Archive for November 10th, 2017

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Nasirov heads to court – FCO diary dates ahead

November 10, 2017

The arrest of the head of the State Fiscal Service Roman Nasirov by NABU in March 2017 for abuse of power, fraud and associated/assorted corruption may not have been greeted with joy among the inhabitants of The Bankova, nor by several nefarious individuals without the innermost conclave, but it was met with a genuine hurrah and huzzah by the vast majority of Ukrainians and States “friendly” toward Ukraine – albeit all were surprised by the (welcome) arrest to say the least.

Post arrest, Mr Nasirov employed the usual tactics of claiming (hitherto unknown/un-diagnosed) serious illness, legal gymnastics and no doubt attempts at calling in numerous favours in an attempt to scupper and sabotage the investigation, whilst similarly attempting to insure his liberty (rather than detention) throughout the legal process if immediate sabotage failed.

During the investigation is was claimed that Mr Nasirov, contrary to the Constitution and also the Law on Civil Service, held more than a Ukrainian passport.  It was alleged he also held Hungarian and UK citizenship.

The UK was swift to publicly supply the details of his UK passport.

Such were the contortions of Mr Nasirov and the attempts to sabotage the investigation into his (alleged) criminality, that the UK became quite aggressive in its public diplomacy – and rightly so.  Mr Nasirov is (among others) a UK citizen and is therefore subject to the UK Bribery Act 2010.

“British Embassy statement on the criminal case against Roman Nasirov:

We are deeply concerned about the recent decision in Kyiv’s Solomiansky Court, where evidence provided by the UK in relation to the case against Roman Nasirov was ruled inadmissible and disregarded. The UK authorities will now review the facts and consider if criminal offences have been committed by a British citizen which may be tried in the UK.

This case underscores the urgent need for progress towards a reformed, independent and transparent judicial system and the swift introduction of specialised Anti-Corruption Courts with strictly vetted judges capable of properly trying high profile corruption cases.

The UK is a strong supporter of reform in Ukraine, which is why we are hosting the Ukraine Reform Conference in London on 6 July. Reform of the Ukrainian judicial system is a crucial part of the Ukrainian Government’s programme. The Ukraine Reform Conference will offer a further opportunity for the Government of Ukraine to demonstrate commitment to real progress in reforming the judicial system and further tackling corruption.”

The clear inference of the UK’s public diplomacy was that if Ukraine failed to deal with his case properly, then the UK could.  To be entirely blunt, it should if Ukraine fails to deal with the matter properly.  Whatever perks Mr Nasirov thought he would have when gaining UK citizenship should also result in whatever penalties it can carry too.

Unquestionably the UK’s Ambassador Gough won a lot of friends among the Ukrainian constituency that day (Bravo Judith).

It is probably for this reason the case remains alive, for neither Mr Nasirov nor those nefariously involved with him would want him to face a UK court beyond their jurisdiction and a court within which they could not influence, and a Bankova refusal (via a predetermined court decision) to extradite Mr Nasirov would do significant harm to Ukrainian interests throughout Europe..

On 10th November, The Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office stated that the investigation is now complete, formal charges against Mr Nasirov have been made, and that the case would be sent to court that same day.

The judicial system, if it is to abide by the law, is obliged to hold a preliminary hearing on or before 15th November.

It has to be hoped that a sizable number of senior European diplomats will attend each and every court hearing relating to the Nasirov case.  The potential for sabotage remains.  Even if the case arrives at a guilty verdict a year or so from now, the chances of a disproportionately lenient sentence are high.

Perhaps how long it takes for the Ukrainian judicial wheels to turn, ultimately to arrive at a verdict, and the proportionality of the sentence vis a vis the scale of the crimes committed, will be a matter of political expediency considering the March and October 2019 elections and the votes that can be gained or lost through any questionable judicial outcome.

Readers and/or British citizens stumbling upon this entry, would expect the FCO Kyiv to attend each and every court hearing, not only because a UK citizen is appearing in a court charged with serious criminality, but also to represent the interests of the UK – and the UK interests in Ukraine go beyond Mr Nasirov.

A great deal of political, diplomatic, and expert energy has been spent on Ukraine by the UK – notwithstanding money.  With no “big fish” having come remotely close to criminal prosecution and conviction under President Poroshenko, the Nasirov case is something of a litmus test.

More broadly, it is in the UK’s interests to see that the Bribery Act acts as intended – to dissuade UK citizens and UK entities from any involvement in corrupt practices globally – and provide a means of accountability if they do.

Prevention is better than cure, but when statutory cure is required it should be publicly applied to inform innumerable others similar to Mr Nasirov who took UK citizenship for the perceived perks, that there are penalties to pay too.

Indeed so broad in scope is the UK Bribery Act, that the Ukrainian judge hearing the case would perhaps be wise to acquaint his/herself with it – so as not to entertain approaches either by Mr Nasirov, or a third party on behalf of Mr Nasirov, lest that be interpreted as an attempt/and or bribery of a foreign official by a UK citizen – adding further to Mr Nasirov’s woes in the eyes of this UK statute.

Prior to Mr Nasirov’s arrest, and just after the UK constituency chose the folly of Brexit, an FCO mandarin from King Charles Street visited the blog in Odessa asking how the UK would or could remain relevant in Ukraine post Brexit.  Some thoughts were exchanged and pleasingly some of those thoughts have clearly manifest, while others may have manifest behind the curtain.  (That is not to say others spoken to will not have had the same thoughts, or indeed the thoughts exchanged were not the prevailing wisdom within the FCO anyway.)

However, with regard to public diplomacy and impact within the Ukrainian constituency, the UK Embassy Kyiv is uniquely placed with regard to the Nasirov case.  An opportunity not to be missed.

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