A Global Forum on Asset Recovery was held recently in Washington with participation of leaders of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAP) Artem Sytnyk and Nazar Kholodnytskyi. Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yurii Lutsenko was invited as well, but did not attend. He decided to stay in Ukraine, because the harsh confrontation between the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) and the NABU reached its peak at the time. In parallel, an operation was launched to detain former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, which saw Lutsenko taking an active part as head of the PGO. All these stories, especially the absence of the prosecutor general at the US forum, made a big impact. The Day asked Ambassador of Ukraine to the US Valerii Chalyi to comment on the participation of the Ukrainian delegation in the abovementioned forum and tell us how the US had reacted to the confrontation between the NABU and the PGO.
“THE U.S. HAS HELPED OTHERS TO IDENTIFY 3.24 BILLION DOLLARS IN STOLEN ASSETS”
“First of all, I want to note that the Global Forum examined the stories of four countries that had succeeded in recovering stolen assets: Ukraine, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria. For us, this forum was really an example of a Ukrainian success story.
“With regard to the speculations in the Ukrainian media space about last-minute cancellation of the PGO head’s participation in the forum, I can confidently assert that the replacement of Lutsenko with his deputy Yevhen Yenin took place very long ago.
“It so happened that our delegation delegated me the authority to represent Ukraine’s position at the opening of the forum. In my speech I emphasized the concrete results that we had achieved in recovering the assets stolen by the previous regime in cooperation with the US, Latvia, and Switzerland.
“At the end of the forum, head of the NABU Sytnyk delivered a speech and Deputy Prosecutor General Yenin held a press briefing. So, to sum it up, I can say that the forum is a very good platform not only for presenting the results of one’s work, but also for maintaining contacts with partners. After all, in almost 60 percent of all crimes involving stolen assets, investigators need cooperation with international partners and foreign agencies. Such contacts and such interaction are very necessary for the country. And I would advise our leaders to keep using future forums to promote our positions and interests.”
And what determined the success of countries in recovering stolen assets – the amount or other indicators, and how much have we managed to recover?
“The recovery of more than 1.5 billion dollars is probably the biggest sum as of now. In addition, the US has helped others identify more than 3.24 billion in stolen assets. Nigeria has signed an agreement with Switzerland on recovering 300 million dollars, which will be done. It should be noted that in order to recover assets that were illegally invested in real estate or some other industry in the US, cooperation with US law enforcement agencies is required.”
By the way, what is the situation with recovering Pavlo Lazarenko’s assets?
“The Lazarenko assets fight has not yet been lost by Ukraine. As Ukraine’s non-resident Ambassador to Antigua and Barbuda, I can say that this issue has been raised with that country. And now the main role is essentially to be played by the US. I cannot predict the final of this story, but we still need to work hard to bring at least some of the money back to the budget of Ukraine.”
“THE U.S. OFFICIAL POSITION ON THE SAAKASHVILI STORY IS UNEQUIVOCAL: THIS IS AN INTERNAL AFFAIR OF UKRAINE”
In social networks, Mike Carpenter’s statement has made quite an impact, as he stated that in the event of the liquidation of the NABU, it would be necessary to put pressure on Ukraine and reduce assistance to our country. Have the US officials, in particular the forum’s participants, sorted out how things really stand?
“Indeed, it coincided with such stormy events in Ukraine, in particular the introduction of a bill that would amend the procedure for the dismissal of the heads of the NABU and the SAP. Of course, it was immediately responded to in Washington, but not at the forum.
“The US government treats different law enforcement agencies and their leaders differently. For my part, as ambassador of Ukraine to the US, I advocate the position that everyone must be heard. No one is black or white. We need coordination and interaction.
“By the way, Deputy Prosecutor General Yenin also had all the meetings which had been planned for the heads of the NABU and the SAP at the State Department and the FBI. Many people were surprised that it was not the NABU’s, but the PGO’s actions that allowed Ukraine to recover 1.5 billion dollars, and that many NABU-led cases involve interaction with the PGO.
