things just got a little more strange in the city of shady land deals
the kyiv prosecutor’s office on march 31 launched a criminal investigation after the disappearance of records involving the privatization of property in the capital.
the documents could shed light on what critics call “land scams” — the sale of valuable municipal property to insiders at cut-rate prices. opponents charge that the administration of kyiv mayor leonid chernovetsky has cheated taxpayers out of almost usd 2 billion in the last four years through non-transparent and non-competitive transactions.
chernovetsky, deeply unpopular in recent polls, has defended the land-sale practices as above-board and in the city’s best interests.
the latest wrinkle — and it’s a strange one — happened after a city council member reported his car stolen to kyiv’s shevchenksky district police. the council deputy told police the privatization records were in the car, according to the prosecutor’s office.
the alleged theft of privatization records come after an audit of city records was ordered on march 15 by deputy prime minister volodymyr sivkovich, the former party of regions deputy now in charge of the nation’s law enforcement agencies.
kyiv city prosecutors opened a criminal investigation amid skepticism as to whether the theft occurred and, if it did, what it might mean, since presumably back-up records exist electronically somewhere.
opposition deputies on kyiv’s city council said the records’ theft is contrived to cover up evidence of shady privatizations orchestrated during the tenure of chernovetsky, the businessman turned mayor.
valeriy karpuntsov, a city council deputy from the oppositional bloc of vitaly klitschko, said the car theft and alleged disappearance of privatization documents are an attempt to cover up the criminal acts city officials have committed over the past four years.
“each privatization ‘document’ contains hundreds of pages. it would be physically impossible to stuff all the paperwork into one car,” karpuntsov said. “the disappearance of such a volume of documents will bring chaos to the privatization sphere, making it even more difficult to determine who owns what in the capital. this is obviously a ruse.”
hundreds of hectares of kyiv’s land, forests and parks have been transferred from public ownership over the past several years with much of the capital’s non-residential premises put up for privatization, according to the interior ministry, which in january said it had uncovered 105 land grab deals in kyiv oblast alone last year.
in an open letter sent on march 19 to yanukovych and prime minister mykola azarov, boxer klitschko, leader of an eponymous faction on the city council, asked them to dismiss chernovetsky as kyiv mayor and call a fresh mayoral election and elections to kyiv city council.
“the situation in the ukrainian capital is catastrophic. rumors of economic chaos, large-scale corruption and blatant unlawful actions by the city’s leaders have circulated for a long time,” klitschko wrote in the letter.
first elected to a four-year term as kyiv mayor in 2006, chernovetsky also presides over the executive council of the kyiv city council. that body works hand-in-hand with kyiv city administration to manage the city’s real estate holdings and oversee commercial activities, including foreign investments and large real-estate development projects.
a successful businessman who founded pravex bank, one of the largest in ukraine, chernovetsky was reelected kyiv mayor in a may 2008 snap election. his current term ends in may 2012, unless parliament sets an earlier date. on march 13 he met with president viktor yanukovych, and a week later sacked 10 deputy heads of the kyiv city administration, days before records of kyiv’s privatized property disappeared.
Originally published at sites.google.com.