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The Party of Regions “Chyornaya Kassa”

May 29, 2016

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.

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.

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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!

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101.4 FM – Radio Ukraine (UR-1) for Crimea

May 27, 2016

Some 27 months after the illegal occupation and subsequent annexation of Crimea by The Kremlin, it appears Ukraine has finally got around to creating UR-1, a radio station broadcasting from Kherson Oblast into Crimea on 101.4 FM.

Apparently the signal is strong in Krasnoperekopsk and Dzhankoy, but to carry this and TV signals across the entire peninsula a new mast and transmitter will be erected – somewhere in the Genichesk rayon of Kherson – at some point.

Several basic questions are therefore raised.

Why has it taken 2 years to bring into being a Ukrainian radio station intended to broadcast specifically into Crimea – and even today, the day after its launch, a radio station that does not have the transmission ability to cover the entire peninsula?

When will the new transmission tower and equipment be erected to cover the entirety of the peninsula?

How long before 101.4 FM is blocked or the signal significantly disrupted by the Russians?

How long will it take for the Ukrainian authorities to then licence another frequency for the Russians to then have to block or significantly disrupt that frequency too (ad infinitum)?  And so it (theoretically) goes on – and on.

There will be those asking whether Ukraine should have been blocking (or attempting to block) the previously licenced frequencies of now “occupation radio stations” in Crimea currently de facto operating outside of its broadcasting legislation, yet within its internationally recognised borders.  What gains, if any, would there be in doing so?

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Would it have been better – even if meaning further delays – in erecting the broadcasting infrastructure capable of covering the entire peninsula prior to going “on air”?

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Ukrainian folklore and the Batkivshchyna kitchen

May 26, 2016

The 25th May, upon the anniversary of President Poroshenko’s winning the highest office in Ukraine, saw the less than timely release of Nadiya Savchenko from Russian captivity and return to Ukrainian soil.

Hurrah and huzzah!

May Nadiya and her family enjoy their future – whatever it may bring – together.

May this event, and the high profile prisoner exchange of which Nadiya was a part, be the start of further releases of those detained that are clearly politically motivated prisoners – for to be blunt none are particularly valuable chess pieces in the wider game, and the release of all those detained that are held with distinctly political overtones is not going to weaken the positions of those detaining them significantly – if at all.

Clearly there should be words of appreciation for those that spent many months facilitating the release/exchange of Ms Savchenko.  There is yet more work to do for those that remained wrongfully detained.

Politically, there is no denying that there will be many a keen ear awaiting the first Verkhovna Rada address of Ms Savchenko to her feckless peers – for there are none within that theatre of the absurd that have surrendered 2 years of their lives in a Russian prison for their nation – in fact the vast majority in that legislative asylum have done very little for Ukraine during the time of Ms Savchenko’s incarceration.  It is to be hoped that her first speech in the Verkhovna Rada is a very blunt, passionate and barbed occasion with the single aim of making the feckless wonders present squirm – both in the Verkhovna Rada session hall and in the media thereafter.

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This brings about Ms Savchenko’s place within the Verkhovna Rada as the Number 1 name upon Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party list.  Ukrainian folklore would have it that two housewives cannot exist in one kitchen (paraphrased and used at the risk of appearing wrongfully misogynistic).

Any regular reader will know that Batkivshchyna is nothing more than a vehicle for Yulia Tymoshenko.  It has but a single purpose, and that is to elevate Ms Tymoshenko and propel her to political glory.  Ms Tymoshenko controls the party – the party has absolutely no control over Ms Tymoshenko – sadly.  (Not that Batkivshchyna are alone in this democratic deficit.)

As such Batkivshchyna as a political party has only room for one woman in the party kitchen – Yulia Tymoshenko.

The arrival of Nadiya Savchenko with a huge amount of personal political capital with the public, and a personality that will simply not bend to the will of Yulia Tymoshenko is going to cause problems.

It was of course Ms Tymoshenko’s populist DNA that placed Nadiya Savchenko as Number 1 on her party list at the last Verkhovna Rada elections – perhaps a clever vote winning move if there is little expectation of Ms Savchenko ever taking her Verkhovna Rada seat when writing the party list n- not at all clever should events conspire that she would.

However, to employ the phrase attributed to Harold MacMillan when allegedly asked what he feared most in politics – “Events dear boy, events”.  Ms Tymoshenko’s populist nonsense now has the potential – and probability – of becoming an “event” that she will look back on ruefully in the months ahead.

It seems extremely unlikely that Ms Savchenko will play ball and follow the required unquestioning party worship of the leader, or indeed consistently vote the party line.  A contented second fiddle to a very poor Tymoshenko lead violin she will not be.

