Thursday, December 8, 2022

Court orders closure of bribery case against top member of Zelensky's administration

by Oleg SukhovJanuary 12, 2022 8:02 pm
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Deputy Chief of Staff Oleh Tatarov speaks with journalists in front of the Anti-Corruption Court on Dec. 24, 2020 in Kyiv. (Serhii Nuzhnenko/ (RFE/RL)

Kyiv’s Shevchenkivsky District Court has ordered prosecutors to close a bribery case against President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Deputy Chief of Staff Oleh Tatarov, according to a ruling published in the official register of court decisions.

The ruling was issued on Dec. 14 but was published by the Anti-Corruption Action Center and Ukrainian media on Jan. 12.

Tatarov has become the symbol of Zelensky's tolerance of corruption in his inner circle. The president has consistently refused to fire or suspend Tatarov.

The case has been obstructed and effectively destroyed by Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, a Zelensky protege; the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), which is led by Zelensky's long-time friend Ivan Bakanov, and Ukraine’s corrupt judiciary.

The Shevchenkivsky District Court argued that the Tatarov case had to be closed because the deadline for investigating it had expired.

In December 2020, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) charged Tatarov with bribing a forensic expert.

However, Venediktova blocked the charges against him by twice replacing the group of prosecutors in charge of the case. She then took the case away from the NABU and gave it to the SBU.

The SBU, which did not respond to a request for comment, has failed to investigate the Tatarov case.

In February the Shevchenkivsky District Court refused to extend the Tatarov investigation, and prosecutors effectively killed it by missing the deadline for sending it to trial.

Venediktova blamed decisions by the Pechersk and Shevchenkivsky district courts for the failure to investigate the case.

However, the nonprofit Anti-Corruption Action Center argues that these courts had no jurisdiction and that Venediktova ignored a ruling by the High Anti-Corruption Court that the case must be investigated by the NABU.

The NABU believes the transfer of the Tatarov case to the SBU was unlawful.

Under Ukrainian law, the Tatarov bribery case falls squarely into the NABU’s jurisdiction. NABU cases cannot be investigated by other law enforcement agencies, and jurisdictional disputes can only be considered by the High Anti-Corruption Court.

Despite all the scandals and toxicity of the Tatarov case, Zelensky believes his deputy chief of staff should keep his job.

“This history with criminal cases (against Tatarov) is over,” Zelensky said at a press conference in November. “I’m not paying attention to this.”

Oleg Sukhov
Oleg Sukhov
Political reporter

Oleg Sukhov is a political reporter at the Kyiv Independent. He is a former editor and reporter at the Moscow Times. He has a master's degree in history from the Moscow State University. He moved to Ukraine in 2014 due to the crackdown on independent media in Russia and covered war, corruption, reforms and law enforcement for the Kyiv Post.

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