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Ukraine and Poland’s Largest Anti-Corruption Investigation

Slavomir Novak

The case of the former Ukravtodor’s Head Slawomir Nowak, detained by a Polish court last week, was added with new details, Ukrainian News agency reports.

To recap, the detention took place as part of an international operation by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine (SAP) and the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau of Poland (CBA). Slawomir Nowak is suspected of money laundering, extortion and obtaining property and personal benefits in exchange for providing private companies with contracts for the construction and repair of roads in Ukraine. The Polish prosecutor’s office proved the fact that he received 1.3 million zlotys (almost 300,000 euros) as a result of corruption schemes.

Ukrainian and Polish investigators continue identifying and seizing assets, making clear the fact that it is too early to put an end to this story. Everything says that law enforcement officers of both countries focus not so much on Novak’s persona as on the documentation of road construction and repair contracts during the period of the Polish top manager heading “Ukravtodor” (2016-2019).

According to the NABU Director Artem Sytnyk, as of now, the amount of tenders being worked out as part of the investigation is 270 million euros.

The investigation examines an unprecedented number of suspects. According to Artem Sytnyk, four people have already been prosecuted. The SAP press service clarified that five people are currently involved in the corruption and money laundering investigation.

“The case reported the suspicion of five people, namely the acting ‘Ukravtodor’ chairman, two Polish citizens, a foreign citizen – a representative of one of the companies, which participated in the ‘Ukravtodor’s’ tenders, and a Ukrainian citizen – a former adviser to the ‘Ukravtodor’ head. The work of the joint investigative group continues, other possible episodes of criminal activity on the territory of Ukraine, the Republic of Poland and other countries are under investigation,” the SAP said in its statement.

According to the NABU, within the case of the “Ukravtodor” former Head Slawomir Nowak, 50 searches have already been conducted in Kyiv, Lviv and Poland. The searches are held in the offices of “Ukravtodor” and companies that participated in the state company tenders. The investigation pays special attention to the latter case, i.e. the bribes received by “Ukravtodor” management from large contractors’ representatives.

“The main problem with the situation around ‘Ukravtodor’ is that the road construction market in Ukraine is currently divided between two companies. They are ‘Avtomagistral-Pivden’ (Ukraine) and ‘Onur Group’ (Turkey). In fact, these two companies control the adoption of all important decisions on tenders related to ‘Ukravtodor,'” a source close to the investigation says. “Market participants that are not related to these two companies were not let to participate in tenders at all or allowed to act as formal participants.”  Also, among the defendants in the case are “Altcom” (Ukraine) and ECM Group (Poland) companies, according to journalist Yuriy Butusov.

The mentioned foreigner, who received the notice of suspicion, is “Onur Group Ukraine” general coordinator Emre Karaahmetoglu, “Obozrevatel” clarifies. The suspect of committing a corruption offence was handed over to the defendant during the investigation in Lviv, the NABU said. The agency also released a photo of the handover of the notice of suspicion procedure.

The businessman and related companies from “Onur Group” are suspected of large-scale corruption schemes at tenders for road repairs. The same applies to other large companies among the “Ukravtodor” contractors.

“Onur Group Ukraine” has confirmed the searches by law enforcement agencies in a criminal case on the activities of “Ukravtodor” former Head Slawomir Nowak. This was reported in the company’s press service with the simultaneous promise to provide more detailed information after the investigation.

“‘Onur Group Ukraine” will facilitate the investigation on the activities of the ‘Ukravtodor’ former head and provide the full access to the information that would aid the investigation with the participation of the NABU, the SAP and the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau of Poland,” the statement said.

A lawyer, Oleksandr Plakhotnik, clarifies that the bribery is punished with liberty restriction from two to five years. If the crime is repeated, a guilty person will face up to eight years in prison. “If the fact of a bribe giving is really proved, it is an issue of criminal liability. Of course, the responsible persons of the companies will be punished for this,” Plakhotnyk said.

According to Prozorro, “Onur Group” companies have received orders for UAH 37.6 billion from the budget since 2017. “This is a huge amount even by the standards of an international company. The Turkish company was established in Ukraine in 2004. One of the owners of the subsidiary in Kyiv is Oleg Farion from Lviv,” the “Obozrevatel” writes.

According to the publication, several scandals have not prevented companies with Turkish roots from regularly receiving tenders across the country – in Odesa, Lviv, and Kyiv. Thus, in 2017, the National Police suspected “Onur” of poor repairs to Peremohy Avenue and several other highways in Kyiv. According to the investigation, “Onur Group Ukraine” was suspected of participating in a scheme of construction work cost overrun.

“Onur Group Ukraine” management categorically denies all the accusations, considering them far-fetched and politically motivated.

“I deny any suspicions about me and the company and declare that they are unfounded. We are open to co-operating with the investigation and will do our best to get the case to court sooner, to identify and fairly punish the culprits, to remove any suspicions from me and the company,” Emre Karaahmetoglu said.

Meanwhile, several “Ukravtodor” employees stated their readiness to cooperate with law enforcement and provide the investigation with as much new information as possible.

“Now, the SAP and the NABU investigate the seized documents during the searches in ‘Ukravtodor.’ Meanwhile, after the court decision, a few people, including civil officers, were informed about the abuses in the State Agency, have already expressed readiness to cooperate with the investigation and provide the information about corruption at ‘Ukravtodor,'” the SAP confirmed.

And, as one can assume, a lot of the further development in the “Novak case” will depend on the mentioned “Ukravtodor” employees’ pieces of evidence.

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