By Karin Strohecker and Matthias Williams | Reuters
LONDON – Ukraine’s top prosecutor said on Friday that investigations into Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings Ltd, a case closely linked to a scandal that led to former US President Donald Trump’s first indictment, have been closed without a plan to reopen them.
Ukrainian prosecutors in recent years had seen the actions of Burisma, a company on board of which US President Joe Biden’s son Hunter had served from 2014 to 2019 and its founder Mykola Zlochevsky.
“Everything prosecutors could do, they did,” Attorney General Iryna Venediktova told Reuters in a video link from Kyiv. “That’s why I do not see any possibility (or) necessity of returning to these cases.”
Venediktova also said US authorities had not made any requests from her office since Biden took office last month.
The US House of Representatives blamed Trump in December 2019 on allegations of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his request in a July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy over an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter . The U.S. Senate voted in February 2020 to keep Trump in office.
Trump made baseless allegations of corruption against both Bidens. U.S. Democrats accused Trump, a Republican, of seeking foreign interference in a U.S. election by trying to make a tangible ally slander a domestic political rival, using U.S. aid as leverage. Biden defeated Trump in the November US election.
As vice president under President Barack Obama, Biden oversaw U.S. policy toward Ukraine and demanded the removal of the country’s top prosecutor at the time, whom the United States and Western European countries had seen as corrupt or ineffective. Trump and his allies made baseless claims that Biden did so because the prosecutor had sought out Burisma while his son was serving on the board.
Zlochevsky, a former ecology minister in Ukraine, is now living abroad.
A Burisma investigation involved alleged tax violations. Burisma said in 2017 the investigation against the company and Zlochevsky was closed after it paid an additional 180 million hryvnias ($ 6.46 million) in taxes.
Venediktova, in her post for just one year, said she wants to take a different approach to her work from predecessors she described as “very political”.
Asked about Ukraine’s fight against corruption, Venediktova dismissed concerns that the independence of the national anti-corruption bureau, known as NABU, had been undermined after the government drafted new legislation on its status that the bureau said would impair its ability to its to combat high level grafting
“NABU is now an independent body and will be an independent body in the future,” Venediktova said.
Corruption has been a long-standing issue for Ukraine, and any threat to NABU independence, created with the support of Western donors, could further disrupt the flow of foreign aid at a time when its economy has been hit by blockades over COVID -19 pandemic.
The International Monetary Fund has told Ukraine it needs to adopt more reforms to unlock further funding from its $ 5 billion IMF program.
Venediktova also said she hopes legal issues surrounding PrivatBank will come to a conclusion before the end of the year. The central bank declared PrivatBank incapable of baptism in 2016 and said its poor lending practices exploded a $ 5.5 billion hole in its finances before it was taken over by the state. The former owners of the lender dispute this and have fought to overthrow the nationalization.
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