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    • 2004.06.15 | .....

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      • 2004.06.15 | peter byrne


        netu zhurnalistov v ukraine.

        est' bydlo.

        dlya "vedushchikh" akul pera kotorye ne do ponyali, privedu ehto, opyat':

        Q&A: Feldman the victim of a 'cynical experiment'
        Trial and detention could continue indefinitely, says banker...
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        May 12, 2004 21:36Full Story

        Court cuts Feldmans term in half
        Stage is set for controversially jailed banker to walk free after a Kafka-esque incarceration...
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        Mar 11, 2004 06:02Full Story

        Court set to rule on Feldman case
        Unusual show of bipartisan support as scores of pro-presidential and opposition parliamentary deputies rally to seek release of banker Borys Feldman...
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        Mar 4, 2004 01:13Full Story

        Jailed without being charged: A bankers story
        In a case that reminds some of Kafka, financier Borys Feldman is being held for a crime he says he didnt commit...
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        Feb 19, 2004 01:27Full Story

        Against all odds, jailed bankers supporters place hopes in appeal
        When Viktor Yushchenko met the wife of imprisoned banker Borys Feldman at the U.S. Embassys July 4th picnic in Kyiv in 2002, the influential politician took her aside for a private chat......
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        Jan 22, 2004 02:32Full Story

        Critics claim new code recalls Stalinism
        New edition of Criminal Procedural Code does nothing to rein in prosecutors and will increase human rights violations, opposition says...
        Sep 18, 2003 09:55Full Story

        Judge nixes Feldman's defamation case against Azarov
        Kyiv court rejects claim that first deputy prime minister defamed jailed banker when he accused him of falsifying the Melnychenko tapes...
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        Jul 25, 2003 12:33Full Story

        Recordings admitted as evidence in new Feldman trial
        Judge in case of convicted banker admits Melnychenko tapes as evidence, but it is unclear what the new charges he's facing are...
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        Jul 10, 2003 16:28Full Story


        Lawyer Andriy Fedur was assailed by people in tax police uniforms in Luhansk at 9:15 p.m. on Aug. 30, 2002 by tax police officers in a lot where his car was parked.

        They threw him to the ground a began beating him, said Volodymyr Prykhodko,
        Fedurs colleague, who immediately called the police.

        Almost two hours later, police arrived at the scene.

        Earlier on Aug. 30, Fedur met with the Luhansk deputy prosecutor, who pledged to take measures to ensure his safety.

        Tax police are using every means at their disposal to prevent me from defending my client, Borys Feldman, said Fedur.

        Feldman is the former vice president of Sloviansky Bank. He was arrested arrested in Kyiv on March 13, 2000 and sentenced by a Luhansk court to nine years imprisonment on April 19, 2002.
        Hours of recordings allegedly made by a guard in President Leonid Kuchmas office in 1999-2000 corroborate allegations that Kuchma and State Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov orchestrated Feldmans arrest and the liquidation of Sloviansky to achieve their own business and political aims.
        The Zaporizhya-based bank.was formerly Ukraines most profitable commercial bank, posting Hr 556.1 million in net assets as of Jan. 1., 1999. It earned Hr. 83.34 million in profits in 2000, the highest result among the Association of Ukrainian Bankss 130 members.

        The Feldman Files

        05/23, 2002 Feldman wants Azarov to retract

        05/06, 2002 Interview - Yulia Tymoshenko

        04/20, 2002 Feldman sentenced to nine years

        08/30, 2001 Court rules Feldman must remain locked up

        08/16, 2001 Advocates want Feldman freed

        07/06, 2001 Interview - Borys Glazunov

        03/19, 2001 Interview- Borys Feldman

        12/07, 2000 Interview - Sloviansky Bank's Evheny Serebryany

        03/30, 2000 Tax police swoop leaves bankers edgy

        Feldman wants Azarov to retract
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        May 23, 2002
        Borys Feldman, the jailed former vice president of Sloviansky Bank, has filed a lawsuit demanding that State Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov retract his claim that he had commissioned a recording allegedly made in President Leonid Kuchmas office by former presidential guard Maj. Mykola Melnychenko.
        Azarov, who at the end of last week was reported to be under consideration as a possible replacement for Volodymr Lytvyn as head of the Presidential Administration, told a press conference on May 16 that Feldman had attempted to link the STAs charges against him to the Melnychenko tapes.
        He alleged that Feldman had ordered the recording of a conversation in which voices similar to those of Kuchma and Azarov discuss throwing him in jail and liquidating Sloviansky, Ukraines most profitable commercial bank in 1998 and 1999.
        Feldmans lawyers, Viktor Aheev and Andry Fedur, filed a defamation suit against Azarov on May 20.
        Feldman, who is being held in Luhansk jail after being sentenced to nine years in April for tax evasion and misappropriation of public funds, is asking Kyivs Shevchenko District Court to order Azarov to retract his accusation.
        Fedur said he would ask the judge to summon Kuchma, Azarov and Melnychenko as witnesses when the court considers hearing the lawsuit against Azarov. He promised to provide an official analysis of the relevant fragment of the Melnychenko tapes for the court case.
        For the first time, an opportunity may arise to determine in court the authenticity of the Melnychenko recordings and obtain testimony about them, Fedur said.
        The hour long recorded conversation, which was allegedly made in February 2000, was made available via the Internet through a project funded by Harvards Davis Center for Russian Studies and supported by Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

