Ukraine Parliament Votes To Reboot Graft-Fighting Agency Amid Bribe Scandal

Ukraine’s parliament on December 3 passed a law that revamps the State Bureau of Investigations (DBR) on the same day that authorities detained a close associate of the corruption-fighting agency’s chief for allegedly demanding a $150,000 bribe from a construction company.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Facebook said the suspect was the agency head’s “right-hand man” while local media reports identified him as Ihor Shcherbyna, who headed the main investigation department of the Prosecutor-General’s Office in 2014-2015.

Then, Roman Truba, who was dismissed as DBR’s director on December 3 when parliament passed the new law, had worked under Shcherbyna.

Authorities arrested the former prosecutor while he was accepting $75,000 of upfront money to allegedly facilitate the closure of a criminal case on behalf of a construction firm.

The Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office said part of the overall bribe was designated “for the head of one of the law enforcement agencies,” which Zelenskiy said was the DBR.

According to the passed amendments, the president gets to appoint the DBR director among a set of finalists who undergo a competitive selection process.

The DBR’s principal mandate is to investigate high-level political crime and is “tasked with preventing, detecting, stopping, solving, and investigating crimes within its competence.”

In turn, the bureau chief appoints deputies, independently manages the agency, and doesn’t share powers with subordinates, as was stipulated in the previous law.

A special investigative department was created at the DBR to solve crimes committed in 2013-2014 when 98 people were killed -- including 84 protesters and 13 law enforcement officers -- during nearly three months of protests in central Kyiv’s Independence (Maidan) Square.

In addition, detectives from the Prosecutor-General’s Office who had previously worked on cases related to the Maidan will be transferred to the DBR without having to go through a hiring process.

Truba, the former DBR director, had opposed passage of the law.

Last month, Prosecutor-General Ruslan Ryaboshapka said an investigation was under way into leaked audio recordings that allegedly implicate Truba discussing wrongfully closing cases opened by the DBR.

With reporting by Dzerkalo Tyzhnya, Interfax, Hromadske Radio, Ukrayinska Pravda, and the Kyiv Post