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Criminal cases against Poroshenko: could he be imprisoned?

The ex-president always has a chance to escape the country

The ex-president always has a chance to escape the country Photo: UNIAN

Former President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko is forced to go to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) for questioning, facing the attacks of the former Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Andrii Portnov, who initiated the appeals against Poroshenko. Currently, there are twelve criminal proceedings opened against Ukraine’s former president. "Apostrophe”, in turn, took a closer look at the possibility of them resulting in imprisonment.

On Monday, August 12, Petro Poroshenko underwent his second interrogation at the State Bureau of Investigation. The first one concerned the sale of the "Forge on Rybalsky" plant, while the second one regarded the sale of the "Priamyi" TV channel. The head of the SBI Roman Truba stated that the Bureau is investigating cases of possible tax evasion during the sale of "Priamyi" to the ex-head of the Kyiv City Administration Volodymyr Makeyenko.

In total, as the SBI speaker Angelika Ivanova explained, the Bureau investigates 12 criminal proceedings against Poroshenko. Among them, for instance, are cases of treason and the situation with Ukrainian sailors captured by Russia on November 25, 2018. All of the cases were opened at the initiative of Andrii Portnov, the ex-Deputy Head of Yanukovych’s Presidential Administration. After Volodymyr Zelensky’s victory, Portnov returned to Ukraine with a promise to put Poroshenko in jail.

In his Telegram-channel, Portnov often confronts Poroshenko, revealing the details of interrogations and promising to "increase the pressure" in the nearest future. "The number of contacts with law enforcement and judicial authorities will amount to dozens. Then, we will receive the verdict. This is the medium-term prospect," Portnov wrote in Telegram.

On one hand, one could ignore his statements, as Portnov does not currently hold any official positions. On the other hand, Portnov is very close to the present Head of the Presidential Office Andriy Bohdan, and therefore has rather influential status in the new government’s circles. He is involved in the development of draft laws and serves as one of the ideologists for amending the Constitution on a number of issues.

In addition to Portnov, Ukraine’s former president has enough other adversaries. However, it is still unclear if they have enough power and desire to bring the case to its logical conclusion – Poroshenko’s imprisonment. One should also remember that Poroshenko may become a Member of Parliament (despite his environment – before elections – saying this position is “too small” for the ex-President), hiding behind an MP immunity that exists to this day.

Nevertheless, there is nothing to prevent Zelensky's mono-coalition from abolishing this immunity in the Verkhovna Rada. “Apostrophe’s” source in Zelensky’s party “Servant of the People” assured – both on and off record – that they will take up the issues of cancellation of immunity during the first full session of the new Parliament.

Poroshenko’s environment predictably calls all the cases against former president nothing but a pressure on him and his party "European Solidarity". "All these criminal proceedings were opened without an actual crime. If we are talking about today's proceeding related to the TV channel "Priamyi"... I can say that we have not received a single hint of what is meant by tax evasion. The same concerns money laundering. It is unclear which funds are taken into account and who laundered them...," Poroshenko’s lawyer, Ihor Holovan, commented.

At the same time, the "European Solidarity" party is very sensitive to the issue, off-records expressing hope that "the new government will have its dose of PR on this topic and will leave Poroshenko alone". A part of the interviewed MPs, however, thinks that Portnov’s personal animosity to Poroshenko will play its role in former president’s demise.

After the interrogation, Poroshenko stated that he does not trust the SBI and its management. The ex-president has also expressed his readiness to pass the polygraph test only if it’s conducted live on "Priamyi” TV channel. At the same time, he continues to insist that he has nothing to do with the channel.

It is worth noting that Poroshenko’s prosecution is carried out by the SBI — the body that was created when Poroshenko was President. Roman Truba, however, is not Poroshenko’s henchman. According to our sources, Truba is rather close with Bohdan and Portnov.

Despite the Bureau’s work and the new government’s desire to "annoy" the ex-president, experts predict that Poroshenko will not end up in prison. "The new President and his team benefit from all the cases against Poroshenko. In addition, they have Portnov, who has personal motives. Truba also has a grudge against Poroshenko, as the former president did not want to appoint him – it was a compromise with the "People's Front”. All these cases, however, are very complicated and need to be proved from the procedural point of view. Besides, Poroshenko could tie up loose ends. He also communicates with Western partners, who could support him and influence Zelensky," Ihor Petrenko, expert of the International Centre for Policy Studies, says.

"This is meant to pull Poroshenko’s nerves on all fronts — the TV channel, sale of the Ukrainian media holding, and the National Bank, where he will serve as a witness. This is aimed at weakening Poroshenko and his environment in order to make him more compliant. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely to end with a real imprisonment, as no oligarch who was in politics and owns a media has ever been imprisoned in our country. It could happen in Austria or the US but not here. If worst comes to worst, Poroshenko could always leave the country and ask for political asylum," political strategist Boris Tizengauzen shared his opinion on the situation.

None of the experts doubts that the cases will be delayed, as the new state bodies need a new internal enemy. "And corrupt politicians are these new enemies. They need to show the public their effectiveness, and Poroshenko’s prosecution works well considering his anti-rating. If it doesn’t work with Poroshenko, however, there are always other contenders from the ex-presidents’ team – like Kononenko or Berezenko," Igor Petrenko believes.

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