        Q&A with Yulia Tymoshenko
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        May 06, 2002
        Yulia Tymoshenko, 41, is an economist educated in Dnipropetrovsk, where she worked at a manufacturing plant and as the commercial director of the youth center in the 1980s. Following independence in 1991, Tymoshenko became an executive at the gas trading company Ukrainsky Benzin. In November of 1995, she assumed the helm of United Energy Systems of Ukraine, an energy trading company. Tymoshenko was elected to parliament in bi elections in 1996, receiving 90 percent of the vote. At the time, Tymoshenko was regarded as a close associate of Pavlo Lazarenko, whom President Leonid Kuchma appointed prime minister. As a deputy, Tymoshenko chaired the Budget Committee. Former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko put her in charge of Ukraines energy sector in December of 1999. A year later, the Prosecutor Generals Office opened a criminal investigation into her past activities, accusing her of forgery, embezzlement and tax evasion. Tymoshenko was sacked as deputy prime minister last January and jailed in February. A court ruled six weeks later that prosecutors had no grounds to hold her in pre trial detention. Tymoshenko is the leader of an eponymous election bloc, which garnered 7 percent of the party list vote in the March 31 parliamentary elections and won 26 seats in parliament. She is an outspoken critic of Kuchma.
        Tymoshenko answered the following questions from the Post during a interview in the studios of Radio Liberty in Kyiv on April 30. Radio Libertys Russian Service will broadcast the full 45 minute interview on its regularly scheduled program Face to Face on May 12.
        Q: One of the your blocs most popular promises during the election campaign was to seek the impeachment of President Leonid Kuchma. Do you think promulgating the measure in the new Rada will yield concrete results?
        A: Let me answer this way. Picture yourself walking down the street. You see a hooligan slapping around a defenseless girl. You know that you are a lot weaker than the hooligan, but you want to help even at the risk of being beaten up. You intercede because it is your moral duty. In our chaotic parliament, the chances of garnering enough votes to impeach Kuchma are slim, but that doesnt mean we shouldnt try. There are dozens of deputies who recognize that it is impossible for Ukraine to be healthy and functioning while Kuchma remains in office. We want this to be known.
        Theres lots of talk these days about compromises and alliances, because most Ukrainian politicians are extremely flexible. Unfortunately, very few elected officials are capable of making independent decisions. Some can, and we will offer a resolution to impeach Kuchma, organizing the procedure in a professional and legal manner our colleagues will understand and support it. If deputies dont endorse the measure, then that will be their problem and the problem of society, which supported politicians incapable of acting morally.
        Q: How have relationships between your bloc and Viktor Yushchenkos Our Ukraine changed since parliamentary elections on March 31?
        A: After the elections, Yushchenko declared that he was the winner. I won, he said. I think he should act like he won. That means he should elaborate unambiguous plans, form a team of professionals and begin acting like a leader. I dont understand all the fuss about under the rug negotiations between the leaders of his bloc and For a United Ukraine. I had hoped Our Ukraine would transform itself into a democratic opposition and take a soft, moderate or hard line it doesnt matter which on key positions. Unfortunately, I havent seen Yushchenko take a stand on anything. Our bloc and Our Ukraine are almost identical in terms of party platform, but its one thing to vote for a law and completely another to ensure it is carried out. After all, it is irrelevant that we agree on legislative issues if our political goals are different. If, lets say, Yushchenko joins up with FUU to create a strange parliamentary majority, you can imagine how little we will have in common. I am continually in talks with Yushchenko on this and other issues. I try to convince him that the road of unification with authorities leads to a dead end. It is not productive for him as a politician or for Ukraine.
        Q: Why do leaders of your bloc, Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party remain silent about the liquidation of Sloviansky Bank and the recent conviction of Borys Feldman?
        A: Our Fatherland Party has spoken out about the case and denounced the actions of authorities involved on numerous occasions. We continue to protest in a lawful and deliberate manner, even though we understand that to do so is politically risky because state controlled media deliberately misconstrue our involvement in the case. Nevertheless, we are honestly fighting for Borys Feldman and will continue to do so. Let me say it again, I am honestly fighting for Feldman. There are no legal grounds for the actions authorities have taken against Feldman. It is a frame up. There are no legal arguments for his imprisonment, and the case represents the worst aspects of Ukraines court system.
        People in Ukraine do not enter politics to defend the interests of the electorate, to improve the working of government or to correct deficiencies. Their goal is to satisfy personal ambitions or to profit from power. This is one of the nations biggest problems. It is a shame there is no political elite that can give society a clear signal that something is dreadfully wrong or explain where Ukraine should be headed.
        I think the recent election campaign, despite the numerous violations, should be viewed as a step in the right direction because voters demonstrated they understood and supported the signals some politicians sent. How quickly a political elite can take shape remains an open question, one that is complicated by debate over whether Ukraine should be a parliamentary or presidential republic. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic about the nations future and have a clear vision of what needs to be done.

