Ukrainian bill on asset seizure doesn't meet EU standards - media

Ukrainian bill on asset seizure doesn't meet EU standards - mediaThe Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine says that the bill on asset seizure does not have sufficient guarantees to protect the right to ownership, which would put it in line with EU standards, the Yevropeiska Pravda online newspaper reported.

This is said in the Delegation's comment to the Yevropeiska Pravda on bill No. 4057 on amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine allowing criminal assets and income on their basis to be seized and transferred to the national budget before court trial. The bill was passed the first reading and could be considered in the second reading during the current plenary week.

"Bill No. 4057 on seizure does not contain sufficient guarantees to protect the right of ownership, which would meet EU standards. It is most likely could be seen as a hasty step towards the introduction of more stringent and intrusive tools that do not provide ... necessary protection of the right to a fair trial, protection of property rights and needed enhanced stability of property relations," the Delegation said.

The Delegation says that the initiatives of pre-trial confiscation must necessarily "go hand in hand" with increased guarantees to respectable owners, which would prevent abuses of special confiscation tools, and the said bill offers no such guarantees.

According to the Delegation, in recent months the Ukrainian parliament adopted legislation on special confiscation (bills No. 2540a, 2541a, 3040), "which were regarded by EU experts as movement towards the right balance" and "were among the obligations the Ukrainian authorities undertook in the context of the action plan on visa liberalization."

The comment says that the adoption of this draft law violates the obligations under the action plan on visa liberalization. At the same time, the Delegation refrained from giving forecasts for the EU's action in the case of the adoption of the No. 4057 bill.

The bill was drawn up by MPs Yuriy Beresa, Serhiy Pashynsky, Andriy Teteriv and Tetiana Chornovol (the People's Front), and by Ivan Vynnyk and Artur Herasymov (the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko).

The lawmakers included an amendment put forth by MP from the Samopomich parliamentary faction Olena Sotnyk, stipulating that before the seizure there should be proof that the assets – property, money securities, etc. – were transferred by a suspect to third entities in a criminal way. Thus, it will establish a group of third persons the assets of whom could be taken away from, Sotnyk said.

Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Groysman said that an ad hoc group would be set up to finalize the bill for a second reading. The document will undergo the complete legislative procedure at the Verkhovna Rada.

Read also: Ukrainian parlament adopted special confiscation bill in first reading

Under the bill, returned to government revenue should be assets in such criminal cases as misappropriation, embezzlement, seizure through abuse of office (Article 191 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine), the creation of a criminal organization (Article 255 of the Criminal Code), acceptance of an offer or receipt of undue benefit by an official.

It concerns such assets are money, foreign currency, state bonds, treasury notes, precious metals, gems, including those on bank accounts or stored at banks.

What is more, income from such assets is also subject to seizure.

The bill says that the assets will be converted to government revenue if they are revealed during a pre-trial investigation or their holder has not been identified, or if they are owned by a suspect or third persons who have received the assets from the suspect.

The author of the bill, MP Ivan Vynnyk from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc parliamentary faction rebuffed concerns that the legislation may introduce presumption of guilt and a suspect would have to prove that the assets were acquired in a legal way.

"This has been resolved. Now prosecutors should establish in their motion that the suspect obtained the assets unlawfully," he announced this in parliament after the wording of the bill had been agreed.

Under the bill, the assets are subject to return to the state before a court announces its verdict if a suspect is at large or evades criminal liability, being wanted for more than six months.

The assets are also subject to return to the state if a criminal case has been closed after a suspect's death (Clauses 5 and 8 of Part 1 of Article 284 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine).

The bill stipulates the asset return procedure in keeping with which prosecutors should submit their motions and courts should consider them.

The holders of the assets will be able to appeal against the seizure within 12 months and get them back if they have proven that the funds were received in a legal way.

Should the bill be passed in a second reading, it will become effective on the following day after its publication and will be in force for the next two years.
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