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Ukrainian agriculture minister suspected in corruption scandal

Ukrainian agriculture minister suspected in corruption scandal
Soure: Pixabay

Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency on Tuesday accused the country’s agriculture minister of illegally appropriating state land worth more than $7 million between 2017 and 2021.

Several cases of corruption have emerged in Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022, although they have typically involved lower-level officials and been related to army procurement.

Kyiv has pledged to accelerate a crackdown on corruption as it strives for membership of the European Union.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) said on Tuesday that it had “exposed” a current minister for “taking over state land worth 291 million hryvnias ($7.3 million) and attempting to seize land worth another 190 million hryvnias”.

Although it did not specifically name him, the statement makes clear the agency was referring to Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky.

The NABU alleged Solsky led a group that expropriated farmland in the northeastern Sumy region between 2017 and 2021, before he became a minister, by destroying documents that showed two state-owned companies had rights to use the land.

The group then got a state agency to transfer the rights to individuals connected to them under the guise of a government scheme for the use of agricultural plots, NABU said.

Solsky, who owned a number of farming businesses, was elected to Ukraine’s parliament in 2019 and was appointed agriculture minister in March 2022.

In a statement on Tuesday, he said the case related to “a dispute” in which land had been handed over “in accordance with the law.”

He promised “maximum openness” during the probe and said he believed courts, including the Supreme Court had already ruled that the companies from which the land was allegedly seized had no legal right to it.

The NABU said earlier that its agents had foiled the “criminal group” in its attempts to repeat the ploy for another 3,300 hectares of land worth almost $5 million.

The minister, along with his alleged co-conspirators, have been served official notices of suspicion, Ukraine’s Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor said on Tuesday.

Blighted by severe corruption scandals since the fall of the Soviet Union, Kyiv has pledged to boost its anti-graft efforts as part of its bid for EU membership.

President Volodymyr Zelensky last year sacked the country’s defence minister over a series of corruption scandals in the army.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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