        Feldman sentenced to nine years
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        April 20, 2002
        The Artemovsky District Court in Luhansk on April 19 found Sloviansky Bank Vice President Borys Feldman guilty of tax evasion and misappropriation of public funds. Judges sentenced the mathematician turned banker to nine years in jail.
        The verdict was the latest episode of a legal soap opera that has drawn the attention of human rights advocates, journalists and the U.S. State Department, which included the case in its Country Report on Human Rights Practices published on March 4.
        The case began two years ago when Feldman was arrested in Kyiv on charges that he had given a personal loan to a commercial entity without paying taxes. Authorities also detained six Sloviansky executives, accusing them of hiking interest rates on savings accounts belonging to bank employees.
        While the charges did not technically constitute criminal offenses, the State Tax Administration held Feldman and the other bank executives in pre trial detention while they investigated other crimes allegedly committed by officials at the Zaporizhya based bank.
        Before being liquidated last year, Sloviansky was Ukraines most profitable commercial bank, posting Hr 83.34 million in profits in 1999 on Hr 556.1 million in net assets, the highest result among 130 banks belonging to the Association of Ukrainian Banks.
        The STA said in February that it had proof Yulia Tymoshenko, former deputy prime minister for the energy sector used Sloviansky to steal around $1 billion intended to pay for Russian gas. Svyatoslav Pyskun, head of the STAs investigative department, said United Energy Systems of Ukraine used the bank to wire money abroad when Tymoshenko ran the company in 1996 97.
        Tymoshenko was later arrested and jailed for six weeks. She was released in March 2001 after the Pechersk District Court ruled that prosecutors did not have sufficient grounds to keep her behind bars.
        Feldman, meanwhile, continued to sit in jail even after the same court ruled seven months later that he, too, should be released pending trial. The Prosecutor Generals Office, however, refused to abide by the ruling.
        After tax authorities completed their 18 month investigation in November, the Supreme Court assigned the case to the Artemovsky District Court in Luhansk.
        Yury Vasylenko, a Kyiv appellate court judge, said the states handling of the case against Feldman was an example of how the courts cover up human rights abuses perpetrated by law enforcement agencies at the behest of government officials.
        I have seen few cases as botched as this one in my 32 years as a judge, said Vasylenko, who said he hoped it was only a matter of time before politicians came to the defense of Feldman, whom Vasylenko called a victim of dysfunctional jurisprudence.
        Ignorance about the case abounds, according to Feldmans lawyer, Andry Fedur. He said U.S. officials erred when they wrote in their annual report on human rights practices that Feldman was the manager of Yulia Tymoshenkos business interests.
        Tymoshenko was one of Feldmans clients, not his boss, Fedur said.
        According to Fedur, conversations about Feldman and Sloviansky Bank allegedly recorded in February 2000 by Mykola Melnychenko, a former presidential guard in President Leonid Kuchmas office, best explain why his client in still in jail.
        In a 30 minute conversation published by Radio Liberty last April, two men purported to be Kuchma and State Tax Administration Head Mykola Azarov discussed how to shut down Sloviansky Bank and incriminate Feldman.
        Fedur said the judge presiding over Feldmans trial refused to honor his request to call Melnychenko and Kuchma as witnesses.
        Slovianskys problems began in December of 1999 when the STA demanded that the bank pay a fine of $16 million for alleged misconduct. Ukraines High Arbitration Court ruled that the charges were unfounded, but the STA opened a criminal case against Sloviansky, which had made large loans to industrial works in eastern Ukraine.
        Feldman has denied all allegations of impropriety. He and his former colleagues at Sloviansky have said government officials including President Leonid Kuchma and Azarov orchestrated his arrest and liquidated Sloviansky Bank to achieve their own business and political aims.
        Yevhen Serebryany, who headed the banks information department, said Slovianksy worked with dozens of industrial enterprises, including Kryvorizhstal, Ukraines largest metallurgical plant, which was headed by Tymoshenkos successor, Oleh Dubyna, now deputy prime minister.
        Serebryany, who sat in on the trial, said the system had not broken his friends spirit.
        Feldmans 34 year old wife, Olena, who was in court when the verdict was handed down, said she was only surprised that tax officials and the courts proved incapable of managing the case more professionally.
        Maybe [the authorities] wanted to be crude deliberately to show us that they can get away with anything, she said.

