Monitoring of the case of Popovskaya Inna Petrovna (hearing on June 24, 2020)

On June 24, 2020, the Appellate Chamber of the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court considered the appeal of the prosecutor and lawyer of the accused I.P. Popovskaya on the decision of the investigating judge on the application of a measure of restraint in the form of bail in case No. 991/4815/20 on the charge of Popovskaya Inna Petrovna – Director of the Department of Communal Property of the Odessa City Council, Chairman of the Standing Commission and Head of the Legal Department of the Odessa City Council, in the commission of crimes under Part 5 of Article 27 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (complicity), part 5 of Article 191 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (misappropriation, embezzlement or seizure of property by abuse of official position committed on an especially large scale or by an organized group). Popovskaya Inna is accused of taking possession of the funds of the territorial community of Odessa when the city purchased non-residential buildings of the former “Zastava” airfield on Tiraspolskoe highway, 22g for almost UAH 150 million, allegedly for the expansion of the Western cemetery.

Criminal proceedings are considered collegially, consisting of a judge: M.S. Glotov, O.F. Pavlyshin, O.Y. Semennykov. The hearing on this case was scheduled for 4:00 pm. The International Society for Human Rights began monitoring this case using the official video broadcast on the website of the Judicial Power of Ukraine due to the difficulty of the personal presence of the ISHR observers in the courtrooms.

The course of the hearing. At the hearing the accused Popovskaya I.P. objected to the appeal of the prosecutor, who asked the court to revise the amount of the bail in the direction of its increase from UAH 630.600 to UAH 5.658.000, since, in her opinion, the accusation itself is unfounded and not motivated.

According to her, the suspicion was based on the false accusation of a group of persons with her participation in the use of a corruption scheme to buy out buildings and structures to expand the Western cemetery in Odessa, according to which, officials could embezzle UAH 131 million inflating the price of land on the site of the location of “Odessa” Airlines LLC.

Moreover, in the accused’s opinion, the risks referred to by the prosecutor are not justified. The prosecution has no evidence to support the above risks. The court-appointed bail in the amount of UAH 630.600 for a period of 2 months is excessive and unreasonable. Popovskaya I.P. asked the court to cancel the decision of the investigating judge and make a new decision to refuse to apply a measure of restraint.

The ECtHR reiterates on this point that the requirement that suspicion should be based on reasonable grounds is a significant part of the guarantee against arbitrary detention. Moreover, in the absence of reasonable suspicion, a person cannot under any circumstances be detained or taken into custody for the purpose of forcing him to confess to a crime, testify against other persons or in order to obtain from him facts or information that may serve as a basis for reasonable suspicion. (“Cebotari v. Moldova”, para. 48). According to I. Popovskaya, her charge of committing a crime is based on speculation without any evidence.

The International Society for Human Rights agrees with the ECtHR that incompetence and improper work of state authorities, which may lead to the establishment of an unfair amount of bail, can be considered a violation of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Since the issue under consideration is the fundamental right to freedom guaranteed by Article 5, the authorities should make every effort to establish an appropriate amount of bail. In addition, the amount of the bail must be properly justified (“Gafa v. Malta”, para. 70, “Manguras v. Spain”, paras. 79-80).

Also, the accused supported the appeal of her lawyer Lysak O.M. The defense objected to the prosecutor’s complaint, referring to the groundlessness of suspicions and lack of evidence of the existence of the risks provided for by Article 177 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine. The lawyer asked the court to cancel the decision of the investigating judge and make a new decision refusing to apply a measure of restraint.

The prosecutor of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office of the Office of the Attorney General objected to the complaint of the defense, and also upheld his appeal. Citing the fact that the accused Popovskaya I.P. may try to hide from the pre-trial investigation authorities, unlawfully influence witnesses, destroy or distort evidence due to the fact that she was not removed from office and she has free access to evidence.

The pre-trial investigation established that the price of the land was over UAH 146 million. However, an examination within the framework of the investigation, established that its real cost was about UAH 15 million, that is, the price was actually overstated 10 times.

In addition, the prosecution disagrees with the size of the bail and asks the court to change the decisions of the investigating judge regarding the size of the bail and choose a bail of UAH 5 million 658 thousand. According to the prosecutor, the suspicion is motivated given the fact that the criminal acts of I.P. Popovskaya consist precisely in complicity, which turned out to be in the approval of the draft decision on the implementation of the sale and purchase of buildings and structures on a land plot measuring 141 hectares, on which the “Odessa” Airlines LLC is located. She did not carry out a legal examination of the appraisal of the value of these objects.

The court, having consulted, decided to refuse to satisfy the appeal of the prosecutor of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office of the Office of the Prosecutor General and refuse to satisfy the appeal of the defense lawyer Lysak O.M, leaving the decision of the investigating judge unchanged.