April 14, 2021
The Kyiv Post reported, “President Volodymyr Zelensky on April 13 submitted to parliament a bill seeking to liquidate the notorious Kyiv District Administrative Court, headed by controversial judge Pavlo Vovk.
Vovk, who has been charged in a graft case, and other judges of the court are seen by civil society as the epitome of judicial corruption and impunity in Ukraine. On April 6, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) also arrested Vovk’s brother as an alleged intermediary for giving a bribe to Vovk.
Vovk denies the accusations of wrongdoing. The country’s law enforcement system, including judges and prosecutors, has consistently blocked the Vovk case.
In audio recordings published by NABU, Vovk discusses numerous corrupt deals, gives illegal orders, and quips that no one should doubt the court’s ‘political prostitution.’ One of the court’s judges was recorded as saying that he supports ‘any lawlessness in the judiciary.’
Until recently, Zelenskyy has been reluctant to comment on Vovk and his court or do something about its alleged corruption. Several law enforcement sources told the Kyiv Post that Zelenskyy’s former chief of staff Andriy Bohdan is mentioned in the Vovk tapes. Specifically, one of the sources said that Vovk talked about vacationing with Bohdan in June 2019. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press.
Online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda reported in March, citing its sources, that in the summer of 2019 Vovk met Bohdan and Ruslan Riaboshapka, who later became prosecutor general. A law enforcement source told Ukrainska Pravda that Vovk had met Zelenskyy in 2019 and persuaded him that he would work as part of the president’s team. The President’s Office and Bohdan did not respond to requests for comment on the issue.
In July 2020 Vovk and other judges of his court were also charged with organized crime, abuse of power, bribery, and unlawful interference with government officials in a new corruption case.
For months, Vovk has ignored the summonses that NABU sent him. NABU has also obtained court warrants to bring Vovk to bail hearings by force several times but the judge always hid from the bureau.
The bureau asked Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, a Zelensky loyalist, to authorize an arrest warrant for Vovk for months but she refused. Responding to accusations of sabotage, Venediktova said on March 17 that she cannot take Vovk to court by force. She added that she doubted the effectiveness of the investigation and said that she did not see any ‘trial prospects’ in the case.”