        Court rules Feldman must remain locked up
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        August 30, 2001
        A Kyiv appeals court on Aug. 28 reversed a week-old ruling made by a lower court, which had ordered the release of the former vice president of Sloviansky Bank from jail after 17 months of pretrial confinement.
        Without comment, the three-judge panel overturned the decision made Aug. 21 by Kyiv Pechersk District Court, which ruled that Borys Feldman should be released because the original arrest warrant contained numerous errors.
        The Aug. 28 decision was the latest battle in a legal war that has drawn the attention of international human rights organizations and representatives of dozens of national media outlets.
        At times the proceedings surrounding the case have turned farcical.
        Take, for example, the events following the Aug. 21 court decision to release Feldman.
        After Feldmans lawyer Andry Fedur told Feldmans wife that her husbands release was imminent, a handful of Feldman supporters went to the Lukyanivka jail to meet him. However, jail officials refused to release Feldman, claiming they couldnt let him out after hours.
        The group returned the next day only to discover that Feldman had been moved to another jail. Olena Feldman said it wasnt until a day later, on Aug. 23, that she learned her husband had been transferred to a detention center in Podil.
        On Aug. 28, an armada of Mazda minivans transported the 43-year-old commercial banker to Kyivs Court of Appeals, for a hearing to decide if Feldman would be released.
        Before the hearing, men wearing black special-forces uniforms herded Feldman into a cage in a third-floor courtroom where lawyers and judges spent the next six and a half hours haggling over whether to release Feldman pending trial on tax evasion charges.
        The court decided to allow media to sit in on the proceedings only after about 30 journalists, lawyers and human rights advocates demanded access to the courtroom.
        Tensions ran high between spectators and court employees. One court guard, attempting to appease the crowd, remarked that he was only doing his job.
        Im not in charge, they are, he said, motioning to a closed door.
        During the proceedings, defense lawyers argued that prosecutors had no reason to keep Feldman in jail. They also asked the judges to reschedule the hearing for a later date so they could confer with their client, whom they had not seen since Aug. 23.
        That motion was denied, as was the request to allow Feldman to exit the cage to participate in his own defense.
        Defense attorneys then demanded a change of venue, claiming that the judges presiding over the trial were colluding with state prosecutors and tax authorities.
        This motion also was denied - as were all motions made by Feldmans lawyers during the trial.
        During a 30-minute recess, court spectators, including parliament deputy Oleksandr Zhyr, Svoboda editor Oleh Lyashko and former political dissident Stepan Khmara, traded insults with tax officials, who boasted that the courts final ruling was a foregone conclusion.
        And it was, according to Oleksandr Kurepin, the secretary of Helsinki-90, a Kyiv-based human rights group.
        This is a Kangaroo court, said Kurepin, before leaving the hearing to brief representatives from the Council of Europe who were visiting Kyiv to check up on Ukraines legal system.
        Meanwhile, the State Tax Administration justified its reasons for wanting Feldman locked up.
        Our decision to hold Feldman in pretrial custody is based on the social danger of the crimes he has committed, his repeated assertions that it is impossible to receive a fair trial in Ukraine and on the possibility he will flee abroad, read the statement issued via Interfax-Ukraine on Aug. 23.
        Sloviansky was Ukraines most profitable commercial bank in 1998. It repeated the feat in 1999, posting Hr 85 million in net profits on total assets worth Hr 556 million.
        Tax police arrested Feldman in March 2000 on suspicion of giving a personal loan to a commercial entity without paying taxes. By the time that charge was dropped last February, tax investigators said they had uncovered more serious crimes.
        Feldman has denied all allegations of impropriety. He and his former colleagues at Sloviansky have alleged that government officials including President Leonid Kuchma and State Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov orchestrated his arrest and the liquidation of Sloviansky to achieve their own business and political aims.
        That claim is supported by detailed conversations about Feldman that were allegedly secretly recorded by a former presidential guard in Kuchmas office in the spring of 2000.
        Excerpts from one exchange published on Radio Libertys Web site on April 13 indicates that two men, purported to be Kuchma and Azarov, had discussed the imminent arrest of Feldman.
        Azarov: We are now working all out to incriminate Feldman. He should be jailed in such a way that we wont have to release him later. By my accounts [Sloviansky] made about [Hr] 80 million in profits [last year], but only paid [Hr] 781,000 in taxes.
        Kuchma: Oy, oy, oy. Why so little?
        Azarov: The bank artificially creates and reports losses in their [tax] filings. [Sloviansky Bank Chairman Olena] Yakimenko cooks the books while [Feldman] sits clean. [He] owns 19.7 percent of the bank outright and another 33.6 percent through an enterprise he controls.
        Kuchma: Hmmm, I want to attack the [commercial] banking system. I want to know what money is floating around, and who pays what....

        Advocates want Feldman freed
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        August 16, 2001
        Human rights advocates are demanding Kyiv's Shevchenko District Court release Sloviansky Bank executive Borys Feldman, who has been in jail for the last 15 months without being charged.

        Yury Murashev of Helsinki-90, a Kyiv-based human rights advocacy group, slammed the state tax police at a press conference on Aug. 14 for failing to divulge what crimes, if any, they allege Feldman committed.
        The former mathematician turned banker has spent almost a year and a half in pre-trial confinement in a Kyiv jail.

        Murashev and his colleagues cited 42 factual errors in Feldman's arrest warrant, including references to non-existent articles of Ukraine's criminal code.
        Boris Glazunov, the deputy director of the Kyiv-based International Society for Human Rights, has for months attempted to bring the case and Feldman's plight to the attention of Ukrainian parliamentary deputies and Kyiv-based foreign emissaries.

        "It is a perfect example of how Ukraine's legal system should work and does not, illustrating the difference between ... Ukraine's Constitution and the actual practice of ignoring it to suit vested interests," Glazunov said.

        Authorities originally arrested Feldman in March 2000 on suspicion of giving a personal loan to a commercial entity without paying taxes. They also arrested four Sloviansky executives, accusing them of misusing public office - for hiking interest rates on savings accounts belonging to bank employees.

        While neither charge actually constitutes a criminal offense, tax police argued that their fact-finding detective work had provided sufficient grounds to investigate other, possibly more serious, crimes committed by executives of the Zaporizhya-based bank.

        Ukraine's National Bank and the auditing companies KPMG and VneshInformAudit had months earlier given a clean bill of health to Sloviansky, Ukraine's most profitable commercial bank in 1998 and 1999.

        "Ukraine's justice system has been turned into a club instead of the shield we all wanted it to be," Murashev said.

        Understanding the legal logic behind the tax police investigation of Sloviansky or the essence of as-yet unspecified charges levied against Feldman remains an arduous task, even for his lawyers.

        Feldman's new high-profile defense attorney, Borys Fedur, said the likelihood his client would be released on bail or receive a fair and speedy trial are slim.

        "If I could disguise the identity of the plaintiff and the defendant, I'm sure second-year students at the Kharkiv Law Academy would sort the case out on its merits and reach an impartial decision in a day or two," Fedur said.

        It took Fedur two weeks to secure Feldman's legal right to be physically present on Aug. 16 at a Shevchenko District Court hearing to discern what, specifically, the banker is accused of.

        "I don't know how law enforcement agencies will be able to avoid responsibility for creating the political quagmire surrounding the case," Fedur said.

