Hardetskyi and his team has been public for a long time. In particular, on November 16, 2009 Censor.net online outlet published a letter by Volodymyr Stretovych, a Deputy Head of the Committee of the Verkhovna Rada on Law Enforcement, addressed to the president Yushchenko and the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine Nalyvaichenko. The letter recounts extortions organized by Hardetskyi and Sytnyk, embezzlement of land in Kyiv region, a story about Sytnyk’s apartment acquired using the money of a charity fund, where, according to Stretovych, “funds are wired in exchange for releasing the arrested people and for dropping criminal charges.”
It is likely that Yuriy Butusov, the national expert in all fields who participated in selecting Sytnyk as a Director of the NABU, and who for several years has been glorifying Artem Sergiyovych and his exceptional professional virtues, does not read the website whose editor in chief he allegedly is. Otherwise he would have known about this letter by Stretovych. It is also likely that the national expert in all fields Butusov didn’t read this Censor.net article as well. As early as in October 2013, it talks about Valeriy Hartik, the Free Community Human Rights Foundation charity fund’s founder, who paid for purchasing the apartment by the current Director of the NABU. Albeit, these publications were carefully perused at the Prosecutor General’s Office, and in May 2017, a criminal proceeding was registered, and the Brovary Plant Construction Factory CEO was questioned.
Moreover, detectives from the Prosecutor General’s Office searched the accounting department of the Brovary Plant Construction Factory and found a letter by Liliya Hartik, the Kozyn village head’s wife, informing that on November 14, 2008 the Free Community Human Rights Foundation charity fund wired UAH 450 thsd for purchasing apartments at 11-г Cherniahovskyi St. for Roman Olefirenko and Artem Sytnyk, the two prosecutors at the Office of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region.
This begs a totally natural question: where exactly did the charity fund, established by the Kozyn village head, get the money for purchasing apartments for the prosecutors? The answer is simple: according to the Unified State Register of Court Decisions, Sytnyk’s apartment was paid for using money in amount of UAH 465 thsd that had been wired to the Free Community Human Rights Foundation charity fund’s account on September 19, 2008 by the Orslana LLC. And isn’t it just funny that by a sheer coincidence, the Investigations Division of the Office of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region headed by Sytnyk was investigating a criminal case 47-1022 against a First Deputy Head of the Land Resources Department in Obukhiv District of Kyiv Region on charges of accepting a bribe of $7,300 for assigning a cadastral number to a land parcel owned by this very Orslana LLC.
Moreover, the criminal case was being investigated—you’d be surprised—by Andriy Volodymyrovych Kaluzhynskyi, a current Head of the Main Detectives Department of the NABU. And on July 17, 2008, in the court hearing devoted to appealing the decision to initiate the case, the regional prosecutor’s office was represented by Artem Sytnyk, who in a month was appointed a head of the Investigations Division of the Office of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region.
The court ruling after this court hearing makes it clear that the criminal case was investigated against Oleksandr Mohylnyi, the First Deputy Head of the Land Resources Department in Obukhiv District of Kyiv Region, who accepted bribes in exchange for issuing documents about transferring ownership rights for land parcels to physical and legal persons, including Bogdan Automobile Group LLC. And the founder and actual owner of Bogdan corporation is Oleg Gladkovsky, known before 2014 as Oleg Svynarchuk, a business partner of Petro Poroshenko and a deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine during the fifth president’s tenure.
However, amazing coincidences don’t end here. On August 12, 2008 a private entrepreneur Vinokurova, Svitlana Yevhenivna, a founder and manager at KIAN LLC, wired UAH 400 thsd to the Free Community Human Rights Foundation charity fund’s account. At that, KIAN LLC was a subject of a different criminal case, though also opened against Oleksandr Mohylnyi, the First Deputy Head of the Land Resources Department in Obukhiv District of Kyiv Region.
I know this case very well, because it was opened by the Office of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region on the grounds of my criminal complaint even before Sytnyk showed up there.
Therefore, I can claim that this Vinokurova assisted land scam artists in writing contracts for the sale of land that illegally ceased to be state property.
With the efforts of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Mohylnyi finally was put in the dock, but Vinokurova got away with everything due to a generous donation to the Free Community Human Rights Foundation. And there’s proof for that.
As I mentioned previously, on May 24, 201, the Prosecutor General’s Office registered a criminal proceeding regarding Sytnyk’s apartment shenanigans. The Unified State Register of Court Decisions contains orders by investigating judges within this proceeding, which highlight the case’s storyline. In particular, in its order of July 13, 2017, Pecherskyi District Court of Kyiv noted: “there are reasons to believe that the above-mentioned funds wired by a Kian LLC founder to the Free Community Human Rights Foundation’s bank account, which were subsequently used to purchase apartments for prosecutors, constitute an illegal benefit used to acquire real estate.”
And here is another order of the investigating judge within this criminal proceeding:
“Pre-trial investigation found out that on March 29, 2012 PERSON_17, a former Deputy Head of the Land Resources Department in Obukhiv District of Kyiv Region was found guilty by the Kyiv-Sviatoshyn District Court’s sentence in committing crimes under Part 2 of Article 364, Part 2 of Article 366 of the CC of Ukraine, which took form of abusing him his authority, forging, contrary to the interests of service, state titles to land private property, which entailed grave consequences to the interests of the state. According to the sentence, above mentioned Kian LLC is a subject in the criminal case against PERSON_17 with respect to assisting in writing contracts for the sale of land parcels in Kozyn village in Obukhiv District of Kyiv Region, as confirmed by the materials in the criminal case. Taking into account the aforementioned, there are reasons to believe that the above-mentioned funds wired by a Kian LLC founder to the Free Community Human Rights Foundation’s bank account, which were subsequently used to purchase apartments for prosecutors, constitute an illegal benefit used to acquire real estate.”