In short, however uncomfortable and irked Block Poroshenko and Solidarity may often feel with Messrs Nayem and Leshchenko being particularly barbed and consistent thorns in its side, Ms Tymoshenko is almost inevitably about to receive the same treatment from a no-nonsense Nadiya Savchenko – and it is not before time somebody within Batkivshchyna called out Ms Tymoshenko for her nonsense.

No differently from Block Poroshenko with Messrs Nayem and Leshchenko, Ms Tymoshenko simply cannot eject Ms Savchenko from the party without significant constituency implications due to the societal backing she has – no matter how difficult she will make life for Ms Tymoshenko by keeping her in the fold.

Further Ms Savchenko cannot simply leave the Batkivshchyna Party and hope to remain in the Verkhovna Rada as an independent lest the same fate as Messrs Firsov and Tomenko awaits her (Article 81 of the Constitution of Ukraine).

With the Article 81 precedent now set, the only way out of Batkivshchyna for Ms Savchenko, is by request of either party, and would require an understanding that Article 81 was not applied by Batkivshchyna if she is to remain a parliamentarian.

A reader may ponder, regardless of how much pain and difficulty Ms Savchenko may/will cause Ms Tymoshenko in the weeks and months ahead with undoubtedly candid and terse commentary, whether Ms Tymoshenko would actually remove Ukraine’s latest and best known heroine from her political ranks having previously made much from the populist decision to put Ms Savchenko as Number 1 on the party list.

However, what would be the societal perception if Ms Savchenko were allowed to leave Ms Tymoshenko’s party by her own request – with an Article 81 waver – and act as an independent or perhaps join another party in parliament?  How would that effect the Tymoshenko ratings and her on-going electioneering?

There seem to be no particularly good political options for Ms Tymoshenko when to comes to Ms Savchenko, and as has been written at this blog innumerable times, you either work for Ms Tymsohenko, or you work against Ms Tymoshenko.  Ms Tymoshenko does not do “work with”.  Thus the Batkivshchyna kitchen is simply not going to be big enough for these two Ukrainian women.

Whilst it is clear that Ms Savchenko will continue to work for the release of other prisoners incarcerated due to political expediency, and no doubt she will actively employ her Ukrainian PACE delegation position to that end, Ms Savchenko is not going to be missing that many Verkhovna Rada sessions.

Time will tell whether heroines should remain heroines, or if in time they become tarnished by politics, but in the immediate future, as tweeted upon receipt of the splendid news of Nadiya Savchenko’s release:

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Demographic voter bases (The Saakashvili target) – Ukraine

May 24, 2016

As stated in an entry some months ago when there was some doubt over the formation of a new Cabinet of Ministers materialising, Ms Tymoshenko and the political vehicle the serves her (Batkivshchyna) had already begun electioneering – with her trademark usual populist nonsense and Robert Mugabe-esque economics naturally to the fore.

That pre-election electioneering has not stopped – quite the opposite, it seems to be gathering momentum.

A reader may ponder just how such flapdoodle is financed – and will continue to be financed for months ahead – considering the amount of prime media time she is commanding (compared to others).

(A reader may also cynically ponder as to just why the media still bows to her ego and accepts her prerequisites that former investigative journalists turned MPs such as Sergei Leshchenko must have left any television studio prior to her arrival and subsequent populist monologue.)

Ms Tymoshenko is clearly aiming to gather in the pensioner vote (in the absence of the Communist Party and now defunct Party of Regions) and the agrarian vote too, in an effort to add them to her traditional and fairly solid 13% of the constituency.  (Somebody has to try and win over the old Communist voter base, so why not Ms Tymoshenko, and why not start now?)

Whilst President Poroshenko continues to broadcast the actions of Russia, as indeed he should for Russia will remain a significant threat (through its various measures) to Ukraine far, far into the future, the domestic constituency sees reform as the most necessary and top ranking issue facing Ukraine – and quite rightly.

The net result is that President Poroshenko, now perceived to control the Prime Minister and Prosecutor General (how long before the Interior Minister is replaced by a Poroshenko man?) is fully responsible for all progress and ills of the nation domestically (as well as internationally) despite constitutional responsibilities.  Thus only reforms will save President Poroshenko at the ballot box – regardless of how much he may prefer to orate of the dastardly and illegal deeds of The Kremlin.

Likewise only reforms will save his prodigy as Prime Minister and (latest) chosen man to head the PGO – and it is these people that face a far immediate and difficult political horizon when it comes to early national ballots and securing sections of the demographic voter base as a foundation.

