Chief judge of Ukraine's Supreme Court detained, charged with corruption and accepting bribes

May 18, 2023
Ben Marquis

Before the Russian invasion last year, it was fairly common knowledge that Ukraine was among the most corrupt nations in the world, and that apparently hasn't changed during the Russian occupation of part of the country over the past year.

Multiple reports this week announced that the chief judge of Ukraine's Supreme Court, Vsevolod Kniaziev, had been detained by authorities on allegations of accepting bribes for favorable rulings, Breitbart reported.

The arrest comes as Ukrainian authorities attempt to crack down on and root out rampant and high-level corruption in order to gain acceptance into the European Union.

Chief judge arrested on suspicion of corruption

According to The Guardian, the arrest of Judge Kniaziev was announced on Tuesday -- though he was not specifically named -- in a press conference held by a pair of anti-corruption organizations, the office of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor (SAP) and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).

SAP prosecutor Oleksandr Omelchenko said, "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."

The head of NABU, Semen Kryvonos, said during the briefing that this was the highest-level anti-corruption case in the nation's history and stated, "We are showing through real cases, real deeds, what our priority is: it’s top corruption, it’s criminal organizations at the highest levels of power."

Anti-corruption units display stacks of U.S. dollars allegedly paid as bribes

Insider reported that Judge Kniaziev was detained on suspicions that he had accepted a bribe of as much as $2.7 million from a wealthy Ukrainian businessman, Konstiantyn Zhevago, in exchange for a favorable ruling in a case involving his company, the Finance and Credit financial group."

Zhevago has insisted that he engaged in no wrongdoing and said the allegations of bribery were "incorrect" and "politically motivated."

Interestingly enough, one day prior to the announcement that Kniaziev had been detained, NABU revealed that it was investigating Supreme Court judges and posted pictures online of numerous stacks of U.S. dollars neatly arranged on couches and tables, presumably in the homes of the judges being probed.

For what it is worth, a joint statement was issued by Ukraine's Supreme Court judges that called the investigations "a dark day in the history of the court" but nonetheless pledged to fully cooperate with the anti-corruption agencies.

Ordered to remain in detention, faces up to 12 years in prison

The Kyiv Independent reported on Thursday that Judge Kniaziev was ordered by Ukraine's High Anti-Corruption Court to be held in custody for 60 days, until July 14, unless he was able to post a bail amount set at $2.9 million, which was substantially less than the $4 million bail that prosecutors had requested.

He was similarly ordered to remain in detention by Ukraine's Supreme Council of Justice, which likely granted its approval for his arrest. He was also dismissed from his role as head of the Supreme Court, though he technically still remains a judge for the time being.

Kniaziev has also now been formally charged with corruption and stands accused of receiving a bribe in the amount of $1.8 million from Zhevago for a favorable ruling, and faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

As was noted by The Guardian, the anti-corruption organizations had made it clear that the alleged bribe received by Kniaziev was part of what they suspected was a larger scheme to influence the Supreme Court and that other judges were being closely scrutinized, so it likely won't be a surprise if the now-former chief judge is soon joined in detention by some of his other colleagues on the high bench.

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