Ukraine's Anti-Corruption Infrastructure and Its Fight Against Corruption

March 1, 2023
UkraineWorld spoke to Oleksandr Skomarov, Deputy Head of NABU's Main Department of Detectives.

Key points – in our brief, #UkraineWorldAnalysis: 

1. On the current state of anti-corruption institutions

Ukraine's anti-corruption infrastructure is complete and solid. There are areas for improvement to increase effectiveness and reduce the risks of our work. Today, we rate the work of NABU, the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office, the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, and the High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine (HACC) at a high level.

2. On the successes of NABU investigations

  • There is now a systematic fight against corruption. Anti-corruption infrastructure - like NABU, SAPO, and HACC - fight against criminal corruption. SAPO finally has a leader, and this explains the intensification of investigations. The scope of their work increased greatly in the second half of 2022. For example, in the second half of 2022, NABU detectives and SAPO prosecutors exposed 149 people, which is more than in 12 months of 2021.
  • Investigations in major criminal proceedings were intensified, such as those into the construction of housing for border guards in Lviv and Uzhgorod, a criminal organization in Odesa Oblast, and misconduct in the Asset Investigation and Management Agency (ARMA). The state was also able to return the infamous Mezhyhirya residence to state control and bring criminal proceedings against fugitive ex-President Viktor Yanukovych to court. Corruption has not disappeared during the war.

3. On NABU's help in defending Ukraine

  • NABU helps Ukraine to fight the enemy by identifying Russian assets to be confiscated in the future to compensate for the damages caused by Russia, and to identify persons who are involved in waging the war of aggression against Ukraine. But the overwhelming number of suspects have no relation to the aggressor state. Last year, a Rada deputy was issued with suspicion of treason and illegal enrichment. Soon this investigation will be completed and the materials will be accessible to their defense for consideration.

4. On the ecosystem of anti-corruption organizations

  • NABU has been cooperating with public anti-corruption organizations since its founding. We have a council of public control, which is part of the agency's competition commissions  Disciplinary Commission.
  • We have a large number of investigations which were initiated at the request of public organizations, activists, and journalists. Both foreign law enforcement agencies and anti-corruption organizations provide assistance to NABU in performing its duties through training, international technical assistance, and international investigative teams. 
  • One example of successful work was the joint investigation by NABU and the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau and the District Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw on corruption in Ukravtodor (the state road authority), where the suspect was the former head of the State Road Agency.
  • We are now deepening our work on the development of competencies for tracking transactions using cryptocurrencies. Detectives are being trained to acquire skills in tracking these transactions. The project is supported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the OSCE.
  • Last year NABU launched a system of electronic criminal proceedings with the support of the European Anti-Corruption Initiative, which is designed to transfer pre-trial investigations to a digital format to optimize work.

5. On the required amendments to the law "On the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine"

  • Firstly, it is necessary to increase the number of NABU detectives, analysts, and operational and technical staff by making changes to the law "On the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine," which limits the agency to 700 employees. There is a proposal to expand the number to at least 1,000 people.
  • Secondly, there needs to be an expert institution created at NABU. Conducting examinations through state institutions within the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Internal Affairs takes time. In addition, there is the risk of pressure on experts and leaks of information about the investigation process. 
  • Unfortunately, it is impossible to eradicate corruption completely. No state has succeeded in this. But we have to fight corruption, which is what we are doing.
Oleksandr Skomarov, Deputy Head of NABU's Main Department of Detectives

This material was prepared with financial support from the International Renaissance Foundation.