Published: 2023-05-16 20:26
Last Updated: 2023-06-02 00:44
Ukraine said Tuesday that law enforcement had detained the head of the country's supreme court in a $2.7 million bribery inquiry, as Kyiv pursues anti-graft measures required for closer integration with the European Union, AFP reported.
"The head of the supreme court has been detained," Oleksandr Omelchenko, a prosecutor with Ukraine's anti-corruption prosecutor's office, told reporters in Kyiv.
Omelchenko said two people, including the court's chief Vsevolod Kniaziev, had been detained as part of the investigation but declined to identify the second individual.
"This is the biggest-ever case" implicating the judiciary, said the head of Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), Semen Kryvonos.
Kryvonos likened a group of judges within the supreme court who were implicated in the probe to a "criminal group".
Anti-corruption officials say Ukrainian billionaire Kostiantyn Zhevago had offered the bribe to court officials, with a law firm acting as intermediary.
Anti-corruption officials said Zhevago had transferred $2.7 million to the lawyers, of which $1.8 million was to be paid to Supreme Court justices and $900,000 to lawyers for their "services as intermediaries".
They said Zhevago had hoped to bribe the court to issue a ruling allowing him to keep control of the shares of a mining company that is at the center of a dispute with former shareholders.
Zhevago, a former member of the Ukrainian parliament and one of the country's richest men, is currently in France, and Kyiv is attempting to secure his extradition.
He was detained in France in December on suspicion of money laundering and embezzling funds linked to his banking business at home.