Hundreds of Ukrainian politicians, government officials, businessmen and experts allegedly benefited from illegal cash payments from the Party of Regions, which was headed by the country's ousted ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, according to the party's 'bribe books', partly leaked to journalists on May 31.
"These are expenses on Ukrainian politics from corrupt sources," Serhiy Leshchenko, a lawmaker from President Petro Poroshenko's faction, told journalists during a briefing in Kyiv. "They demonstrate in what way the Party of Regions was being financed, and in what way the cash was spent."
According to the lawmaker, he obtained 22 pages from alleged 'bribe books' of the Party of Regions from an unknown source. The leaked documents cover the period from July to September 2012, and comprise surnames, US-dollar denominated amounts, subjects of payment, and signatures of those who apparently obtained that funding. A total amount of $66mn was mentioned in the 22 pages of documents, just part of what is alleged to be a total of $2bn of graft in the overall "bribe books".
The biggest funding was allegedly received by members of Ukraine's Central Election Commission, by lawmakers from other parliamentary factions, and by television channels Inter (controlled by oligarch Dmitry Firtash), and ICTV (controlled by oligarch Victor Pinchuk, who is married to Olena Pinchuk, daughter of former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma).
Leshchenko stated that he has no information about who was behind the leak of the documents. However, he believes that they are not fake, due to the fact that signatures in the files are identical to the known signature of many of those mentioned.
"This is a very serious material, demonstrating that Nasha Ukraina (Our Ukraine) party was financed in 2012 from the accounts of the Party of Regions," Leshchnko said. "In a similar way the Communist party was partially financed."
Nasha Ukraina's list of candidates was headed by former pro-Western president Viktor Yushchenko during the 2012 parliamentary elections. However, Nasha Ukraina got only 1.1% of the votes during the elections and failed to win parliamentary representation as Ukraine has a 5% threshold for the party-list vote.
Yushchenko did not comment on the accusations. His spokeswoman Iryna Vannikova told the Kyiv Post on May 31 that, though she had not yet talked to the ex-president about the alleged Party of Regions' documents, she believed them to be fake.
Meanwhile, Hennadiy Moskal, Transcarpathia region governor, former deputy chief of the SBU security service and former deputy interior minister, accused Yushchenko of receiving a $1bn bribe for the "surrender" of his post to Yanukovych.
Later the same day, Viktor Baloga, a former chief of Yushchenko's secretariat who Moskal accused of taking part in the deal, stated that he "cannot take seriously" Moskal's words and urged the country's National Anti-Corruption Bureau to start an immediate investigation into the statement. "Let him [Moskal] give evidence and tell what he knows, and why he has kept silent for so many years. Covering up a crime is also a crime," Baloga wrote on his Facebook page.
According to the Party of Regions' document, up to $3mn could have been channelled to the members of the Central Election Commission (CEC) in the second half of 2012, including expenses to its head Mykhailo Okhendovsky for a business trip he made in June that year.
Okhendovsky is currently chairman of the commission, despite the fact that his powers expired in 2014. President Poroshenko refuses to replace him amidst severe criticism from the country's reformist activists and pro-opposition parties.
Okhendovsky denied any wrongdoing during a press conference on May 31, stating that he "has never taken or received any bribes" during his current post. The official added that there were no reasons to consider the leaked papers to be real documents.
On May 1, Moskal stated that the documents apparently were stolen from the Party of Regions' office in Kyiv, which burned down on February 18, 2014. According to the former law enforcement official, the "arson" of the office, which killed two persons, "was inspired by the SBU security service", controlled by Yanukovych, as a provocation.
"I was a member of the Interim Commission of the Verkhovna Rada [the country's legislative body], which investigated crimes during the Revolution of Dignity [in late 2013 - early 2014], and considered the arson to be one of the episodes," Moskal wrote in a statement.
He added that during the turmoil that erupted in the party's offices, the leaked documents were stolen alongside cash and valuables. "Now, the SBU has decided to legalise them," the official believes.
The current scandal started on May 28, when Viktor Trepak, an ex-deputy head of the SBU security service, revealed that he obtained from an unknown source the Party of Regions documents, according to which it has paid about a total of $2bn in cash to bribe both former and incumbent top officials. Trepak refused to voice any names, and later submitted these documents to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau.
"Bribes worth $500,000 or $1mn were typical. Bribes worth as much as $5mn, $8mn and even $20mn were often paid in cash," Trepak said in an interview with the Dzerkalo Tyzhnya online newspaper. "The files prove that the [Ukrainian] authorities remained corrupt as presidents, cabinets and parliaments replaced each other."