President of Ukraine

Criminal liability for false declarations should be severe - President at the National Council on Anticorruption Policy

27 November 2020 - 21:29

Criminal liability for false declarations should be severe - President at the National Council on Anticorruption Policy

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy chaired a meeting of the National Council on Anticorruption Policy, which considered legislative initiatives to overcome the situation caused by the decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, which has a negative impact on the anticorruption infrastructure of the state. The meeting was attended by Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Dmytro Razumkov, representatives of the Government, Parliament, President's Office, law enforcement agencies, NABU and NACP leaders, as well as Ukraine's international partners.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Head of State reminded that the decision of the CCU adopted a month ago led to a constitutional crisis and endangered Ukraine's European future.

"This crisis has already led to grave consequences. It took a significant effort for us not to lose the support of our international partners, including the IMF, the World Bank and other investors, after this decision. Those who lied in the declarations for 2017, 2018, 2019 will no longer be punished. Work on preventing corruption remains at a standstill today," the President said.

Therefore, Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasized the need to prepare and submit amendments to the current legislation of Ukraine as soon as possible in order to overcome the constitutional crisis. Such decisions must be consolidated and agreed by all stakeholders, the President added.

"Such consolidation, such teamwork is unprecedented for Ukraine. This should have happened so that we could start working together," the President said.

In particular, Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the Verkhovna Rada to pass a bill as soon as possible on the resumption of criminal liability for evading the filing of a declaration or submitting knowingly false information in it.

"Criminal liability for evading the filing of a declaration or submitting knowingly false information should be sufficiently severe and provide for the possibility of sentencing to imprisonment. Corrupt officials must be held accountable in accordance with the law," the President stressed.

The next step in overcoming the crisis, according to the President, should be the restoration of the Law on the Prevention of Corruption. This document should ensure the full resumption of verification of declarations, including judges' declarations, and the relevant powers should remain with the National Agency for Corruption Prevention (NACP).

"It is imperative that these differences do not give anyone the opportunity to abuse or delay prosecution," Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy Andriy Kostin noted that the restoration of criminal responsibility for crimes related to failure to file a declaration or false declaration "is the highest priority not only for the parliament, but also for the entire Ukrainian people".

The people's deputy said that at the request of the President, an online visit of experts of the Venice Commission to our country will take place on December 2 to assess the state of anticorruption legislation.

"We hope that the relevant conclusion of the Venice Commission will be prepared by December 10. It will also allow us to prepare for a comprehensive, systemic reform of the Constitutional Court," he said.

Presenting the preliminary draft law on the restoration of the NACP's powers, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Anticorruption Policy Anastasiya Radina stressed that the working group in the parliament has already worked out the framework for such a restoration. The bill is expected to be registered next week.

According to her, the participants agree that all declarations, including those of judges, in particular judges of the Constitutional Court, should be checked by the National Agency for Corruption Prevention. At the same time, she clarified that certain features of verification of declarations of judges and judges of the Constitutional Court should be established to minimize contact between a judge and the NACP, as well as automate certain processes of appointing verifications.

"Restoration of criminal liability for failure to file a declaration and false declaration is an absolute priority. Moreover, I want to emphasize that we cannot afford and simply do not have the right at a pretext of the next round of discussions not to adopt the bill and actually establish an amnesty for all declarations in 2020," Anastasiya Radina emphasized.

First Deputy Chairman of the Parliament Ruslan Stefanchuk supported the consideration of the relevant bills as soon as possible, in particular the President's initiative.

"I can confirm the fact that the President's initiative was registered in the Verkhovna Rada today, and I think it will need to be considered in the Verkhovna Rada as soon as possible. We can finalize all other things," he said.

Head of the National Agency for Corruption Prevention Oleksandr Novikov also supported a bill to restore responsibility for false declaration and asked to involve the NACP in the working group to finalize the bill on the agency's work.

The President noted that the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine has already prepared a bill regulating the establishment of the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine, expanding the powers of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to dismiss the NABU Director if there are legal grounds. Additional guarantees for the continuation of the term of office of the current director of NABU until the appointment of a new director of the Bureau in the manner prescribed by law, but not later than the expiration of his term, have been specified. Minister of Justice Denys Malyuska added that the draft law on NABU mentioned by the President proposes to close legislative gaps in the work of the director of the Bureau.

"We have no doubt that the existing legislation allows the institution and the director to work in a stable manner, but we can fill certain gaps now," he said.

The President called on the Verkhovna Rada to support legislative initiatives as soon as possible to restore the stable operation of the anticorruption architecture.

"We expect the Verkhovna Rada to pass these important bills. The first is the resumption of criminal liability for intentional failure to submit a declaration and intentional provision of false information in declarations. The second is the restoration of the NACP's powers in terms of electronic declaration. Third - strengthening the guarantees of the activities of the NABU director - here we expect the Ministry of Justice to finalize and approve the Anticorruption Strategy. These are important first prompt steps that we all need to take very quickly," the President concluded.

Head of the European Union's Anticorruption Initiative in Ukraine Eka Tkeshelashvili assured that her organization would support the process of resolving the crisis of Ukraine's anticorruption legislation.

"We fully understand that this issue is crucial, and I guarantee our quick response and assistance," Eka Tkeshelashvili said.

Ambassador of Germany to Ukraine Anka Feldhusen also spoke about the need to resolve the crisis as soon as possible.

"It is very good that now we are talking about declarations. This, in our opinion, is very important. I am glad that this bill will probably be in the Rada soon. It would be good to distinguish between the declaration of high-level civil servants and those who are not in such high positions. So that punishment, even criminal punishment, is greater for those who hold high positions," the Ambassador added.

In response, the President said that this is just the beginning of overcoming the constitutional crisis that has arisen. A plan and procedure for the implementation of judicial reform in general is currently being developed.

Concluding the conversation, Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the people's deputies, government officials, experts and international partners of Ukraine for their support and constructive proposals.