Top Ukraine Judge Probed for Witness Tampering

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, second left, is surrounded by servicemen as he visits the war-hit Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, on Sept. 26. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP, File)

KYIV, Ukraine (AFP) — The head of Ukraine’s constitutional court is under investigation for witness tampering, prosecutors said Monday, spotlighting the ex-Soviet country’s uphill battle against endemic graft.

The Prosecutor General’s office asked President Volodymyr Zelensky to remove Oleksandr Tupytsky from his position for two months, after he ignored a police summons for questioning Monday.

The Prosecutor’s press service told AFP that Tupytsky is suspected of “influencing a witness in criminal proceedings through bribery.”

It added that Tupytsky three times between 2018-19 provided false testimony in a case against a company that produces transport equipment.

Tupytsky said he was unable to attend the police summons because of family matters.

Charges of witness tampering carry a maximum penalty in Ukraine of six years behind bars.

One of Europe’s poorest countries, Ukraine has struggled to stamp out rampant graft and Zelensky came to power last year on promises to root out corruption.

Tackling graft was also one of protesters’ top demands during a pro-European uprising in 2013-2014 and is a key issue of concern for the country’s Western donors. 

Ukrainian media has reported that Tupytsky lives in a lavish house and that his mother owns an apartment in an upscale district in the capital Kyiv that is worth more than $1 million.

His constitutional court was at the center of a political scandal in October when it ruled to soften a number of anti-corruption laws. 

The court ruled that public access to officials’ asset declarations was unconstitutional and said criminal punishment for officials who gave false statements on their wealth was “excessive.”

Zelensky, a 42-year-old former comedian, called on parliament to dissolve the constitutional court in response, describing its rulings as “devastating.”

Transparency International ranked Ukraine 126th out of 198 countries on the watchdog’s 2019 corruption perception index.

© Agence France-Presse

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