        Feldman's wife, Olena, already knows she's in for a long haul, having spent the past year commuting from Zaporizhya and Kyiv.

        This summer her son, Borys Jr., has tagged along, sitting patiently at meetings with reporters in smoky bars as his mother and former bank employees attempt to shed light on her husband's predicament.

        "He knows the case inside and out," Olena said. "I just hope the ordeal doesn't turn him into a revolutionary."

        Olena Feldman starts her brief by handing out a five-page single-spaced transcript of an alleged conversation recorded by a presidential guard in early 2000.

        On the recording, which was shared with a Post reporter, two men with voices resembling President Leonid Kuchma's and State Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov's discuss how best to shut down disloyal commercial banks and how to keep Feldman behind bars.

        Sloviansky was not the only bank subjected to tax audits last year. The combined profits of Ukraine's 153 commercial banks fell by 97 percent, according to the NBU, which attributed the unforeseen dip to an increase in losses from Ukraine's "problem banks."

        The case has allowed the State Tax Administration to provide a valuable lesson to other commercial bankers: that it can act against them with impunity, according to Feldman. He told the Post in March that his competitors suddenly had access to profitable clients, invested credits and took advantage of the elimination of a primary competitor.

        A bank with strong ties to Russian conglomerates, Ukrsibbank, stepped in almost immediately to service many of Sloviansky's corporate clients, mostly large ore-mining and metallurgical works in eastern Ukraine. Ukrsibbank is closely allied with Russia's Siberskaya Alumina, which has a controlling stake in Mykolaiyiv Alumina, Ukraine's largest alumina plant.

        In September the NBU took control of Sloviansky Bank. In January the central bank liquidated Sloviansky and paid each of the 10,000 private account holders Hr 500, about 5 percent of the Hr 75 million actually owed by the bank to private depositors, said Yevhen Serebrenny, a former bank employee and account holder.

        The story was not covered by the Western press, and state-controlled media gave scant coverage to the scandal, even after thousands of the bank's account-holders signed petitions to Kuchma in their own blood and camped out in front of oblast administration offices in Zaporizhya and neighboring Dnipropetrovsk.

        Q+A with human rights worker Boris Glazunov
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        July 6, 2001
        Eight years of project work for the Ukrainian branch of the Germany-based International Society for Human Rights have not made Boris Glazunov a wealthy man.
        The work has, however, provided the 34-year-old Kyiv resident with many opportunities to reflect upon what government officials and their foreign colleagues can do to make Ukraine a more civilized place.
        The International Society, which has consultative status with the Council of Europe and associate status with the U.N. Department of Public Information, has implemented various programs over the years to educate Ukrainians on human rights issues.
        Q: What NGOs actively work to promote and protect human rights in Ukraine today?
        A: Very few. The Association of Psychiatrists of Ukraine, an independent professional organization dedicated to reforming the policies of Soviet psychiatry; the Kharkhiv Human Rights Initiative; Helsinki-90; Le Strada; the English branch of Amnesty International ... thats about it.
        Dozens of small groups in oblasts and towns throughout Ukraine have all but disappeared over the past few years.
        Why? Because people need to eat. Pro bono work, however necessary or noble, does not put food on the table.
        Q: If we take the 10 years of Ukrainian Independence, when did the situation begin changing for the worse?
        A: In 1995 after the breakdown in the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government.
        The demise of human-rights advocacy in Ukraine coincided with the introduction [in 1988] and consolidation [in 1999] of a vertical administrative structure and the reintroduction of some elements of authoritarian rule [in 2000]. The trend, in turn, has fueled public apathy toward the authorities, which today makes it even more difficult to openly challenge the abuses perpetrated by the entrepreneurial bureaucrats.
        The work of human rights advocates is labor intensive. It entails conferring with victims of abuse, talking to lawyers, going to court, organizing campaigns, lobbying bureaucrats, the press, etc. what were doing now, for example, in the Sloviansky Bank case.
        Q: Whats happening with that case?
        A: State prosecutors teamed up with State Tax Administration police last March to arrest five of the banks top managers and freeze the banks assets. Besides the 12,000 angry account-holders in Zaporizhia, there was little public outcry. Even today, no one wants to know what really happened, or why.
        Authorities accused [Vice President Boris] Feldman of giving a personal loan to a commercial entity without paying income tax. They also accused him of violating Article 165, Section 2, of the Ukrainian Criminal Code misusing public office for hiking interest rates on savings accounts belonging to bank employees.
        While neither charge constitutes a criminal offense, Feldman has been in jail for the last year and four months.
        Q: How often are you contacted by the U.S. Embassy or by European Union embassies concerning specific cases or trends in human-rights compliance?
        A: Almost never, and then only on the eve of a visit by some European delegation. If the Ukrainian authorities are organizing the visit, we arent called in at all.
        Ukraines human rights record is awful and is wreaking havoc on our countrys image abroad. Of course, local officials and the courts should address abuses before the foreign community catches wind of them, but theres little incentive to do so. Whistle-blowers are seldom rewarded, often dismissed and sometimes beaten up.
        Q: Why do you think that more attention is paid to the human-rights records of other CIS republics than to Ukraines?
        A: There are geopolitical factors at work and a self-serving double standard. Abuses committed by authoritarian regimes looking East get more international attention. Ukraine and [President Leonid] Kuchma at least say theyre looking in a different direction. I dont think Kuchmas yet decided which way hes looking.
        Q: The Euro-Atlantic powers appear to have moved beyond recent scandals and are focusing on parliamentary elections scheduled for next March. What do you expect from that exercise in democracy?
        A: I do not think any one party or bloc will win a majority in the new legislature because election districts are larger than they were back in 1994. And winning will require candidates to secure considerable financial backing and/or administrative resources, i.e., the support of the presidents vertical power structure. By the way, we still dont have an election law.
        But if they are like previous elections, the chairman of the village or town will be held liable if a certain percentage of vote is not cast for a particular candidate. Even if an army of volunteers closely monitors the election, its unlikely that election officials or the courts will rule objectively on infractions and disputes.
        Q: Do you think human rights issues weigh on the conscience of the current leadership?
        A: I think many bureaucrats are acting in their own interests and leaving a mess for the next generation to clean up.
        Theyre thinking about their life on Earth not about the miserable legacy theyre leaving behind. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of young and able Ukrainians are emigrating or traveling abroad to work, leaving power-hungry politicians and pensioners to build the countrys future.

