One of the enduring intrigues for Soviet, post-Soviet and KGB/Security Services watchers with regard to Russia remains that of the “Chyornaya Kassa” (Black Cashbox) run by ex-KGB/secret service officers that has its origins in the late Soviet period.
The purpose of this considerable fund, which has long been reported to have been in existence, is to bribe officials, launder cash and sponsor projects of interest. For example, Zhirinovskii’s LDPR, like Barkashov’s RNYe and Sterligov’s Russkoye Narodnoye Sobor (Russian National Assembly) were all reported to have been recipients of funding via the so-called ‘chyornaya kassa’ when the KGB were creating the facade of a “democratic” Russia prior to, and immediately following, the collapse of the USSR.
It should therefore come as little surprise that the Party of Regions apparently also had a “Chyornaya Kassa” with the same purpose of bribing officials, laundering cash and sponsoring projects of interest, etc.
Documentation regarding that Party of Regions “chyornaya kasse” has now seemingly found its way to NABU, the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau.
— Nikolai Holmov (@OdessaBlogger) May 28, 2016
Of course there will be much speculation as to the contents of what appears to be records of thousands of transactions, signatures, stamps and seals relating to hundreds of officials past and present.
Former Chief of the “K” Department of the Ukrainian SBU General Victor Trepakov, (quietly relieved from his post by Presidential Decree on the same day the new Cabinet was anointed) who handed these documents to the Director of NABU Artem Sitnic, stated “Much of this material – a”ledger” of corrupt payments that are systematically carried out at the expense of a “common fund”, “black cash” by the Party of Regions.
For the first time in the field of law enforcement there is an array of materials on not one or more crimes, but long-term systemic corruption activities of an organized structure which operated on the basis of a certain political party and was aimed at the unlawful seizure of power and its misuse. And most importantly – has reached this goal!
We are talking about corruption activities of the most dangerous kind – political corruption with hundreds, I emphasize hundreds of subjects, including dozens of officials of the highest level. In most cases the materials contain substantive information about who, when and how the crime was committed. Besides that all are unique incidents, they allow a holistic view of the big picture of criminal activity – with its organizers, executors, intermediaries, means of implementation, the results.”
Undoubtedly those names will not simply be limited ex-Party of Regions names, nor their implanted functionaries in State institutions. They will also include the members of the judiciary, prosecutors, political “grey cardinals”, leaders of State institutions (like election commissions), a sprinkling of foreign officials, and many “Old Guard” personalities across political party lines – regardless of their party.
Apparently the fund was about $2 billion – in cash – notwithstanding any business property “flipping” documentation, share transfers etc.
All potentially dangerous and inflammatory stuff.
Thus whilst the contents of these documents will be subject to much speculation – notwithstanding months and probably years of NABU investigation (depending upon the ease of investigating any particular incident) – there are equally interesting questions about the collection, collation and delivery of this chyornaya kasse to the Director of the NABU.
Leaving aside the authenticity of the documents which cover thousands of transactions over a period of years (requiring some dedication to fake – but doable nonetheless), there can be only a very few select number of people that were trusted to keep the books of the Party of Regions illicit Chyornaya Kassa.
Who then collected and collated this information and acted as the PoR Chyornaya Kassa “accountant” or “accountants”?
Are they still in Ukraine, have they fled, have they since died and if so under what circumstances? (There have been a number of “suicides” of Yanukovych functionaries in the immediate aftermath of his fleeing – particularly among those ever connected with the State Property Fund.)
If the possessor of this Chyornaya Kassa is one of the perhaps only a few “accountants”, there is enormous personal risk in passing on this original documentation – as there is for Mr Trepakov having seen it and passed it to NABU.
If not an “accountant” for the Chyornaya Kassa, how were these documents obtained? Were they left behind in panic by a fleeing Yanukovych regime functionary, subsequently seized and deliberately kept from an evidence chain in a search and seizure register? If so by who – and why?
