Posted: December 13, 2013 at 7:50 pm

In September 2013 a team of scholars led by Dr. Louise Shelley was commissioned by the Organized Crime Observatory (OCO) in Geneva to write an interim report on organized crime and corruption in Ukraine.  The team, which included Judith Deane, Karen  Saunders, and Dr. Alexander Kupatadze, wrote a 30 page report that was used by OCO in its recent interim report “Ukraine and the EU:  Overcoming Criminal Exploitation Toward a Modern Democracy?”

The report by Dr. Shelley’s team, entitled “Ukraine: Oligarchs, Organized Crime and the Political-Criminal Nexus,” presents a somewhat different picture of corruption and organized crime in Ukraine from OCO’s report, because it traces the corruption from the Soviet period through the present day.  The report makes clear that corruption continues to pervade all levels of Ukraine’s political system, and provides a detailed discussion of reports of corruption associated with Ukraine’s current President, his family and other close associates.

The report concludes that “The alliance between the oligarchs and the state has become entrenched at the highest levels of government, while at the local level, judges, police, local government officials and politicians have organized themselves into a corrupt network of mutual enrichment at the public expense.  Where does organized crime end and organized corruption begin?  Ukraine offers evidence that it is not really possible to draw a distinction.”

Untangling the web of organized crime and corruption in Ukraine is difficult because of the variety of techniques, both legal and illicit, that are used to conceal ownership of assets.   These include not only the development of layers of shell companies, beneficial owners, off-shore accounts, etc. but also threats, intimidation, violence and lawsuits against individuals who investigate these links.  A more complete understanding of the issue will require a partnership between investigative journalists and NGOs in Ukraine, outside experts in banking, corruption and organized crime, and scholars. If OCO is willing to undertake this kind of serious study, we would be happy to continue to collaborate.

We will provide more extended excerpts from the report in future editions of INSIDE TraCCC.

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