As predicted almost 2 months ago, the assault upon the legislatively ring-fenced prosecutor arena that is exclusively the remit of the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) has begun.
It is naturally not framed in such a way as to undermine the jurisdiction of NABU by removing any competencies, but rather to open up that exclusive zone prescribed by statue to other parts of the PGO machinery.
Prosecutor General Lutsenko, is clearly not happy with an independent entity within his empire capable of prosecuting his prosecutors and also challenging his interference. Therefore with existing statute on the side of NABU, he has submitted amendments to the legislation – “There is so much crime that to give the exclusive right to fight the manifestations of high-level crime to one small law enforcement agency is inefficient. We will not in the least reduce the powers NABU … but in parallel, if the same officials who may be suspected of committing corruption crimes leave the police, prosecutors or fiscals offices, these cases by the decision of the public prosecutor may be moved.”
Prima facie, what is wrong with that? A small department dealing with the highest ranking institutional managers, public servants, civil service and political class, swamped by innumerable investigations among these most odious and nefarious of classes surely has its limitations and therefore why not pass the cases of those that leave their posts mid-investigation to other parts of the PGO? Does that not allow NABU to concentrate upon investigations of those that remain in post? Should the NABU remit not terminate once such people leave the office they hold specifically within the NABU legislative remit even if investigations are still on-going?
Should we not believe that this is a managerial decision based upon integrity by the Prosecutor General to efficiently concentrate the efforts of his empire more effectively?
Well perhaps – but there is a question/perception of trust, or the severe lack thereof, that immediately undermines and casts cynicism upon such a proposal. There was good reason why NABU was created the way that it was and given the remit it exclusively holds. Those reasons are as valid today as they were when NABU became a reality.
NABU has far more public trust than does Yuri Lutsenko – who will forever be perceived as a politician and grey cardinal associated with behind the curtain grubby deals rather than an independent prosecutor who leads a PGO that retains many of the most odious of prosecutors the Ukrainian constituency expects to be removed if there is to be even the thinnest veneer of change within the institution.
Given the perception of NABU vis a vis the Prosecutor General and the rest of his PGO empire, for the perception of public trust to grow rather than diminish with this proposal, as an alternative why not make that “one small law enforcement agency” bigger rather than open up its statutorily protected turf to an otherwise distrusted PGO?
Is it a matter of money? Could not the salaries of all those prosecutors that should have been sacked but haven’t be used for more duly vetted and trained NABU personnel?
Is there not the very real prospect, should such amendments become law, that many under NABU investigation will leave their roles simply to have their cases handed over to a PGO nobody trusts and who both suspect and public alike will expect to deliberately fumble or simply close those cases so the suspects are never held to account?
What happens to the cases of Messrs Martynenko (formerly People’s Front financial sponsor) and Onyshchenko (Ms Tymoshenko’s financial sponsor) for example?
In avoiding that accountability, both criminal and administrative, could those suspects not then rejoin their former careers after a “career break” with “case closed” stamped upon previous investigations? It is perhaps a particularly cynical lens to view the Attorney General’s proposal – but as already stated he is simply not trusted and is ingrained within the public psyche as a Grey Cardinal and doer of grubby deals.
It may be his decision is based upon esprit de corps for the PGO machinery that is not NABU. Several successful prosecutions by the PGO of cases taken from NABU may be perceived by Mr Lutsenko as the only way to increase the trust of the Ukrainian constituency. As societal opinion generally lags behind events however, even if that were to materialise it will still be years before the PGO managed to catch up with the thus far almost untainted image of NABU within the public perception. Indeed several such successful prosecutions simply would not cut it – there would have to be dozens to undo the current dismal perception of the PGO.
Thus the merits, or otherwise, of this attempt by the Prosecutor General to not only tread upon the NABU statutorily maintained manicured private lawns, but to actually remove part of its garden and open it up to others, is therefore open to debate – and time will tell whether the cynics will be (once again) proven to be right.
A reader may rightly err toward this being a decidedly retarded step.