        Boris Feldman
        Interview by Peter Byrne
        March 19, 2001
        Boris Feldman is the brains behind the Sloviansky Bank.
        For a year Feldman has languished in jail, awaiting trial on charges of income tax evasion, misuse of office and misappropriation of collective property.
        His Zaporozhia-based bank, which set record profits among Ukrainian commercial banks for 1998 and 1999, began experiencing problems last March when tax authorities arrested five of its managers, including Feldman.
        Since then, the NBU has suspended Sloviansky's licenses to perform key banking operations and the State Tax Administration confiscated securities constituting a large proportion of the bank's assets.
        Last month the STA said they had proof that Yulia Tymoshenko, former deputy prime minister for the energy sector, conspired with Feldman to steal about $1 billion intended to pay for Russian gas.
        Tymoshenko and Feldman say none of the numerous investigations into their companies' operations have uncovered any evidence of wrongdoing.
        Both say a corrupt regime is attempting to shut them up, a charge backed up by recently released secret recordings of alleged conversations between President Leonid Kuchma and State Tax Administration chief Mykola Azarov.
        This Q&A was conducted via correspondence with Feldman, who has asked the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg to overturn rulings by the Ukrainian courts.
        Q. Why did authorities go after your bank?
        A. The motivation for launching the case against the bank is rather complicated. First, many and varied officials initiated the action against the bank and me. Secondly, their "desires" have changed over time, in accordance to both internal and external circumstances, which have changed over time.
        Audio records of conversations recorded [by former security guard Mykhola Melnychenko] reveal part of the reason authorities went after Sloviansky, as do recent statements made by public officials.
        From the beginning, authorities have tried to portray Sloviansky as the wallet or financial instrument of Tymoshenko. The spin was simple: "It is necessary to destroy Sloviansky in order to deprive Tymoshenko of her financial empire."
        Tax agents had a slightly different aim - to show their readiness to carry out any order to demonstrate who rules the roost. Destroying Sloviansky enhanced STA's prestige and provided a lesson to other banks, which the STA could - and would - act against with impunity.
        For Sloviansky's business competitors, the objectives were more apparent - access to profitable clients, invested credits, and a way to eliminate an uncompromising competitor.
        For state officials, our demise represented an opportunity to use Sloviansky as the scapegoat for their own sins. On Saturday, Feb. 17, Mr. Marchuk took to the airwaves on National State Television [UT-1] and said Sloviansky and Grado banks were underwriting protest actions in order to avoid prosecution themselves.
        As for the STA officials, after the liquidation of Sloviansky, the goal has become to wash their hands of the matter as quickly as possible. Both tax authorities and employees of the NBU need to endure possible court action and want to escape criminal responsibility for what has been done. They want what happened to Sloviansky to be forgotten as quickly as possible. But in order to use the case against Sloviansky against Tymoshenko, all judges in Ukraine would need to be controlled by the authorities.
        Q. Why did the NBU jump on the bandwagon?
        A. What motivated the actions of [National Bank of Ukraine Governor Volodymr] Stelmakh and the NBU vis-a-vis Sloviansky can be summed up using one word - fear.
        Q. What was your bank's relationship with United Energy Systems of Ukraine and Yulia Tymoshenko?
        A. Sloviansky Bank was formed in 1989. I became a shareholder five years later. In 1995, I made the acquaintance of Yulia Tymoshenko of United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU). Earlier, in 1992 and 1993, I had met her casually on a few occasions. Our relationship was on the level of "hello" and "goodbye."
        I never worked for UESU, although I had an offer to become the company's financial director at the end of 1996. They even allocated me an office, but I refused the offer. But by that time, I had grown accustomed to acting independently, so our relationship remained one between bank and client.
        Q. What exactly are you accused of?
        A. The indictment against me was 80 pages. When asked, "Do you understand the charges being brought against you?" I had to honestly respond, "No."
        Prosecutors charged me on five criminal counts. Last month, they dropped two of the charges, leaving income tax evasion, misuse of office and misappropriation of collective property. Law enforcement authorities investigating wrongdoing accuse a "group" led by myself of perpetrating these crimes.
        Understanding the logic behind the investigation or the essence of the charges against me is difficult, even for my lawyers. I still have not received the opportunity to acquaint myself with the particulars of the case against me.
        Perhaps then I will be able to understand what the authorities are driving at, but for now I'm left only with a general impression about the ineptitude of state prosecutors. We don't understand one another. At times, I think we speak different languages.
        For example, three years ago, I borrowed money from a company. Investigators - who apparently do not understand Ukraine's criminal code - still can't figure out how I paid off the debt, much less accomplished the transaction. On the one hand, prosecutors accuse me of stealing the sum (although they can't say from whom, when or how) and, on the other hand, State Tax Administration agents accuse me of pocketing untaxed profit from the deal.
        Q. Have authorities asked you to provide evidence against Tymoshenko or to arrange a plea bargain?
        A. There are no grounds for me to come to any "accommodation" with law-enforcement agencies. If rule of law existed in Ukraine, I could wait for an open legal trial, at which the arbitrariness of the charges against me would be exposed. In the absence of rule of law, there's little or no reason for them to talk to me at all.
        I sought in writing to redress the actions of Ukraine's State Tax Administration, asking the courts to overturn decisions taken against Sloviansky's account-holders, who have suffered tremendous losses. To date, I have not received responses to formal applications as stipulated by law.
        The counter suits I filed against the State Tax Administration, General Prosecutor's Office and NBU have been ignored. Even though Article 55 of the Constitution provides citizens the right to seek legal redress for illegal - let alone criminal - acts committed by state officials, it remains almost impossible for ordinary citizens to avail themselves of this right in practice.
        Take, for example, the case brought by Mrs. Lesya Gongadze against the [Deputy General Prosecutor Oleksy] Bahanets. Although the court accepted the case, state prosecutors successfully appealed the decision on grounds that Ukrainian courts had no right to "interfere" in an ongoing investigation.
        In his ruling, [Perchersk District Court Judge] Mykola Zamkovenko said his ruling would take immediate effect because of the public significance of the [Gongadze] case. [Human rights ombudswoman Nina] Karpachova hailed the decision as "historic." It has taken five years since we adopted the Constitution for judges to apply it to a "dead person of European significance."
        It seems Ukrainians have a long fight ahead of them before judges will protect their constitutional rights.