Well, PERSON_17 is precisely Oleksandr Borysovych Mohylnyi, the former First Deputy Head of the Land Resources Department in Obukhiv District of Kyiv Region.
It would be naïve to wonder whether Sytnyk declared the material assistance received from the “charity fund” established by the prosecutors to collect bribes, and whether he paid taxes on the value of the presented apartment. Moreover, Sytnyk at that time owned an apartment in Kirovohrad of 64 sq.m. registered in his wife’s name, which he sold in 2013. Thus, Sytnyk had every opportunity to arrange his living conditions after moving to Kyiv. For instance, he could sell the apartment in Kirovohrad and use the money to purchase an apartment on the outskirts of the capital. But, Artem Sergiyovych didn’t know then that in a couple of years he would become a foremost fighter against corruption in Ukraine, and thus he was fervently stuffing his pockets under Hardteskyi’s direction.
On October 3, 2018 during the hearings of the Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Preventing and Combating Corruption, the then MP Igor Lutsenko asked the Director of the NABU if it was true that some “charity fund” had presented him with an apartment and whether Sytnyk had paid appropriate taxes. Artem Sergiyovych confirmed all the above facts, but explained that, at the time, he was not the only one to use bribes to purchase apartments, that “this was a widely accepted practice.”
A fair question is how come the Director of the NABU is not yet notified of suspicion of bribery and abuse of authority, if already in May of 2017, the Prosecutor General’s Office initiated a pre-trial investigation of the circumstances of Sytnyk purchasing the apartment with money wired by subjects of the criminal cases under his investigation. Notifying Sytnyk of suspicion in committing a felony is based on findings of the State Audit Service of Ukraine that purchasing apartments for prosecutors of the Office of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region through wiring money by some charity fund to the developer’s account is a gross violation of law. According to the findings:
“no provisions have been made for investing in purchasing apartments for the prosecutors of the Office of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region, and the Fund’s money in the form of donation or voluntary contributions, according to the budgetary law and Law 1789-XII, must have been transferred to the treasury account of the discretionary fund of the Office of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region. As a result, Olefirenko, R.Y. and Sytnyk, A.S., officials of the Office of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region, received UAH 225 000.00 in illegal income each, and the Office of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region incurred UAH 450 000.00 in losses to the discretionary fund in 2008.”
The fact that a professional briber happens to be a head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine became so obvious that Sytnyk’s frenemy Pavlo Demchyna, a First Deputy Head of Security Service of Ukraine, publicly talked about that during press briefings, realizing that Artem Sergiyovych would not rush to the court demanding retractions.
That said, why Sytnyk is still at large and not in a detention facility? The thing is Sytnyk is virtually immune as, according to the laws demanded by professional civil activists and the U.S. Embassy, the Director of the NABU can be notified of suspicion by only one person, a Prosecutor General. Naturally, such a move cannot be expected from Ruslan Riaboshapka, who is Sytnyk’s friend and covers up for all his corruption scams.
But Yuriy Lutsenko, Riaboshapka’s predecessor, also had no intentions of punishing Sytnyk. And the criminal proceeding was registered not to prosecute a briber but to hook him up with some dirt. At least already on a night of April 26, 2018 Sytnyk paid a visit to the then president Poroshenko’s house, and the rumor has it that he tried to convince Petro Oleksiyovych of his loyalty.
But revenons à nos moutons. Meaning let’s get back to Artem Sergiyovych Sytnyk and Roman Yuriyovych Olefirenko, also mentioned in the findings of the State Audit Service of Ukraine, who, along with Sytnyk, received an apartment in a house thanks to a “charitable donation.” Olefirenko is a former prosecutor at the Office of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region, and in 2014-2015 he served as a Brovary Inter-District Prosecutor. He also is a co-founder of the Hardetskyi and Partners law firm, and is currently working there together with Oleksandr Hardetskyi, a former Prosecutor of Kyiv Region.
Besides, Sytnyk and Olefirenko not only purchased apartments in the same house together, but also together illegally obtained land parcels in Bucha near Kyiv. It was, in effect, a bribe from Bucha mayor Anatolii Fedoruk to make the Office of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region turn a blind eye on his land scams. Sytnyk sold this parcel before running for the office of the Director of the NABU.
Note that reporters are baffled that a land parcel next to Sytnyk’s was obtained by a certain Yuliia Olefirenko, his countrywoman from Kirovohrad region. Furthermore, when the Office of the Prosecutor of Kyiv Region subsequently started to appeal the illegal handing out of land parcels, Sytnyk’s and Olefirenko’s parcels did not make it into the lawsuit. As a result, reporters even assumed that this Olefirenko might be just a front, and her land parcel belongs to Sytnyk as well.
In reality, until recently, Yuliia Olefirenko worked at the Prosecutor General’s Office as a Deputy Head of the Extradition Division of the Department for International Legal Cooperation. She is Roman Olefirenko’s wife, and he unsuccessfully ran for the office of the Deputy Head of the Kyiv Department of State Bureau of Investigations. This time he got less lucky than with his apartment and land parcel.
To wrap up the story about real estate achievements of the prominent fighter against corruption selected for the post of the Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine by venerable Ukrainians, I cannot resist the temptation to quote Yuriy Butusov, the national expert in all fields:
“Selecting Sytnyk is significant not because he is a perfect fighter against corruption… It is significant because, for the first time, specific representatives of civil society took responsibility for appointing a head of a state agency.”
What remains to be learned is where this responsibility lies exactly.
10th February, 2020 / By Volodymyr Boiko