It is perhaps interesting therefore to note the comments of Davit Sakvarelidze of 24th May in Kharkiv – for they indicate the voter base demographic that any new Saakashvili associated and/or led, party will be targeting – that of the Ukrainian SME.

It is not a demographic that will easily take to the populist nonsense of Ms Tymoshenko, nor will it feel represented by the remnants of Party Regions under the various flags these parliamentarians will be flying, for historically they are associated with big business and the oligarchy.

Samopomich still remains too provincial to capture the imagination of SMEs nationally, the Radicals have nothing to offer by way of competent policy, and thus far the Poroshenko (and to be annihilated at the next election) People’s Front coalition are perceived to have completely failed SMEs – even to the point of not providing the most basic of idiots guide to the newly opened EU market via the DCFTA..

SMEs therefore would appear to be fertile ground for a new party – and a new party supported by and/or led by Misha Saakashvili there will be in preparation for the inevitable early Verkhovna Rada elections.

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It seems hardly a difficult matter to create a party manifesto based upon repealing so much legislative and bureaucratic codswallop that currently suppresses and thwarts SMEs and entrepreneurs in Ukraine – even if that is all that is in a party manifesto.

Indeed any manifesto that promises nothing other than repealing current legislative nonsense may prove to be far more popular than the usual populist promises of quick (and unachievable) fixes based upon Zambian economic theory, or providing subsidies far beyond anything responsible governance would allow.

As is often the case with policy, legislation, and governance, less is more – so why not in a party manifesto?

The target for any new Saakashvili supported and/or led party would be (realistically) to achieve approximately 20% of the national vote – for no other party seems likely to reach 20% of the national vote.  That would leave them in a solid position for coalition building – or opposition.  (To be blunt it seems unlikely that any party will pass the 20% mark at the time of writing, and the last polls seen by the blog had a Misha Saakashvili anointed political entity currently only half way to that 20% nationally – prior to identifying a target demographic.)

The question to be asked therefore, now that the demographic of SMEs has been identified by Mr Sakvarelidze as the target for any Saakashvili blessed political entity, is how any such political party will frame what it will do for this vital section of the society/economy.

A humble suggestion would be to work on the “less is more” principle, publicly and repeatedly identifying what obstacles and legislation will be removed and repealed to ease the SME burden – that and to begin an education programme posthaste for SMEs regarding how to achieve market entrance to the EU as a preparatory electioneering act – which would be far more useful when it comes to potential voter traction than any voter listening to a prime time monologue delivered by Ms Tymoshenko.

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Colonel (Retired) Glen Grant damning (rightly) Ukrainian military command

May 22, 2016

Rarely does this blog simply post a YouTube interview without accompanying paragraphs of prose raising questions over the content.

However, there are no hairs to split, and nothing to quibble about in this interview – a truly damning statement with regard to the Ukrainian military command and the complete and continuing ignorance of those running it with regard to two years (and counting) of solid advice, in particular pertaining to the drafting system, and by extension the training of front line troops casualties from which continue on a daily basis.

Serious questions for President Poroshenko, Oleksandr Turchynov, Stepan Poltorak and Viktor Muzhenko to answer regarding their failure to change the system despite the advice given –  Questions that should be answered very quickly if asking for external tried and tested advice, to then systemically ignore it.

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EU4Business Programme – Ukraine

May 20, 2016

In April 2014 an entry appeared highlighting the absence of preparation for the implementation of the as then unsigned (let alone ratified) Association Agreement/DCFTA between the EU and Ukraine as far as the Ukrainians were concerned.

A year later in February 2015, post-signing (and ratification) of the agreement, the issue was revisited noting the continuing lack of information to SMEs in particular when it came to compliance with EU standards and assistance with EU market entry.

Both entries contained the following – “For those that are looking westward and desire greater integration, it is surely time to show just how attainable that actually is – in practical and tangible everyday ways.

One example was that of trade and Ukrainian products that already meet EU standards.

Somewhere between 20 – 30% of Ukrainian products already meet, and another 10% or so with simple changes to things like packaging, would meet, EU standards (not to mention ISOs).

Thus EU standards are not only achievable but have already been achieved by certain producers big and small across several market sectors – and yet nobody has produced a consolidated list that publicises what has already been achieved and is easily identifiable to a Ukrainian public that also buys those products.

Why not?

Would it not show quite clearly that European integration is not a pipe dream, but is something not only achievable, it is actually underway in practical and tangible terms?

Is it not an easy public relations win, psychologically fortifying for the believers, irrefutable for the detractors, and also cheap to do?

