Last September, the US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt stated during a speech in Odesa that corruption was no less dangerous for Ukraine than Russia’s support of the war in eastern Ukraine. He also said that there were many high-profile arrests, but no court decisions on them were taken.
In about two weeks after a devastating report of the US Ambassador a resounding verdict was announced.
The trial of the all-known Lieutenant General Oleh Lantvoit, which had been dragging on for over a year, was finished in two sessions, without even hearing all the witnesses.
For the first time in the history of independent Ukraine the official suspected of bribes received a punishment in the form of 10 years of imprisonment. The case was made exemplary and demonstrative, and the accused who had no senior patrons was turned into a scapegoat. For the military prosecutor’s office of the Central region it is also a way to advertise itself, as well as to earn money for some.
On November, 3, the Darnytskyi District Court of Kyiv sentenced the Border Service Lieutenant General Oleh Lantvoit. It was established he had committed actions for the interests of a third person using his official position and obtaining the undue advantage for it. Former Chief Border official received 10 years in prison with the confiscation of property and was taken into custody in the courtroom. It was personally informed by the Chief Military Prosecutor Anatolii Matios.
This “victory” against the backdrop of current “betrayals” has not become the central news of the day and has not been covered in detail. Although it should have been – this story is really interesting and indicative.
During the period of 2002-2014 Oleh Lantvoit was promoted to the Head of Department of Provision of the State Border Board Service of Mykola Lytvyn. Soon after the arrest of Lantvoit the President P. Poroshenko quietly dismissed Lytvyn without any charges. Famous brother of the State Border Guard Lytvyn – Volodymyr Lytvyn – is already not thinking about being a speaker in the parliament.
On November, 3, the Darnytskyi District Court of Kyiv sentenced Oleh Lantvoit. The key point of the accusation was that Lantvoit, despite his lack of official powers, offered to “influence” the results of open bidding.
The prison term for Lantvoit became the extraordinary event. The charges against the senior official were formulated not according to the “bribery” Art. 386, but according to the “fraudulent” Art. 190 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. It is less strict, as it implies that the offender takes no bribes, but simply “committs fraud in relation to the client” by deceiving them about his opportunities “to resolve the issue”.
With this “fraudulent scheme” the National Guard of Ukraine Chief of Logistics Colonel Sviatoslav Manzhura was released a month ago. He was detained in January while obtaining a bribe of 232,000 from the heads of the “Vizyt” LLP directly near the main building of the National Guard. The Colonel was acknowledged as the fraud, not the bribe-taker – despite the fact that the businessman was acknowledged as a briber (although he was released as well).
Manzhura was receiving help in the form of evidence from his colleague officers, but Lantvoit was not. Perhaps it was due to the fact that he was from the clan of Lytvyn that “broke down” after the resignation of Mykola Lytvyn from the post of the Chief Border Guard in October, 2014.
Another indication of uniqueness of the prison term for Lantvoit is the example of one of his subordinates. In July 2014, after the arrest of the chief, the official demanded from the briber a bribe of 10,000 for the victory in the supply of electrocardiographs for the same military unit № 1471. He was detained while taking a bribe.
Military prosecutors and the court determined him as a petty offender and totally exempted him from any criminal liability because they established that the Department had no authority to influence the procurement for the military unit №1471.
In Lantvoit’s case the court found that the Department that he headed could influence the decisions of the military unit № 1471.
The situation gets even more interesting, since the sleeping bags which Lantvoit assisted in purchasing of, by the decision № 911/4674/15 on 14 of December 2015 the Economic Court of Kyiv found that those sleeping bags were obtained free of charge and intended for the transmission to military needs in the ATO zone. Does it mean that the General received a bribe and is imprisoned for charity?
By the way, no one was going to buy the sleeping bags anyway, as the tender was cancelled. It means that no budget money has been spent. Thus, the General is charged for receiving bribes for providing the opportunities to transfer charitable aid to the military unit №1471.
As usual, the opposing statements were declared by the courts “in the name of Ukraine”, with the full consent of prosecutors.
The alleged illegal circumstances of the receipt of bribes also raise questions. The money allegedly appointed to Mr. Lantvoit was found at the entrance of the building (common area), and the General arrived at the location of the alleged bribery in a few hours after the proceedings.
So, while the appeal against the Lantvoit’s sentence (which will surely happen) has not set an intermediate point in this story, we may summarize.
It is fully possible to condemn a senior bribe-taker who does not present any interest, if they are outside the team, their colleagues and witnesses are controlled by the prosecutors, and the power structures need to bring down another wave of distrust towards law enforcement and judicial systems and to report on their seemingly anti-corruption achievements to the US State Department.
And this combination of factors is quite rare.
Based on the publications of argumentua.com, antikor.com, ord.ua