A loud corruption scandal has exploded in Ukraine, involving a group of judges from one of the country’s main courts, the Kyiv District Administrative Court.

According to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, several main figures in a case have already been notified of the suspicions. In particular, we are talking about the Head of Kyiv District Administrative Court Pavlo Vovk, his deputy, and five judges of this Court, as well as the Head of the State Judicial Administration of Ukraine.

According to the investigation, the suspects (a total of 12 people) acted as a criminal organization ruled by the Head of the Court. Their goal was to seize state power by establishing control over the High Qualifications Commission of Judges of Ukraine, the High Council of Justice, and to create artificial obstacles to the work of these agencies.

“In fact, this organisation made custom decisions in its own interests, as well as in the interests of political elites and business circles. In particular, for this purpose the Head of Kyiv District Administrative Court used the scheme of filing artificial, contrived, administrative lawsuits from fictitious public organizations or individuals to his own Court with their subsequent “ultra-fast” consideration and with a predetermined result,” it is stated.

Detectives of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine released part of the recordings of conversations. In particular, they recorded how judges created a plan for a third party to file a lawsuit in order to forbid civil servants traveling abroad after the 2019 presidential election.

NABU reported that in this way Vovk wanted to demonstrate his power and capabilities of the Court, to intimidate and take revenge on former high-ranking officials.

“In exchange for illicit gain (money, intangible benefits or political influence), the Head of the Kyiv District Administrative Court gave relevant instructions to subordinate judges. In case of disobedience, the Head of the Court pressured, threatened and could even send a complaint against the judge to the High Council of Justice through fictitious persons or organise an inspection of the judge’s declaration in the NAPC,” the published materials say.

Investigators found that both the Head of the Kyiv District Administrative Court and members of his group and their close relatives own expensive assets and do not live in compliance with the official income.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau also noted that detectives are currently investigating the workplace and residence of the criminal group members. It is also reported that officials of the judiciary, the High Council of Justice, the State Judicial Administration of Ukraine, people’s deputies of Ukraine, heads of central state authorities and law enforcement agencies are involved in these proceedings.

In accordance with the requirements of the law, Kyiv District Administrative Court has special powers to consider all cases on lawsuits to the central authorities located in the capital of Ukraine.

This court instance is known for many scandalous decisions, which concerned a number of high-profile cases. In particular, the removal of Acting Minister of Health Care Ulana Suprun; illegal actions of the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine Artem Sytnyk; the cases of former deputy Serhiy Leshchenko regarding the disclosure of information about Paul Manafort; cancellation of the decision on “Privatbank” nationalization; consideration of the case on the abolition of food reform in the Armed Forces of Ukraine; renaming of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; concerning the “absence of evidence about the existence of a coalition” in Ukraine’s Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) of the last convocation, etc.

Commenting on the announcement of suspicion to the judges, journalist Yuriy Butusov remarked: “The Kyiv District Administrative Court has become a stock exchange under Vovk’s leadership. Therefore, the actions of NABU, in this case, deserve maximum support. It will be seen if the High Council of Justice and the Anti-Corruption Court dare to hit their colleagues – in particular, the unsinkable Vovk, an extremely rich man. This is a significant political event, we will closely monitor the further situation.”

It should be noted that Judge Vovk has repeatedly come under the scrutiny of investigative journalists, but so far, he has managed to avoid criminal liability and remain in his place.

Bohdan Marusyak

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