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Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard

16:02:38
16/06/2017

vesti-ukr.com

Plea deals where the accused admit their guilt, but remain out on bail, happen even more often in Ukrainian courts. The bulk of entries in the judicial register for this reason concern small crimes, but quite often this mechanism is used in relation to officials or businessmen, in which lawyers find indirect signs of corruption and “collusion”. “Vesti” understood how such deals are now concluded.

Cases of posts on social networks

“It was always like that, but now the scale of deals is very great,” said the lawyer and former judge of the Podolsky regional court of Kiev Ruslan Rozhenko when questioned by “Vesti”. According to experts, the reason is that law enforcement agencies are now more often interested a procedure mutually advantageous for both parties (the accused avoids prison, and the investigator safely closes the case). “The matter is that the investigating authorities possess low professionalism, and do everything they can to intimidate the person, so that they bargain and plee their guilt. After all, if the case gets to court, it is unlikely that something will be proven,” explained the lawyer Rostislav Kravets. Another question is that, having admitted their guilt, which may not be sincere, the person provides themselves with a “blacklist”. Not to mention the fact that under pressure they provide information about others.

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Kravets gives as an example conventional political cases connected with posts on social networks. “There are cases about posts on ‘Facebook’, ‘VKontakte’, which allegedly undermine the country’s sovereignty. The majority of decisions of the courts in these cases are plea deals. An example — the case of the Lvov student, who for a Lenin quote on ‘Facebook’ in May, 2017, was condemned for 2.5 years, but was released after he admitted his guilt and concluded an agreement with the prosecutor. If the guy had been firmer, the prosecution would unambiguously have lost the case,” continues Kravets.

How law enforcement authorities bargain

In the absence of proof there are cases where investigators are cunning. “They can say: ‘Let us now interrogate you, and then we will immediately sign the agreement on recognition of guilt, after all you are still threatened anyway by probation’. If the person agrees, they are interrogated as a suspect, the investigator withdraws the protocol, which by doing so puts the person under a more serious article, and then already bargains on the new basis, perhaps, for corruption. And again, new information about earlier not known witnesses is obtained. Many of those today condemned can say that it was suggested to them to conclude an agreement where imprisonment isn’t provided, but as a result they appear in prison,” said the lawyer Ivan Lieberman.

If a case is rather serious, and the client has a lot money, “objects of value” can provide the opportunity to conclude a deal that mitigates punishment, for which law enforcement authorities trade. An indirect sign of earning on this principle can also be revising the weight of the crime. “As far as I know, the qualification of the actions of many officials (this is about those who are now close to power) doesn’t correspond to reality. For example, assault is qualified as small hooliganism, plunder in especially large sizes is treated as civil-legal relations. And if the investigation team is being ‘covered by a political wave’, the same civil-legal relations are already treated as a crime,” said Ruslan Rozhenko.

Interests in business

A special category of criminal cases, which also often use the mechanism of bargaining, is connected with political or business interests. As an example lawyers give Andrey Koshel’s case — the former top manager of one of Sergey Kurchenko’s companies. He was arrested in June, 2016, on the suspicion of misappropriating and squandering property and creating a criminal organization, which threatened 12 years of prison. But last week, after Koshel concluded a deal with the prosecution and began to give evidence on others, he was released from the pre-trial detention center.

Lawyers say that in general initially some cases can be started with a view to, as a result, incline the suspect to coming to a deal with the investigation. Especially, if it concerns economic crimes.

“In this category of cases, in order to conclude a deal with the investigation, compensation of damage is necessary. This compensation can easily appear ‘in the pocket’ of that person who will investigate this case. That’s why the corruption component is laid out from the very beginning there. There is an accurate and very psychological system of extortion in the extraction of businesses. The political environment for this purpose is being created – the Deputy, who from a tribune voices the text that somewhere ‘the crocodile didn’t receive enough meat’, is appointed. Investigators start investigating. But as they have a motive so that everyone is left with earnings, they start collecting information about business, generally turning it upside down. They receive sanctions for wiretaps and extraction. The owner of the business starts being set up continually, and as business in our country doesn’t work honestly, to do it is as easy as taking candy from a baby. In parallel, lawyers of this business are placed in a nightmare in order to push them out of the case. And then suddenly the campaign in the media calms down, and it means that it was already worked out,” said Ruslan Rozhenko, describing the scheme.

The political scientist Ruslan Bortnik is sure that a plea deal is a rather democratic mechanism, but in our country, along with a lot of things, it gained a corrupt character. “It is important that the investigation represents State interests, and not personal ones. Here often bargaining is used either for settling scores with undesirables, or, on the contrary, is turned into a rear entrance for any corrupt official”.

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