Ukraine: Court ruling on law means end for corruption cases

Published 02-27-2019

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MINSK, Belarus (AP) - Ukraine's Constitutional Court has struck down a law against officials enriching themselves, a move that raised concerns Wednesday about a weakening of the country's fight against endemic corruption and ability to get more aid from the International Monetary Fund.

The National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine, the law enforcement agency that prepares corruption cases for prosecution, said the court decision published Wednesday meant criminal proceedings in all the cases detectives were investigating would have to be closed, including "illegal enrichment" investigations of judges and other public officials. The bureau said it had about 65 cases involving a total of about $20 million.

The Constitutional Court said the law was unconstitutional because it violated the presumption-of-innocence principle by obliging suspected officials to prove their assets were legitimate, rather than obliging prosecutors to show assets were obtained through corrupt practices.

The law was introduced in 2015 to meet an International Monetary Fund demand Ukraine needed to meet to receive badly needed loans. The IMF in 2015 authorized $17.5 billion in aid to Ukraine to support reforms.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he would instruct his government to formulate a new draft law on punishing officials for corruption and that it would be submitted to parliament as an urgent priority.

Official corruption is a major issue in Ukraine as it approaches a presidential election on March 31. On Tuesday, one of Poroshenko's top challengers in the race, Yulia Tymoshenko, called for him to be impeached following a media investigation into alleged embezzlement schemes in the country's military industries.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the prosecutor general's office Wednesday to protest corruption, crying "Death to the marauders."

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the prosecutor general's office Wednesday to protest corruption, crying "Death to the marauders."

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FILE - In this file photo dated Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko shows the newly signed Constitutional amendment to joining the EU and NATO in Ukrainian parliament in Kiev, Ukraine. President Petro Poroshenko said he would instruct his government to formulate a new draft law on punishing officials for corruption and that it would be submitted to parliament as an urgent priority. (Mikhail Palinchak, Presidential Press Service Pool Photo via AP, File) - The Associated Press


FILE - In this file photo taken on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during her press conference in Kiev, Ukraine. Official corruption is a major issue in Ukraine as it approaches a presidential election on March 31, and a top challenger for the position, Yulia Tymoshenko, called Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, for the impeachment of President Petro Poroshenko following a media investigation into alleged embezzlement schemes in the country's military industries. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File) - The Associated Press


Volunteers with the right-wing paramilitary Azov National Corps attend a rally in front of the office of the General Prosecutor of Ukraine in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko suspended from office Oleh Hladkovsky, First Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, pending the probe opened following a journalistic investigative report on corruption.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) - The Associated Press


Volunteers with the right-wing paramilitary Azov National Corps brandish flares and hold a banner reading 'Scammers in jail' during a rally in front of the office of the General Prosecutor of Ukraine in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko suspended from office Oleh Hladkovsky, First Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, pending the probe opened following a journalistic investigative report on corruption. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) - The Associated Press