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Ukraine's High Anti-Corruption Court announced on June 14 that it has found Mykola Chaus, the ex-judge who once worked at Kyiv’s Dniprovskyi District Court, guilty of accepting a $150,000 bribe back in 2016. He has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The court ruled to confiscate Chaus' property and barred him from taking posts in the judicial system for three years. Chaus denied all accusations of wrongdoing and his lawyers said they will appeal the charges.
Chaus' sentence is the latest chapter in a decade-long series of scandals involving him in various corruption cases spanning three different presidential mandates.
In 2010-2012, Chaus was probed by the High Council of Justice over allegedly unlawful rulings in eight criminal cases, but the council decided not to fire him.
After the 2013-2014 EuroMaidan Revolution, which ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, a special lustration commission and a sub-unit of the High Council of Justice recommended firing Chaus for unlawfully trying EuroMaidan activists. However, the council eventually refused to do so.
Chaus fled to Moldova after being caught by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) taking a $150,000 bribe in 2016 for which he was sentenced. He was put on the list of wanted persons in Ukraine in August 2016 and subsequently on an international list.
Chaus was detained in Moldova in February 2017, where he was largely forgotten until 2021 when he was allegedly detained in Moldova and brought to Ukraine.
According to Moldova’s then-Prosecutor General Alexandru Stoianoglo, Chaus was kidnapped in Moldova by Ukrainian authorities in April 2021 and transported back to Ukraine.
Chaus re-appeared at the village council building in the village of Mazurivka in Vinnytsya Oblast on July 2021. Chaus claimed he had been kidnapped.
“He came here wearing shorts,” Valery Hrunkovsky, head of the village council, told Slidstvo.info. “He was dirty, with a naked torso. He was also hungry, and we fed him.”
Later employees of the Security Service of Ukraine came and took Chaus away.
Yury Butusov, the chief editor of the censor.net news site, said that Chaus had allegedly agreed with the President’s Office that his case would be transferred from the NABU to the SBU in exchange for his cooperation with the President’s Office.
Zelensky’s spokesman Nikiforov denied the President’s Office’s alleged involvement.
The Ukrainian authorities denied the accusations of kidnapping but it became a point of tension between the largely friendly administrations of Ukraine and Moldova.
Top allies of former President Petro Poroshenko, in office from 2014-2019, were allegedly involved in Chaus’ escape from Ukraine in 2016, according to a document from Ukraine’s High Anti-Corruption Court that referred to the Chaus investigation.
Poroshenko is accused of helping Chaus to flee in 2016 to prevent the exposure of his alleged dealings with the judge, while Zelensky is accused of kidnapping Chaus in 2021 to make him testify against Poroshenko and his allies.
Under Poroshenko, anti-corruption activists accused Chaus of being under the control of Poroshenko and his top ally, lawmaker Oleksandr Hranovsky.
“I’ve never seen, heard or called Chaus and never talked to him,” Poroshenko said in 2019. “Fortunately I don’t know him.”
The anti-corruption court document also mentions that Andriy Smyrnov, who is currently a deputy chief of staff for Zelensky, was one of the people who allegedly helped Chaus flee. According to the document, Smyrnov drove Chaus to his hiding place in the Alpine Residential Complex, an expensive apartment complex in Kyiv.
Smyrnov denied the accusations.