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Ukraine prosecutors open case as inter-agency conflict escalates

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian prosecutors said on Friday they were investigating a case that could involve the head of the national anti-corruption bureau, the latest in a merry-go-round of law enforcement officials taking action against each other.

Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine Artem Sytnyk (L) and Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko attend a joint news conference in Kiev, Ukraine August 18, 2016. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Prosecutors are checking an audio recording of a man reading out a wiretapping transcript to unknown persons, which could constitute the illegal sharing of classified information.

They are trying to establish whether the voice belongs to bureau director Artem Sytnyk. Contacted for comment, a spokeswoman for the bureau said Sytnyk was traveling abroad.

Ukraine’s political leaders want to convince their international backers they are serious about tackling entrenched corruption but have made only limited progress, delaying billions in new loans.

“An investigation into the possible disclosure of secret documents has been registered,” General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko said in a televised briefing.

“If it is confirmed that this document’s status was secret and if it is confirmed that it was done by that law enforcement official, then he will have problems with the law,” he said.

The bureau, known by its acronym NABU, and a sister anti-corruption agency known as NAZK were both set up after pro-Western leaders took charge of Ukraine in 2014, following a wave of unrest and the escape into exile of a Kremlin-backed former leader.


Lutsenko’s statement caps a week of allegations flying around between different agencies.

On Monday, a senior prosecutor told Reuters that senior political leaders were trying to bury corruption investigations through a change to the criminal code that would result in NABU being overloaded with case work.

On Tuesday, NABU said it HAD opened a case against NAZK after allegations by a whistleblower, who also accused President Petro Poroshenko’s office of exerting improper influence over the agency. The president’s office denies the allegation.

On Friday, as well as prosecutors announcing an investigation into NABU, NABU said it had opened a case in October against Lutsenko at the behest of a court, but gave no details of the investigation.

“The investigation continues,” NABU spokeswoman Svitlana Olifira told 112 channel about Lutsenko’s case. “There are no conclusions. The task is to check the facts.”

Lutsenko dismissed the case as illogical, saying it concerned whether he should have declared two parking places belonging to his adult son in an online registry of officials’ income and property.

“I am confident in the legality of my position,” he said.

Conflict between NABU and the general prosecutor’s office is nothing new. In August 2016 prosecutors raided NABU offices and then later interrogated two NABU officials, sparking a protest from anti-corruption campaigners.

Lutsenko said infighting between the agencies was unacceptable.

“It seems to me that healthy cooperation between all law enforcement bodies is being destabilized,” he said.

Writing by Matthias Williams; editing by Andrew Roche