The High Council of Justice has sent judge of the Odesa District Administrative Court Oleh Hlukharchuk into retirement, which provides for a lifetime allowance of about UAH 100,000 per month. The judge is associated with Vadym Alperin, the “godfather of smuggling”, had problems with his declarations and received a negative opinion from the Public Integrity Council.
Oleh Hlukharchuk resigned with 16 years of experience as a judge of the Odesa District Administrative Court. This judge is quite well known in Ukraine. For example, activists protested outside the court where he worked, demanding the dismissal of the judge because he had collaborated with Vadym Alperin, a “well-known Odesa smuggler”.
Slidstvo.Info featured Alperin in its investigative documentary King of Smuggling. The journalists published facts indicating that the well-known Odesa businessman could systematically bribe judges, prosecutors and police officers. The editorial office obtained Alperin’s “black books” and correspondence, which suggest that the businessman may have paid bribes to persecute competitors and law enforcement officers who were investigating companies under his control.
The judge said he knew Alperin. Law enforcement officials believe that the Odesa District Administrative Court under Hlukharchuk’s leadership was regularly involved in schemes to clear goods from companies controlled by Vadym Alperin.
In addition to his ties to the “godfather of smuggling”, the judge is also known for his insolent attitude towards police officers. In early 2017, in Odesa, police stopped a “Toyota Tundra” driven by Oleh Hlukharchuk. The man refused to take a blood alcohol test. Hlukharchuk addressed law enforcement officers on a first-name basis and used obscene and derogatory language.
Hlukharchuk is also the so-called “eternal chairman” of the court. He headed the Odesa District Administrative Court for 15 years.
“Such judges are called “eternal chairmen” because they do not leave this position for years. This violates the law and the legal principle of the change of power. To remain the chairman, the judge has to look for loopholes in the law and interpret it in his own way. And it turns out that the person who is supposed to decide what violates the law and what does not, violates the law himself,” says Volodymyr Hryshko, a lawyer at the DEJURE Foundation.
Hryshko says that people often go to the “eternal chairman” of the court to “negotiate” cases, because he has influence on other judges. Therefore, according to the lawyer, the more stubbornly a judge holds on to the position of court president despite the established restrictions, the higher the chance that such a president has a private interest in this and is involved in corruption or nepotism schemes.
In 2019, the PROSUD project analysed the judge’s declarations and found irregularities.
For example, Hlukharchuk’s wife was able to buy two non-residential premises in Odesa worth a total of UAH 312,000, when, according to her declarations, she did not have enough money to do so.
The NABU (National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine) opened criminal proceedings against Hlukharchuk for lying in his declarations. According to law enforcement officers, the judge declared in 2017 an unfinished house of 420.06 sq m for his wife, when in 2014 there was a two-storey house with an estimated value of UAH 7 million.
The Public Integrity Council checked Hlukharchuk and found him to be inconsistent with the criteria of integrity and professional ethics. Nevertheless, Hlukharchuk successfully passed the High Qualification Commission of Judges’ vetting and remained a judge until his resignation on 28 February 2023. Now, as a retired judge, the state is obliged to pay Hlukharchuk at least UAH 100,000 from the budget every month for life.
In 2020, law enforcement officers completed the investigation of the case against Vadym Alperin. He is accused of creating a criminal organisation that illegally imported goods into Ukraine through fraud. According to the investigation, the actions of this organisation caused Ukraine over UAH 63.8 million in losses.
Alperin tried to bribe the investigation for $800,000 to transfer his case from NABU and Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office to the police.
The case went to court in August 2022 and was closed on 12 October 2023. And on 12 October 2023, the High Anti-Corruption Court closed the criminal proceedings due to the expiry of the statute of limitations.
To close the case, the defence used the so-called Lozovyi amendments. These amendments introduce changes to the Criminal Procedure Code that complicate the work of law enforcement and judges and make it easier for top corrupt officials to avoid responsibility for their crimes. For example, these amendments shorten the timeframe for pre-trial investigations, require that examinations be ordered only through a court and can only be conducted in state institutions.