Almost 3 million dollars in bribes: what did the investigation say about the corrupt "back office" of the Supreme Court, and what awaits its President?

Читату українською.

Yesterday NABU and SAPO announced that they had uncovered a large-scale corruption scheme involving the Supreme Court. The mass media reported that it considers receiving a bribe of approximately 3 million dollars by the President of the Supreme Court, Vsevolod Kniazev. Most likely, it is about the case regarding the recognition of the legality of the acquisition of a stake in the Poltava mining plant in 2002 by the Ferrexpo company, which is co-owned by Kostiantyn Zhevaho.

Today, at the briefing of the heads of anti-corruption bodies, the following information from the investigation became known:
  • The investigation has been ongoing since the beginning of this year. According to NABU and SAPO, a criminal group, the so-called back office, was created with the involvement of judges and the leadership of the Supreme Court. This "back office" used the law firm to cover up its activities.
  • Unlawful benefit in the mentioned case for making a decision consisted of two "tranches".
  • This criminal group influenced the decision not only of the Supreme Court in the mentioned case but also of most courts of Ukraine. NABU and SAPO are checking information about the impact on other cases.
  • So far, none of the participants have received notice of suspicion. However, two suspects have already been detained, including the President of the Supreme Court, Vsevolod Kniazev.
  • Preliminary qualification of the actions of the participants — Part 4 of Art. 368 (acceptance of an offer, promise or receipt of an unlawful benefit by an official) and Part 4 of Art. 369 (offer, promise or giving an illegal benefit to an official) of the Criminal Code.
  • Members of the criminal group also tried to influence the competition for the HQCJ (we will provide more information in the next publication).

What awaits the President of the Supreme Court next?

Vsevolod Kniazev, apart from being a judge of the Supreme Court, also holds the administrative position of the President of the Court, which also determines his membership in the High Council of Justice (according to the law, the President of the Supreme Court is an ex-officio member of the HCJ). Each of these statuses has a different deprivation procedure.

As the President of the Supreme Court:
  • The Plenum of the Supreme Court, a collegial body that includes all judges, can dismiss the President from his administrative position.
  • Early dismissal from office can be done through a vote of no-confidence by the Plenum. Today, during an extraordinary meeting of the Plenum, the chairman announced that a group of judges had initiated the start of no-confidence motion. The collection of judges' signatures is currently underway.
  • The majority of the members of the Plenum must pass a vote of no-confidence by means of a secret vote, which is formalised by a resolution of the Plenum of the Supreme Court.
  • In the event of the dismissal of Kniazev from the position of the President, administrative powers will be exercised by the deputy, and if he is not available, then by the judge with the longest experience in the Supreme Court.
  • After the decision, the Plenum will have to elect a new President of the Supreme Court within a month.

As a member of the High Council of Justice:
  • Together with the dismissal from the position of the President of the Supreme Court, Kniazev will also lose his seat in the High Council of Justice since his membership is determined by the position itself.
  • A deputy or other judge who will perform his administrative functions will not automatically become a member of the HCJ. Membership in the HCJ will be held by the next elected President of the Supreme Court.

As a judge of the Supreme Court:
  • Despite the possible loss of the position of the President of the Supreme Court and a member of the HCJ, Vsevolod Kniazev will remain a judge.
  • If he receives a notice of suspicion, Kniazev can be temporarily removed from the administration of justice. Then the Prosecutor General or his deputy will be able to request a temporary suspension, and the Prosecutor General's Office will be obliged to consider it immediately.
  • It will be possible to deprive Kniazev of the status of a judge on the same grounds as for other judges specified in the Constitution of Ukraine.

What awaits the other judges involved in the case?

A similar procedure. Permission for the arrest and detention by the High Council of Justice, suspension from the administration of justice by the HCJ, and possible dismissal or termination of powers on the grounds specified by the Constitution of Ukraine.

The NABU and SAPO briefing itself is available here.
A broadcast of the extraordinary meeting of the Plenum is available here.