Higher Council of Justice signs off on arrest of former Supreme Court chief Knyazev

18 May, 05:10 PM
Vsevolod Knyazev (Photo:REUTERS/Leah Millis)

Vsevolod Knyazev (Photo:REUTERS/Leah Millis)

The Higher Council of Justice has consented to the arrest of Vsevolod Knyazev, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who is suspected of accepting a bribe of $2.7 million, Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne reported on May 18.

The decision was made on May 18, with all 14 members of the Higher Council of Justice voting unanimously in favor of the arrest. Knyazev himself was present at the meeting.

The Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) sought permission from the Higher Council of Justice to detain the former chief justice on May 17. Now that the arrest has been approved, SAPO can submit a motion to the High Anti-Corruption Court to request preventive measures in the form of detention.

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The Knyazev Case

On the evening of May 15, reports emerged that Knyazev was suspected of receiving a bribe of $2.7 million, which was documented by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) and SAPO.

In response to the discovery of a substantial sum of money in his office, Knyazev claimed that “virtually anyone” can enter the space, according to the anti-corruption NGO Anti-Corruption Action Centre.

Subsequently, SAPO confirmed that Knyazev had been arrested. Semen Kryvonos, the Director of NABU, described it as the largest exposure of a high-ranking official within the judicial branch since the establishment of SAPO and NABU.

According to Kryvonos, law enforcement agencies have evidence of contact between Konstantin Zhevaho, the owner of financial firm Finance and Credit Group, and one of the owners of a law firm allegedly used to conceal criminal activities. The contact involved an agreement related to an illicit benefit provided to court officials “in exchange for making necessary decisions for this entrepreneur.”

On May 16, the plenum of the Supreme Court voted in favor of a no confidence motion in Knyazev. He was removed from his position as the head of the court, but remains a judge — pending a decision by the Higher Council of Justice. Knyazev and his associate, a lawyer, have been charged with receiving an unlawful benefit.

Zhevaho denies any involvement in the multimillion-dollar bribe, though on April 19, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Zhevaho’s company in a lawsuit that stemmed from 2005.

Knyazev was elected as the head of the Supreme Court in late October 2021. Since 2017, he had served as a judge and secretary of the Supreme Chamber of the Supreme Court.

Law enforcement agencies are also investigating other instances of judges of the Supreme Court accepting bribes.

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