Exclusive: IMF backs Ukraine anti-corruption court plan

LONDON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund has given its backing to Ukraine’s revised plans for an anti-corruption court, fulfilling one condition for unlocking the next $2 billion installment of aid to Kiev.

The court is being set up as part of Ukraine’s $17.5 billion bailout package and has become a symbol of its efforts to stamp out high-level corruption that has blighted the country for decades.

“The legislative framework for the High Anti-Corruption Court, once the recently adopted amendments are signed into law, will be consistent with the authorities’ commitments under Ukraine’s IMF-supported program,” an IMF spokeswoman told Reuters.

Ukraine’s parliament approved amendments to the new law needed to set up the court on July 12 after a previous version was deemed by the Fund to be too loose.

It is meant to ring-fence court decisions from political pressure or bribery in Ukraine, where corruption deters foreign investors and is estimated to knock two percentage points off economic growth each year.

A number of other issues remain to be resolved, however, before Kiev finally receives the next installment of IMF money. There is a standoff over plans to raise gas prices as well as over implementing additional spending cuts or money-raising measures needed to plug some shortfalls in revenues earlier in the year.

Kiev has received only half the $17.5 billion earmarked for its aid program which is due to run out next year. It has not had any fresh money since April last year and needs to repay around $15 billion of foreign currency debt over the next two years.

“Discussions on other outstanding issues, including gas prices and the government budget, are ongoing,” the spokeswoman said.

Reporting by Marc Jones; editing by Jamie McGeever and David Stamp