Considering the tens of thousands of spam commercial comments this blog gets advertising all and sundry each and every year – why, in all the years it has been running, has there never once been a comment offering/advertising a method of attaining EU standards?

Is there a campaign or programme to help Ukrainian businesses over the compliance line? 

If it is policy to talk the talk in an effort to make Ukraine walk the walk – why is it that those that can be held up as examples of success with regard European integration/standardisation aren’t?

As of the time of writing, more than 2 years since the initial entry, and almost 6 months after the Association Agreement/DCFTA became operational, access to such information, actual assistance in compliance and market entry is still, to be entirely blunt, nothing short of woeful for Ukrainian SMEs.

Undoubtedly that information is “out there” for those Ukrainian SMEs prepared to spend a lot of effort finding it – and a lot of time then trying to understand it.  What does the “New European Approach” mean?  Is it a way of making EU regulation flexible toward innovation, and if so, how?.  How to create “conformity declarations”?  When to involve an EU “Notified Body”?  Where to find an EU “Notified Body” if and when they were required?  What exactly are“Assumptions of conformity” and liabilities if products fail?

Who has the primary responsibility in clarifying such issues (and many others) for the bewildered Ukrainian SME?  Does the Ukrainian government have primary responsibility?  Does the EU have at the very least a requirement of goodwill, if not some responsibility, to effectively communicate what needs to be done for those searching for, and reaching out for, that needed assistance for EU standards compliance and market entry assistance?

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Lo it has come to pass, almost 6 months since the DCFTA became operational, and more than 2 years since this blog raised such basic preparatory questions, that the Ukrainian Government, EU and EBRD signed an agreement whereby the EU and EBRD will provide approximately EUR 28 million for business advice, information, educational and other support to SMEs in Ukraine under EU4Business program.

“The purpose of EU4Business initiative, to support creating jobs in Ukrainian business by developing small and medium-sized enterprises, new skills, and support their plans for the biggest neighboring market exports, ie EU common market with over 500 million consumers.  We combine efforts with our long-term partner the EBRD in order to significantly increase our support for small business in Ukraine and to help various companies to use the opportunities that emerged as a result of the creation of the DCFTA with the EU. We are determined to help local companies to become the driving force of economic growth in the regions of Ukraine and to compete successfully in world markets.” – EU Ambassador Tombinsky 20th May 2016

Quite – but would it not have been more timely to have done this prior to 1st January when the agreement became operational?

How much further along the road of compliance, certification (where needed) and preparation for market entry would many Ukrainian SMEs be if such information and assistance had been accessible 2 years ago when such issues were first raised by the blog when it was absolutely clear that the AA/DCFTA would be signed posthaste by then President-in-waiting Poroshenko?

Perhaps there are good reasons for such a delay, though it is difficult to identify any insofar as access (and promotion) of information and assistance is concerned.  (Financing/loans etc may be slightly different.)

Opening 2 new EBRD offices in Odessa and Kharkiv to compliment those in Kyiv and Lviv is a very welcome step when it comes to disseminating much sought after information, guidance, and funding access, as are the 15 (presumably non-EBRD institution) business support centres across the nation also to be financed.  (Hopefully judicial reform and the prevalence of rule of law in particular with regard to property rights will occur before SMEs benefitting from the EU4Business programme become prey to “raiders” and other nefarious interests/activities.)

Nevertheless, a reader may ponder why there is still no prominent and/or promoted (to the point of annoying if necessary) on-line or TV campaign to disseminate even the most basic information with regard to how and where to find preparatory information/assistance before those looking to EU markets begin darkening the doors of the two new EBRD offices, – or 15 business support centres – with a business plan that is nothing short of being scribbled hurriedly on the back of a cigarette packet and/or having absolutely no idea of what they are to actually comply with (if anything) when turning up.

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E-customs from 1st August – Ukraine

May 18, 2016

It seems like a long time ago that an entry appeared regarding the corruption and/or smuggling issues at Odessa’s ports.  Indeed it is almost a year ago.

The entry highlighted a few notable issues and was by no means in depth with regard to the existing corruption scams or potential corruption opportunities.  In fact it stuck to the blindingly obvious problems rather than detailing the “very clever” scams – “So to a less than erudite, nor exhaustive, list of areas to cast a discerning eye over would seem appropriate – “broad brush” as they are.

Bribes at the ports are easily achievable.  It is not hard for a customs official to turn a blind eye to the fact that a manifest does not cover all the imported/exported goods in the cargo.  It is not difficult to ignore transit goods making their way into domestic supply chains.  To reclassify/wrongly classify goods is not more than a slip of the pen.  Naturally speeding up clearance can be achieved given the right incentives.