Did this individual copy these documents prior to handing them to Victor Trepakov? Has Victor Trepakov copied them prior to handing them to the Director of NABU? Are there other copies circulating among the former PoR members? Who else may have a copy?
What was the purpose of making copies? As a guarantee/personal insurance policy that should anything happen to these relevant individuals the documents would make their way to the media? If so where are the copies lodged? Who to trust, and equally burden (for it is a burden), with such a role?
Have copies of these documents made their way to other, perhaps foreign security services? To what end? To create a back-up of sealed indictments in case of inaction or ineffective investigation by NABU against certain individuals to prevent certain future actions on their part?
If there are foreign personalities involved, are those relevant documents to be shared with those nations – and when?
Why was Mr Trepakov chosen as the intermediary between possessor/owner/keeper of the PoR Chyornaya Kassa and NABU? Is there a personal relationship between informer and intermediary? Let us be frank, a former Chief of the “K” Department with the Ukrainian SBU is not without significant connections and previous informant handler and informant controller history/experience.
Why did Mr Trepakov agree to become the intermediary having been so recently removed from the SBU institutional structure – quietly?
Is he really the intermediary or the original finder/keeper of these documents from searches past?
In short, what are the motivations of both the individual that passed the information and that of the intermediary? It is a question that any and every investigator would ask – for they are questions asked when registering and dealing with any informant and the information they subsequently provide. Not all informants are informants for cash reward – there are other (and perhaps more dangerous) motivators.
It may very well be that both parties are acting out of a sense of patriotism and a dedication to force change in the system via the prevalence of the rule of law. It may very well be that no aspersions should be cast upon their characters. Nevertheless, such very basic questions should be asked by investigators – and those who have taken part in supplying this information to the authorities undoubtedly expect those questions to be asked.
There are questions to be asked over timing. Clearly the PoR Chyornaya Kassa (if genuine) has not just appeared from nowhere. Somebody has kept it, knowing it to be what it is, for quite some time. Thus why now has it come to light and been given to the authorities?
Is it that previously there was doubt as to the ability of NABU to stay clear of political interference?
Is it that previously there simply was no NABU?
Is it that Yuri Lutsenko is seen as the first Prosecutor General who is not able to strong-arm the NABU or radically change its structure? Were previous PGs deemed too strong vis a vis NABU? Is it that the previous PGs are all named in the PoR Chyornaya Kassa and that the current PG isn’t? Perhaps it is felt that Mr Lutsenko is far more “controllable” or “influenced” by the West than previous incumbents and therefore that NABU will be able to work unhindered? That all seems rather doubtful considering that political names across party lines and within State institutions are certain to be sullied by illicit deals within any genuine PoR Chyornaya Kassa.
If that be so, the reason for such timing now is what?
Is it to effect a challenge to the existing system that has far more potential to up end it than that of the Panama Papers or media chatter. The feeling of those involved in producing such documentation therefore being that this has to be done now before the “bad old ways” become solidly set once again?
Had the document “keeper” has suddenly become “under pressure” or be slighted in some way, and this is a method of repulsion or revenge?
Wisely no names nor specifics have been placed within the public domain with regard to contents – for now. To do so would firstly invalidate the “insurance” any copies would have for those promoting the existence of this chyornaya kassa, and secondly could very well impede subsequent investigations by NABU. However, on the presumption that such “insurance” exists by way of copies taken by those that have had possession of the PoR Chyornaya Kassa documentation, it is perhaps also only a matter of time before things (almost inevitably) leak.
Whatever is to come, on the presumption that the PoR Chyornaya Kassa is genuine and is investigated thoroughly, then it will make the Panama Papers and almost all previous scandals (perhaps less Lazarenko) seem like a non-event (which generally it has proven to be in Ukraine).
How to investigate such a large and incriminating document both holistically and by way of individual illicit acts will be a matter for NABU – but there must surely be some cases that can be properly and responsibly investigated and brought to trial before the year end – whilst others will quite literally take years to complete.
It will be interesting to watch this story develop!