- Vsevolod Kniaziev, Ukraine’s head of the Supreme Court, was detained.
- Prosecutors alleged that Kniaziev accepted a $2.7 million bribe in exchange for a favorable ruling.
- Ukraine is cracking down on corruption as it hopes to meet the conditions of joining the EU and NATO.
The head of Ukraine’s Supreme Court was detained on suspicion of accepting a $2.7 million bribe in exchange for a favorable ruling on a case involving a financial group owned by a wealthy Ukrainian businessman.
In its Tuesday announcement of the detainment, the Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) did not identify the top judge by name but said it was the head of the court. Vsevolod Kniaziev has served as the chief justice since December 2021. A formal “notice of suspicion” would be served.
“At this time, the head of the Supreme Court has been detained and measures are being taken to check other individuals for involvement in criminal activity,” Oleksandr Omelchenko, a prosecutor for SAPO, said in a joint briefing with the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), according to Reuters.
Kniaziev was removed from his position as head of the court on Tuesday, The Financial Times reported. A different body must convene to strip him of his title as a judge.
NABU said in a statement that the detainment was related to accusations of a $2.7 million bribe in exchange for a ruling in favor of the owner of the Finance and Credit financial group, Konstiantyn Zhevago.
Zhevago told the Financial Times that the allegations were “incorrect” and “politically motivated.”
The anti-corruption unit also released photos of piles of US dollars it says were found by detectives during their investigation into Supreme Court judges. NABU did not specify who the money belonged to or where it was exactly found. Reuters, which also shared the images was not able to independently verify the photos shared by the agency.
In a joint statement, the judges vowed to cooperate with the investigations.
“This is a dark day in the history of the court,” the judges said in a joint statement, according to The New York Times. “We must be worthy and withstand such a blow.”
The ousting of a top Supreme Court judge is part of Ukraine’s latest efforts to crack down on corruption in the country as it hopes to join the European Union and NATO.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last February that he officially applied to join the EU days after Russia invaded Ukraine.
The country’s officials have also made clear the need for more military assistance. On Tuesday, Zelenskyy’s presidential advisor Mykhail Podolyak said on Twitter that Ukraine can be easily “tortured” without more fighter jets and long-range missiles.