The abolition by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine of the Criminal Code article providing for liability for illegal enrichment is a step backward in anti-corruption reform, the National Anti-corruption Bureau says.

“The National Bureau believes that the lifting of criminal liability for illegal enrichment, which is a consequence of the ruling of the Constitutional Court, opens up to officials opportunities for abuse and provides indulgence for committing criminal corruption offenses. Now assets worth millions, obtained from sources whose legality has not been proven are not considered a criminal offense in Ukraine,” NABU noted in a statement released on its website Wednesday.

Such a move, NABU opines, is politically motivated and contradicts Ukraine's obligations under the ratified UN Convention against Corruption, the agreements with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

NABU also reminded that Lithuania had earlier faced the problem of constitutionality of anti-corruption legislation, but the Constitutional Court in this country recognized such legislation as constitutional, although it is even harsher than the Ukrainian one.

Read alsoConfirmed: Constitutional Court cancels Criminal Code article on illegal enrichment

“Similar debate about the allegedly unconstitutional nature of the wording of the article took place in Lithuania. However, having considered the issue, the Lithuanian Constitutional Court recognized the provision on “illegal enrichment” as being in line with the Basic Law of the state. Note that this norm in Lithuania is much tougher than the Ukrainian version. It applies not only to individuals, but also to legal entities. In particular, the article provides that a person who, on the basis of property law, owns property worth more than 500 minimum subsistence payments, (more than EUR 19,500) and was aware or should have been aware of the fact that this property could not be acquired at the expense of legitimate income, shall be subject to punishment in the form of a fine or arrest, or imprisonment for up to 4 years with the obligatory confiscation of property,” the statement says.

NABU is convinced that the CCU made a political decision: "Fear of responsibility on the eve of the launch of the newly created High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine, which will hear cases forwarded from NABU and SAPO, including on said charges, switched on peculiar political mechanisms of regulation."

Also, the statement says that from now on, all proceedings against corrupt officials will be closed: “Currently, NABU detectives are investigating the facts of illegal enrichment worth a total of over half a billion hryvnias within 65 criminal proceedings. There are many judges, prosecutors, people's deputies, former and current senior state officials among those whose assets raise questions regarding the legality of their origin.”

Read alsoAntAC on cancellation of criminal liability for illegal enrichment: Serious consequences for Ukraine

“The CCU decision means that all criminal proceedings concerning the illegal enrichment of these persons will be closed. Just like the cases that are already being heard in court. We are talking about the head of the State Audit Service (accused of illegal enrichment worth almost UAH 10 million), the military prosecutor of the ATO forces (almost UAh 3 million), the judge from Luhansk region (more than UAH 13 million), and the minister of infrastructure (more than UAH 4 million)," the statement adds.

The Bureau noted that it would be impossible to resume the investigation in respect of targets of all 65 criminal proceedings, as well as suspects and indited persons on the already established facts of illegal enrichment (in case the relevant article is reinstated in the Criminal Code) because the law has no retroactive effect.

"Therefore, the property acquired will be considered legal by default, regardless of its origin," noted NABU.

“We are convinced that such developments are not in line with public interests and the requirements of purging the government from corruption. The decision by the Constitutional Court is a step backwards in Ukraine's anti-corruption struggle and a step towards revenge of the old system,” the Bureau summed up.

As UNIAN reported earlier, on Feb 26, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine canceled the article of the Criminal Code on illegal enrichment as unconstitutional and in breach of the Criminal Procedure Code.

On Feb 27, Irina Lutsenko, the president's envoy to parliament, said that the head of state would soon submit to the Verkhovna Rada a new bill on the punishment of illegal enrichment.