National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine employees leaked information about the investigation into corruption. What is going on?

National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine employees leaked information about the investigation into corruption. What is going on?

Anti-corruption agencies are investigating the leaking of information in corruption cases. According to media and anti-corruption organisations, information from the NABU was leaked in the interests of Yurii Holyk, a consultant to Volodymyr Zelenskyy's Big Construction programme.

What happened?

On May 22, the Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAPO) and the National Police conducted searches at the home of one of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) detectives.

The searches were conducted under Articles 364 (Abuse of power or position) and 387 (Disclosure of data from operational and investigative activities, pre-trial investigation) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. The whistleblower was another NABU employee.

According to the Anti-Corruption Action Centre and newspaper Ukrainska Pravda, Yurii Holyk, an entrepreneur, consultant to Big Construction, and former advisor to former head of the Dnipro Regional State Administration, Valentyn Reznichenko, were interested in this leak of information.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy initiated the government programme Big Construction in March 2020 to build roads and improve transport, educational, social, and sports infrastructure. Corruption scandals have repeatedly emerged around the implementation of the programme.

In the autumn of 2022, journalists of Schemes (RL/RFE) and Ukrainska Pravda revealed in their investigations how the company of Reznichenko's close friend, fitness trainer Yana Khlanta, received UAH 1.5 billion for the repair and maintenance of roads in the Dnipropetrovsk region during the full-scale war.

The NABU and the SAPO launched an investigation after the publication of these articles. In December 2022, detectives conducted searches at Yurii Holyk's place.

During the full-scale war, journalists recorded that Yurii Holyk repeatedly drove through the checkpoint leading to the Office of the President of Ukraine. In particular, in August-September 2023.

The NABU launched a pre-trial investigation into a possible information leak and suspended the First Deputy Director of the NABU, Gizo Uglava, who has been working in the bureau since its launch in 2015.

Why is it important?

After the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine launched anti-corruption reform and created an infrastructure of bodies to prevent, investigate and prosecute corruption.

NABU detectives are the ones who investigate top corruption crimes. The NABU's jurisdiction includes crimes committed by high-ranking officials or those where the amount of the object of the crime or the damage caused by it is 500 times or more than the subsistence level (over UAH 1.5 million as of May 2024).

Information leaks can directly impede the investigation of corruption cases in Ukraine or help those involved to avoid punishment or accountability.

Vitalii Shabunin, head of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre, notes that the fact that the leak was revealed by an NABU employee shows that the bureau has managed to build an institution that works at the grassroots level. At the same time, the fact that SAPO prosecutors and police officers conducted the searches indicates a lack of trust in the NABU's Internal Control Department.

Andrii Borovyk, Executive Director of Transparency International Ukraine, noted that the scandal with the NABU information leak highlighted three pressing issues:

"- Why has Gizo Uglava been suspended now? Is it hard to believe that the investigation and the potential conflict of interest were not known before?

- What is the real position of Semen Kryvonos in this story? This is the first high-profile scandal in the NABU under his leadership, and the position of the director in such a story is extremely important. (Semen Kryvonos has been the director of the NABU since March 2023, he did not comment on the situation with the leak at the time of publication — ed.)

- And what should we do about leaks in general? After all, during these few days, we learned about the information leakage case itself primarily from the same leaks, and the real positions of the authorities emerged much later. This is an unpleasant precedent that indicates the manipulation of information, the lack of transparency of the process itself, and, worst of all, the probably repeated violation of the law by NABU representatives," writes Andrii Borovyk.

On May 24, the NABU and the SAPO issued a joint statement that they had reached a common vision on how to organise further investigation. As of the time of publication, the results have not been announced.