The High Council of Justice, the judiciary’s highest governing body, accepted the resignation of two of the council’s most controversial members on Jan. 20.
The resignation of Oleksiy Malovatsky, acting head of the council, and Pavlo Grechkivsky will take effect on Jan. 26. They face numerous accusations of corruption and other wrongdoing, which they deny.
The council and the two officials did not respond to requests for comment.
The move comes ahead of the expected firing of tainted members of the High Council of Justice by the newly created Ethics Council.
Mykhaylo Zhernakov, head of legal think-tank DEJURE, wrote on Facebook that both Malovatsky and Grechkivsky “were the first in line to be fired by the Ethics Council.”
The High Council of Justice is discredited because its members have been accused of corruption and because it has consistently protected tainted judges.
In November, the Ethics Council was created for hiring and firing members of the High Council of Justice. It comprises both foreign experts and Ukrainian judges. Foreign experts will have a decisive role if the vote is split to guarantee that the process is independent from corrupt actors in Ukraine.
The Ethics Council’s rules of procedure pushed back the assessment of incumbent High Council of Justice members to Feb. 8. Before that, the Ethics Council will assess new candidates for the High Council of Justice.
One of the council members, Grechkivsky, was charged in 2016 with extorting $500,000 for favorable court rulings with the help of Bohdan Lvov, who is now head of the Supreme Court’s commercial cases division. Both of them deny the accusations.
Oleg Shklyar, who was arrested with the money, testified that he had been planning to give it to Grechkivsky. The investigators also released a wiretapped phone conversation in which Grechkivsky instructs Shklyar to give him the bribe. However, in 2018 Grechkivsky was acquitted by a court.
Lawyer Roman Maselko argued that, despite the solid evidence of Grechkivsky’s guilt, the prosecutors had intentionally sabotaged the case by committing procedural violations and failing to catch Grechkivsky red-handed with the bribe.
Grechkivsky is also implicated in the corruption and obstruction of justice cases against Ukraine's most infamous judge Pavlo Vovk. In wiretapped conversations released by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Vovk mentioned the involvement of Grechkivsky and other council members in his alleged corruption schemes. The council members did not respond to requests for comment.
Another council member who resigned, Malovatsky, was delegated by ex-President Petro Poroshenko’s party to the council and worked as a lawyer for Poroshenko in 2014, which prompted accusations of political bias.
Malovatsky was appointed to the High Council of Justice due to vote buying, according to alleged WhatsApp correspondence between fugitive lawmaker Oleksandr Onyshchenko and allies of Poroshenko published by the Slidstvo.info investigative show. Poroshenko and his allies deny the accusations of corruption.
In 2015, Poroshenko’s top ally and lawmaker Igor Kononenko asked Onyshchenko to talk to Batkivshchyna party leader Yulia Tymoshenko about voting for the appointment of Malovatsky to the High Council of Justice in exchange for money, according to the correspondence. Tymoshenko denied the accusations.
In 2019, Grechkivsky and Malovatsky were re-elected to the High Council of Justice for a second term despite the explicit legal ban on a second term.