Ukraine’s parliament has voted in favor of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s proposal to relaunch the country’s State Investigation Bureau, which investigates crimes by high-level officials, after leaked audio recordings implicated the bureau’s leadership in corruption.
On Dec. 3, 250 lawmakers voted in favor of the amendment.
Under Zelensky’s law, the president will appoint the head of the State Investigation Bureau after an open tender. The bureau’s chief will then have the right to appoint his own deputies.
Roman Truba, the current head of the State Investigation Bureau, was fired in accordance with the new law.
According to the law, the newly appointed head of the bureau will independently manage the body, and will not share powers with his deputies, as defined by the previous legislation.
Additionally, 334 lawmakers supported the creation of a special department focused on the investigation of the so-called Maidan cases. Detectives from the Prosecutor General’s Office will be transferred to the State Investigation Bureau to help solve the crimes committed against protesters during the 2013-2014 EuroMaidan Revolution.
Over 100 people were killed by law enforcement during the protests, which drove corrupt President Viktor Yanukovych from power.
Yevhenia Zakrevska, a lawyer for the EuroMaidan protesters, began a hunger strike on Nov. 22 to demand that these amendments pass the parliament floor.
Truba, who himself is implicated in corruption, opposed the law.
On Nov. 20, Prosecutor General Ruslan Riaboshapka said that law enforcement was investigating audio recordings that allegedly implicated Truba in wrongdoing. The recordings were leaked by an unknown source on Nov. 19 through a channel in the Telegram messenger app.
Zelensky’s amendments predate the corruption scandal. However, the recordings have given new impetus to the changes. Before the vote, Zelensky said that Truba’s closest ally was caught receiving a $150,000 bribe.
While not named by the president, the official in question is believed to be Ihor Sherbyna, whose apartment was searched on Dec. 2.
Sherbyna is the former head of an investigative department of the General Prosecutor’s Office, where Truba worked before becoming head of the bureau. Sherbyna currently heads one of the State Investigation Bureau’s departments.
On Dec. 3, the Special Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office reported that Sherbyna was demanding the bribe to close a case opened by the bureau. He would have received half of the money demanded, while the rest would likely go to one or more other officials.
The leaked audio recordings suggest that Truba took part in closing certain cases opened by his agency.