Ukrainian President to Veto ‘Weak’ Asset-Declaration Law
(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will veto a law handing down prison time to officials who falsify asset declarations, saying the legislation isn’t tough enough.
The bill was finalized Thursday by parliament in a bid to help get the country’s $5 billion International Monetary Fund loan program back on track and maintain visa-free access to the European Union for citizens.
Custodial sentences for incomplete and false asset declarations had been in place as an anti-corruption measure since 2014 at the behest of the IMF. But the Constitutional Court sparked public outrage and rattled Western donors in October by striking the measures down, calling them “excessive.”
Thursday’s attempt to restore the threat of prison was slammed by NGOs for allowing officials not to disclose assets owned by their relatives.
“I won’t allow the destruction or weakening of officials’ electronic declarations,” Zelenskiy said in a statement on his website. “This isn’t what Ukrainians expect, and not what I promised them. I can’t jeopardize one of the main achievements on the way to EU integration -- the visa-free travel regime.”
It’s not Ukraine’s first stab at bringing back the legislation. Lawmakers in December restored only limited criminal liability for public employees, prompting Group of Seven countries to say it’s important “to ensure that penalties for false and unfiled asset declarations won’t be weakened and effectively deter corruption.”
With the coronavirus pandemic draining government resources, Ukraine is struggling to unfreeze its IMF aid package. Other concerns include wider anti-graft efforts, including appointing the head of anti-corruption bureau, and central bank independence.
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