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New head of the SAPO: who is Oleksandr Klymenko and will he be independent of Bankova?

The new head of SAP will be able to unlock anti-corruption work. Photo: ukrinform.ua

The new head of SAP will be able to unlock anti-corruption work. Photo: ukrinform.ua

Finally, the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office has almost obtained its chief. This position will be held, after the Prosecutor General signs the verdict of the commission, by Oleksandr Klymenko, a former detective of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine. For more than a year, he waited to be approved as the winner of the competition, and now he waits for acting Prosecutor General Oleksii Symonenko to sign the commission’s decision. Why has the appointment been delayed for so long and will the new SAPO head be independent?


The urgency of the appointment of the SAPO head

The appointment of the head of the SAP is one of the requirements of the EU. Photo: facebook.com/sap.gov.ua

The appointment of the head of the SAP is one of the requirements of the EU. Photo: facebook.com/sap.gov.ua

The demand to unblock the announcement of the competition results and appoint the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor was one of the seven demands of the European Commission when Ukraine was given candidate status for EU membership.

This appointment should continue the anti-corruption reform, which was effectively stalled due to the paralized structure.

It is the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s office that has to oversee the investigation of cases of high-ranking corrupt officials concerning large sums of money and high-profile politicians.

In fact, the work of the SAPO has been blocked since August 2020, after Nazar Kholodnytskyi, who worked as head of the office for almost five years.

This also stalled the work of the NABU, because NABU detectives could not serve notices of suspicion to persons under investigation without a SAPO warrant.

A competition to choose a new SAPO head started in January 2021, and in July 2021, the winners were announced as being Oleksandr Klymenko and Andrii Syniuk. However, it was Klymenko who took the first place, and that’s when the efforts to impede the appointment process started.

For example, on December 20, 2021, the Kyiv District Administrative Court declared the procedure of work of the competition commission and the competition itself invalid. Formally, it was motivated by the fact that the commission had lost its powers back in July 2015, and the appointment would be invalid.

What is known about Oleksandr Klymenko?

Klymenko's work at NABU is called effective. Photo: ukrinform.ua

Klymenko's work at NABU is called effective. Photo: ukrinform.ua

The 35-year-old Oleksandr Klymenko will hold the position, which has been vacant for almost two years.

He began his career in law enforcement in 2010 as an investigator, then in 2015 he became senior investigator in the National Police, where he worked on cases of corruption in government-owned companies, in particular, the embezzlement of money in Ukrzaliznytsia.

In 2016, Klymenko was hired to the NABU, and in 2017, he became head of the Bureau’s second department dealing with sensitive political cases.

Among the cases the detective worked on were:

  • machination with apartments for members of the National Guard (the case is said to be connected with Oleh Tatarov, the current deputy head of the Office of the President);
  • the case of Roman Nasirov, the former head of the State Fiscal Service;
  • the case of ex-MP Oleksandr Onyshchenko;
  • the case of Ihor Hladkovskyi, the son of an ally of Petro Poroshenko.

Klymenko’s work was described by his former colleagues in the NABU as effective, although his methods were thought to be "somewhat police-like", Forbes.ua wrote.

Who Andrii Syniuk is and what he has to do with Bankova

Andrii Sinyuk asked to postpone the decision on the winner of the competition

Andrii Sinyuk asked to postpone the decision on the winner of the competition

Andrii Syniuk, a prosecutor in the General Prosecutor’s Office, who was said to be Bankova’s candidate, was announced by the commission as a candidate for the deputy head of the SAPO.

The fact that Syniuk had failed to become the final winner of the competition was deemed by civic activists and political experts to be the reason why the appointment of the new Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor was delayed.

Syniuk himself asked to postpone the official appointment because he doubted the legitimacy of the competition commission.

At the same time, he stressed that, being a jurist, he wanted to be sure that the commission’s decisions were legally sound and denied allegations of his connections with the President’s Office.

Quote"I have no connection whatsoever with Bankova, I don’t know anyone in the Office of the President personally, including the President himself," said Syniuk as cited by Suspilne.

Besides allegations of his connections with Bankova, NGOs like the Anti-Corruption Action Center, DEJURE Foundation, Automaidan, and Transparency International reported discrepancies in Syniuk’s income statement, according to Ukrainska Pravda. Nevertheless, he will be the SAPO head’s right hand.

Will the SAPO head be independent?

It is still unclear whether the head of the SAP will be independent from the Office of the President. Photo: ukrinform.ua

It is still unclear whether the head of the SAP will be independent from the Office of the President. Photo: ukrinform.ua

In his commentary to The Page on the connection between the removal of Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and Head of Ukraine's Security Service Ivan Bakanov from their positions and the need to appoint the SAPO head as soon as possible, Volodymyr Fesenko, Chairman of the Board of the Penta Center of Applied Political Studies, said:

Quote"As for the connection between the removal and the appointment of the SAPO head, most probably, there may be a connection on the side of the General Prosecutor’s Office, because its representatives, as far as I know, were involved in the organization of the work of the commission on the appointment of the new SAPO head. Maybe there was criticism in this regard."

At the same time, he pointed out that problems with the appointment of the SAPO head arose not only on the side of the General Prosecutor’s Office.

It’s no longer possible to postpone the appointment, said professor of political science at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Oleksii Haran in his commentary to The Page.

He thinks it was Bankova who blocked the announcement of the competition results because the winner wasn’t their favorite.

Quote"Now, the situation has obviously turned out so that there’s no backing out, especially because we’ve been granted candidate status for EU membership and the European commission demanded that we appoint the winner of the competition," Haran pointed out.

At the same time, Bankova's candidate will be deputy head of the SAPO, which also raises questions as to the influence of the Office of the President on the new Prosecutor, the expert says.

Quote"Later, we’ll see to what extent the SAPO head will be independent and able to abide by the law, not instructions given over the telephone," the professor stressed.


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