        Q&A: Sloviansky Bank's Evheny Serebryany
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        Dec. 7, 2000
        Evheny Serebryany is the chief of the information department at Sloviansky Bank, which remains mired in a major crisis that began last spring when Ukrainian authorities arrested five of the banks top managers on suspicion of tax evasion and abuse of office.
        Born in 1954 in Dnipropetrovsk, Serebryany is a physicist by education, specializing in quantum theory. Those mathematical skills no doubt have served him well at Sloviansky. The bank used to be the countrys fifth largest bank in terms of assets, according to the Association of Ukrainian Banks, with Hr 556.1 million in net assets as of Jan. 1. Last year, Sloviansky posted Hr 83.34 million in profits, the highest among Ukrainian commercial banks.
        But this year has been a different story, as the crisis has nearly brought the activities of the bank to a halt.
        Among those arrested last spring were Borys Feldman, Slovianskys vice president, who studied physics under Serebryanny at Dnipropetrovsk University before the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991.
        But Serebryany has weathered the storm. He was in Kyiv recently to publicly discuss Feldmans case and talk about his banks increasingly untenable predicament.
        Q. What set your bank apart from other commercial banks in Ukraine?
        A. We took a different approach than most banks. Sloviansky performed non standard banking operations, basing our activities on the following doctrine, What the law does not forbid is legal.
        The bank became profitable in the 1990s without the patronage of government officials or oligarchic clans. We worked with enterprises to create effective and efficient financial instruments, which increased our turnover and profits.
        Unlike many banks in Ukraine, our lawyers scrupulously analyzed legis
        lation regulating banking activities. We even put in place a quality control system ensuring that all transactions and instruments at the bank complied with banking legislation.
        We were proud of that and operated within legal bounds.
        Q. When did problems at the bank arise?
        A. The wind began blowing in an unfavorable direction back in 1998, after the financial collapse in Russia. The dilemma for us then was the following: either become someones or some clans bank, or rely on ourselves and remain independent.
        Borys Feldman, the banks vice president, chose the latter. He thought we should concentrate on making the state the banks main customer. We developed transparent paradigms for settling mutual payments between commercial enterprises and the state, including budget settlements.
        Through 1999, bank officials met in Kyiv with Cabinet officials to discuss ways of creating a transparent mutual settlements system and managing unprofitable state enterprises. Our proposals were taken seriously by highly placed government officials at Ukraines National Bank and Finance Ministry, where we worked to refine various technical issues, including clearing systems.
        Q. Were Slovianskys clients from all over Ukraine?
        A. Our major accounts were industrial enterprises from eastern Ukraine Kryvy Rih, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhya and Donetsk.
        Q. When did problems with tax and law enforcement authorities begin?
        A. In 1998 and 1999 tax and central bank authorities conducted more than 140 audits. Of course, that made it difficult to do work at the bank. It was all nervous employees at the bank could do to retrieve and supply inspectors with the volumes of documents they demanded. I am not a lawyer and dont know the legal details of all the checks, but they were various and sundry, including hard currency transactions, tax liabilities, etc.
        Ultimately, the high arbitration court ruled in our favor. The bizarre case is best summed up in the judgment: ... Although the activities of Sloviansky Bank do not adhere to the spirit of President Leonid Kuchmas decree on banking activities, they are fully in compliance with existing legislation. Therefore, sanctions cannot be levied against the bank.
        Q. What happened this spring?
        A. The State Tax Administration began a criminal investigation of the bank, notwithstanding the earlier judgment that our activities were legal.
        Q. Why?
        A. I dont know whether this is true or not, but Borys [Feldman] told me that [a deputy head of the State Tax Administration] said the following: We will open an investigation, put you in jail, and close your bank down. At the time, we understood the comment as mere bureaucratic bravado. Of course, this was our mistake.
        State Tax Administration head Mykola Azarov also announced at a coordination meeting of tax officials that Sloviansky bank had engaged in gross malfeasance.
        There were a number of factors, including inevitable differences of opinion of the banks tax arrears, as well as the suspicions of some officials that Sloviansky had laundered money for United Energy Systems of Ukraine, or for [exiled Former Prime Minister Pavlo] Lazarenko.
        But I think the witch hunt began when someone high ranking official gave the order: Take care of that bank.
        Q. What happened next?
        A. In early February, tax authorities opened a criminal case on charges of tax evasion and, on March 13, police arrested Borys Feldman. Bank officials in Zaporizhya were jailed the next day.
        Q. Has Borys Feldman changed his position since he was jailed more than eight months ago?
        A. No. His position is the same. Feldman thinks it is necessary that the rule of law prevail in Ukraine. He refuses to buckle under pressure.
        Q. What do you think will happen to him and other bank officials?
        A. I expect the worse. I think authorities will keep them in jail without any legal basis for years.

