Events, trends, norms and containing corruptionJune 16, 2014
Away from all the tragic and bloody headlines dominating the domestic and international media regarding Ukraine, other unreported interesting events are occurring in Ukraine.
To begin this entry, there is a need to place a few jigsaw pieces together, and then describe an incident that occurred a few days ago, that will in turn then lead to the core of this entry.
Firstly, to deal with the jigsaw pieces.
A gentleman called Georgie Yaroshenko who stood – unsuccessfully – as an UDAR candidate for the Dnepropetrovsk City Council has a very close and visible business relationship with Valery Ishchenko.
Valery Ishchenko is the man behind Pivdenny Bank, one of the larger banks in Ukraine. He also owns shopping centers, retail chains etc. Mr Ishchenko is also an UDAR Deputy in the RADA. More than that he was/is also a fairly major financier of the UDAR party.
It follows therefore, that he has a fairly close relationship with Vitaly Klitshchko, leader of UDAR and now Mayor of Kyiv.
All of these men are well acquainted with Valentin Nalyvaychenko, the current head of the SBU.
By extension, all of the aforementioned are therefore firmly behind President Poroshenko. Any nefarious smell that arises within this jigsaw puzzle has the potential to affect all concerned in some way, shape, or form. The public presumption of guilty by association remains alive and well.
On 13th June I tweeted:
A bad smell is about to engulf Georgie Yaroshenko & Valery Ishchenko – which with then drift around Klitschko & UDAR if they aren’t careful.
— Nikolai Holmov (@OdessaBlogger) June 13, 2014
Explaining no more at the time, it was therefore left somewhat cryptic. It is necessary to expand on the tweet a little now, without going into excruciating detail – there is no need, as interesting as the detail actually is.
Mr Yaroshencko called a meeting of all brokerage and import/export companies in southern and eastern Ukraine at a hotel called Bartolomeo in Dnepropetrovsk. He then proceeded to inform all concerned that he will be the node that issues all necessary documentation for all such business – be it white, grey or black in nature. He had been to Crimea during late April – early May, and struck the necessary agreements with those now in charge there (how patriotic?) Any questions? – You all know who I am connected to, etc., etc.
Only one gentleman from Odessa spoke up – naturally – he had little choice. One of Odessa’s most high profile organised criminals is now the Mayor, and he has long standing interests in the nefarious goings-on at Odessa ports. That is unsurprisingly when you consider his connection to one of Ukraine’s most infamous mafia men “Angel” that goes back to the early 1990s. Any new such scheme would clearly go head to head with the long standing interests of both of these “aggressive Odessa businessmen”.
That no others present raised any issues, presumably all were accepting of the new corrupt scheme to be installed.
What transpired next by way of telephone calls is very interesting – but not for repeating. Suffice to say a smelly issue for Mr Yaroshchenko and under whose patronage he was peddling his corrupt scheme, was now wafting through the air with numerous witnesses having breathed it in.
Hence the somewhat cryptic tweet a few days ago, inferring UDAR, Mr Klitshcko etc., would need to act – 140 characters is simply not enough for the tale above.
Anyway, those around Messrs Yaroshchenko and Ishchenko did indeed act – the very next day.
Not only has the SBU been tasked with investigating the matter personally by both President Poroshenko and SBU chief, Vitaly Klitshcko has made it clear to Mr Ishchenko that if there is a case, he is expected to resign his RADA seat – and has received such an assurance that a resignation will be forthcoming.
It appears in this particular case, being a very close business associate of the man who finances UDAR, Mr Klitschko and stands behind the President and SBU Chief, will not save Mr Yaroshchenko from criminal proceedings – nor will it save Mr Ishchenko from losing his UDAR Deputy’s seat, a party financier or not.
The powers that currently be have been swift to go after two of their own.
How this event will effect the internal workings of UDAR – for Mr Ishchenko will obviously have many friends amongst UDAR – remains to be seen.
It is rather depressing that there are those actively seeking to create new nefarious schemes from within the ranks of a fairly unsullied political party – fairly unsullied because it has not had the time to fully sully itself thus far.
More broadly though, the leadership response also raises the issue for many amongst the corrupted, that if this is how those behind the president are dealt with, how much faith can those who are not behind him have when manipulating the system to create corrupt mechanisms and get away with it?
Another question therefore, if those engaged in new or on-going corrupt acts are to be rightly dealt with this way – what do you do with those who have engaged in corruption historically? How far back do you go? What level of corruption do you tackle and what do you leave alone?
Probably the most sensible answer is to go after the most serious national corruption and (also some) high profile cases – if the two are not naturally combined. Add to that instructions to regional PGOs to go after half a dozen notable cases in each Oblast, and one hundred or so cases that will get the attention of the public across every part of the nation appear.
A case load the regional courts can cope with and that can also be observed by international observers, media and civil society for reasons of transparency and diligence to due process presents itself. Perhaps wishful thinking – or perhaps a similar suggestion will emerge from the Presidential Administration over the coming months.
However the issue will be dealt with in the future, the response to this particular event, in comparison to how matters would have been handled under all previous administrations, is something of a bright spark in an otherwise historically very dark place.
But it remains a single event.
It may be the first event in what becomes a trend – or it may not. Such a trend may become the norm – or it may not.
That a single event garnering such a response can momentarily be seen as a spark so bright, sadly illustrates what a dark place certain parts of Ukrainian life are – but everything has to start somewhere.
The question is whether this is indeed a start of something notable, or whether it is a single spark that will soon be smothered and forgotten.