“Therefore, the US government supports the position stating that, on the one hand, we need to prevent any negative political decisions in Ukraine regarding the independence of newly-established law enforcement agencies.
“But on the other hand, I think, they have also heard my position that we need to interact with all law enforcement agencies and not just with those of one’s choosing.
“The attitude towards Lutsenko in Washington is no worse than that to the PGO in general. Yes, indeed, his statement about the FBI raised concerns. But the US has accurately determined that all sides have made mistakes. It is not like one agency, the NABU, is on the side of angels, while all the others are bad.
“As for the statement by Carpenter, who is no longer working for the Pentagon, but is respected there, I think he went too far, especially knowing that some assistance to Ukraine is, in the first place, in the interest of the US itself.
“As an ambassador, I can say that the cancellation of all assistance will not happen, even if one department or another will want it to happen.
“On the other hand, such statements must be listened to in Ukraine.
“While no drastic decision will happen, of course, but if our country will really move in the wrong direction, reducing the amount of assistance may be considered.”
Does the US understand the situation that is developing around Saakashvili?
“I can say that the official position is unequivocal: it is an internal affair of Ukraine, which should be dealt with in accordance with Ukrainian legislation and procedures. And as for the condemnation of the Ukrainian authorities’ actions, as some media outlets present, nothing like that has happened.”
“THE MINISTRY OF DEFENSE AND THE CABINET OF MINISTERS OF UKRAINE ARE DEVELOPING A FINANCING MECHANISM FOR DELIVERING AMERICAN FASTBOATS TO THE UKRAINIAN NAVY”
Ambassador, and what is the situation with US President Donald Trump signing the defense spending bill, which provides for the allocation of funds for the security sector of Ukraine, in particular the provision of lethal weapons for the first time?
“Indeed, both chambers of the US Congress have passed two documents relating to the allocation of assistance to Ukraine. The first of them is the National Defense Authorization Act for next year, which is expected to be signed by President Trump before Christmas. Within the framework of this bill, it is planned to allocate 350 million dollars of direct aid to Ukraine. Moreover, and unlike in previous similar laws, out of this amount, 50 million dollars can be provided for lethal weapons of defensive nature. It is about supplying coast guard boats, anti-mine equipment, anti-aircraft radar equipment, and maritime security monitoring systems.
“In addition, this bill provides for the treatment and rehabilitation of the gravely wounded, and importantly for us, it now includes those who accompany them, who had previously to cover their costs themselves or at the expense of the diaspora or charities. Another document is the consolidated budget of the US for the next year, in which additional funds may be made available to assist Ukraine on security and defense issues. These funds go through the State Department’s foreign aid program, and the specific amount of such assistance is still under consideration in Congress. But we expect it to be roughly 85 to 95 million dollars. In addition, other programs provide funding to support the security of Ukraine’s borders and reforms, including in the security sector. Therefore, we will learn the final amount of American assistance next year.”
I recently interviewed (https:// day.kyiv.ua/en/article/day-after-day/ ukraine-very-proud-nation-very-proud-history) the US Navy’s Rear Admiral Daniel Dwyer, who said that the transfer of US coast guard boats to the Ukrainian Navy was being delayed by the Ukrainian side. What do you know about this situation?
“The Ministry of Defense and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine are developing a financing mechanism for delivering American fastboats to the Ukrainian navy. We need it because according to an agreement with the American side, the transfer of such weapons should involve us.”
“THEY HAVE MORE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES IN THE U.S. THAN WE DO”
Some experts note that it may well be that Ukraine does not need to create many law enforcement agencies, but follow the US lead instead, where the main functions of the fight against corruption and counterintelligence are carried out solely by the FBI. What will you say about this?
“They are wrong. There are as many as 17 intelligence agencies alone in the US, and if we talk about, for example, fighting corruption, then the financial intelligence is no less powerful than the FBI. They have more law enforcement agencies in the US than we do. But more importantly, they have good coordination, while we do not pay attention to this.
“Furthermore, the congressional oversight of law enforcement in the US is much more active than our parliamentary oversight. Therefore, I would actually strengthen not so much public oversight, but parliamentary one in this field.”