Manipulating the country of origin and any special arrangements with those nations is not difficult.   A cargo missing inspection or having a “relaxed inspection”, the under-invoicing of cargo, release bonds with insufficient (or non-existent) supporting documentation, influencing audit outcomes,  and perhaps the most prevalent of “rent-seeking” options – pre-declaration and the use of “fashionable brokers”.

“Fashionable brokers” are the agents that insure no delays, inspections etc for a fee and can be found in Odessa.

There is then the issue of the private companies that control the weight bridges, container ports, and transport infrastructure in and out of the port sides.  The corruption issues are not all related to the State customs and borders agencies.

No differently from the new “Police” whom receive better than average pay compared to their counterparts of commensurate service, there is a need to recognise that in restructuring the customs and borders services at the ports of Odessa, it is highly unlikely that officials will wholeheartedly support any major reforms that remove opportunities for ‘rent-seeking’ and improve transparency – unless they are combined with meaningful improvements in their conditions of employment.”

Since then Yulia Marushevska (and team behind her) have been appointed in Odessa to fight the good fight and tackle the vested interests that have historically grown wealthy from the illicit goings-on.  Among those vested interests are local public figures and businessmen, those within the State Fiscal Service, the SBU and a cash flow to Kyiv to “keep everybody sweet”.

Her efforts have seen the introduction of e-customs at Odessa Port, a swifter and fairer customs service for the users of the port – or at least the State owned and run part of the port.

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Her efforts have also seen her receive 3 written reprimands from the Head of the State Fiscal Service Roman Nasirov who has tried to obstruct the efforts to reduce the corruption and prevent open and transparent staffing solutions.

Indeed Mr Nasirov is not upon the Christmas Card list of two regional governors – Messrs Moskal and Saakashvili for his less than helpful disposition in tackling corruption and less than ethical personnel appointments into positions within the customs and SFS institutions.

It is no secret that the dismissal of Ms Marushevska was a priority second only to that of former-Regional Prosecutor Davit Sakvarelidze for the local elite with dubious/nefarious vested interests, as well as those within certain State institutions (and their unseen masters).  Ms Marushevska (and team) have been fighting what until recently appeared to be a losing the war with those in Kyiv, even if beginning to win their small battle.

However, Prime Minsiter Groisman visited Odessa on 17th May and spoke with Ms Marushevska and Governor Saakashvili, and visited the ports – among other things.

Purely by coincidence (cynicism), the following day an announcement was made that the entirety of the Ukrainian customs system would move across to the Odessa trialed e-customs system with effect from 1st August.  A significant step in the right direction (on the presumption this announcement is actually implemented nationally on 1st August).

Further, for Ms Marushevska, it appears that all 3 reprimands issued by the obstructive Mr Nasirov will be cancelled – As a result of the visit of Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman to Odessa, the Control Agency cancelled the freeze on construction of the new Open Customs Area terminal. Also, by the end of the week agreement must be reached regarding all personnel issues that have been blocked by SFS leadership: dismissal unscrupulous officials, agreement on new people and announcement of a competition for key leadership positions.

The Prime Minister also expressed support for the introduction of the new ASYCUDA software.

Positively assessing our reforms at Odessa Customs, the head of government has promised to cancel the reprimands given to me by SFS chief Roman Nasirov. It turns out that you can move quickly to reform, if you choose to.” – Facebook Yulia Marushevska 17th May 2016

Thus, should those reprimand cancellations materialise, those vested interests attempting to remove her from post would appear to have suffered something of a setback.

A reader may deduce that whatever dubious money flows Prime Minister Groisman may or may not receive, they seemingly do not come from corrupt customs scams – certainly as far as Odessa is concerned.  A reader may also ponder therefore, and possibly draw conclusions, as to why his predecessor failed to take such simple actions and also failed to support Ms Marushevska (and team).

As stated in several recent entries, Prime Minister Groisman may well be stuck with Mr Nasirov as head of the SFS (at least for the next few months) as part of a grubby political deal to insure parliamentary support from unexpected places during some very important recent votes (including his own appointment), but it is also becoming clear that he has also found “pressure points” upon those same unexpectedly supportive parliamentary places sufficient to stay the manufactured departing of Ms Marushevska (and team) and undo their efforts via Mr Nasirov – all of which (hopefully) does not bode particularly well for Mr Nasirov in the long term.

We shall see whether e-customs goes live nationally on 1st August – or not.  If it does, it is a significant step in tacking the opportunities that are currently present for corruption within customs and the SFS.

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