LONDON - A new law in Ukraine forcing senior officials to declare their wealth has revealed the scale of riches held by those in power. Members of the Cabinet alone hold $7 million in cash. Other lawmakers declared luxury cars, expensive watches and artwork. Analysts say the revelations show how far Ukraine still has to go to eradicate corruption.
The 2014 uprising and subsequent ouster of then-president Viktor Yanukovich was meant to usher in a new generation of clean politics in Ukraine. But the scale of the wealth revealed to be held by current lawmakers and senior officials has left many of those who manned the barricades in Kiev’s Independence Square disillusioned — like Olexandra Ustinova of non-governmental organization the Anti-Corruption Action Center.
“Basically, we had hundreds of people die on Maidan for the new people to be elected and to come to power," said Ustinova. "And basically looking now on the new declarations you realize that these people are not new. The majority of these people are still there to make money.”
Ukraine’s prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, declared that he kept $1.6 million in cash alone at his house.
Most Ukrainians knew their lawmakers were hugely wealthy — and some kind of amnesty could be agreed to, says Orysia Lutsevych of British policy group Chatham House.
“I think this will be a benchmark in a way to make sure in the future some of these people don’t declare again the massive increase in their wealth," said Lutsevych.
There are suspicions some lawmakers may have overstated their wealth to allow for future corrupt profits. Ukraine’s prosecution service must be strengthened to eradicate such corruption, argues Lutsevych.
“One of the reasons these people were able to amass such wealth is that the judiciary was not working, and Ukraine has over 50 judges that are millionaires. And the system is like longs roots, it’s going everywhere, it’s not just one body of the government," said Lutsevych.
The European Union insisted on the declarations as a condition of financial assistance and potential visa-free travel to the EU.
“The EU should not stop, because it’s maybe two or three steps that Ukraine made out of ten or twenty, in order to ensure the change of the system," said Lutsevych.
Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency will now attempt to verify the declarations — with over 100,000 forms to assess.