        Tax police swoop leaves bankers edgy
        By Peter Byrne, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
        March 30, 2000

        The recent arrest of top executives in one of Ukraine's most successful banks has raised concern in banking circles that tax authorities' sweeping powers over the banking sector may lead them to launch a large-scale crackdown on the banking sector in a bid to boost revenue collection.

        Earlier this month, tax police arrested and charged five top managers in the Zaporizhia-based Sloviansky bank with abuse of office and tax evasion.

        Among those arrested were the bank's chairman, Olena Yakymenko, vice president Borys Feldman, and chief accountant Yury Vinnytsky.

        The Association of Ukrainian Banks criticized tax police's actions against Sloviansky, which is the fifth largest bank among AUB members, with Hr 556.1 million in net assets as of Jan. 1.

        'Most unsettling have been the methods employed by tax authorities, who were not justified in scandalizing such a stable financial institution. Their actions contradict existing legislation and exceed their authority,' said AUB chairman Oleksandr Suhoniako.

        'No one objects to legal disputes, but the approach taken vis-a-vis Sloviansky sets a dangerous precedent,' said Suhoniako, whose association unites most of Ukraine's 165 commercial banks.

        Sloviansky posted Hr 83.34 million in profits last year, the highest result among AUB's 130 banks.

        Following the arrests that took place on March 13 to March 21, Ukrainian tax police chief Viktor Zhvaliuk said his office was thoroughly examining the banking system. He accused banks of massive tax evasion, in particular, by inflating their operational expenses in order to minimize declared profits.

        In Sloviansky's case, Zhvaliuk said the bank paid up to 400 percent interest on dollar deposits and 1,600 percent on hryvna deposits, which he said was 'economically unjustified.'

        'I do not see any war [with banks],' Zhvaliuk told a press conference on March 15. 'We have to support the banking system and clean it up.'

        Zhvaliuk said his agency was also checking several other banks on suspicions of tax evasion, which included Brokbiznesbank, Zevs, and Khreshchatyk, all Kyiv-registered.

        Sloviansky officials denied tax police's charges and said the arrests were a reprisal by tax inspectors, who earlier failed to prove their allegations in court. Last year, tax police lost a similar dispute with Sloviansky, when Ukraine's High Arbitration Court ruled in the bank's favor.

        'It's the bank's board of directors - not tax police - who establish interest rates, according to a corresponding resolution of the National Bank,' said Sloviansky's deputy chairman, Volodymyr Daneliuk.

        Daneliuk said Sloviansky's revenues in 1999 totaled Hr 243 million, of which 54 million was paid out in interest on personal accounts.

        Viktor Zinchenko, chief of the National Bank's oversight department, also spoke in Sloviansky's defense, citing a recent audit of the bank, conducted at the request of tax authorities, which uncovered no evidence of financial improprieties.

        'Sloviansky didn't worry us. The bank is profitable and, judging by its financial indicators, its affairs are in order,' Zinchenko said.

        Tax police officials declined further comment on the matter, citing the continuing investigation against Sloviansky.

        'I don't think the trial will take place soon, because the criminal case is fairly large,' said Oleksandr Spyrydonov, who leads the Sloviansky investigation. Spiridonov said that it would be preferable for the bank managers to remain in custody until their cases came to court.

        Meanwhile, Ukraine's leading business media were alarmed over the Sloviansky affair, expressing fear that tax officials' present authority in cracking down on tax evaders could cost many other banks dear.

        'It's not only about Sloviansky. The problem is that now the chairman of any Ukrainian bank can be arrested, only because he has a 'very competent team of lawyers' and is not willing to pay taxes he can avoid paying by legal means,' the influential business weekly Biznes wrote on March 27.

        Western experts say the banks' recent problems with tax authorities is only one example of unfriendly relations between Ukrainian tax inspectors and businessmen, who have increasingly complained of the present tax system as pushing them toward bankruptcy.

        'Many serious problems continue to hamstring Ukrainian banks' ability to realize their full potential,' said Khwaja Sultan of the Kyiv office of the Harvard Institute for International Development.

        HIID is a principal contractor of a 10-year fiscal reform program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which aims to help Ukraine design by 2004 a more efficient tax system, among other goals.

        But as the new tax system is only being created, there seems to be sufficient reason for banks to worry.

        'Not a single businessman can be confident any longer about the fact that his current partner bank won't find its documents confiscated, its accounts frozen, and its managers thrown behind the bars tomorrow,' Biznes said.

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