Seizure of state land worth almost UAH 291 million: current minister suspected

NABU and SAPO have uncovered a scheme to misappropriate 2,500 hectares of state-owned land in the Sumy region and prevented an attempt to seize another 3,300 hectares. The criminal group, led by the former head of the agrarian committee of the Verkhovna Rada, a current minister, included top officials of the State Geocadastre, as well as individuals controlling the State Geocadastre activities, known as curators.

According to the investigation, in 2017, the owner of a number of agricultural companies, who later became a Member of Parliament of the IX convocation and headed the Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Agricultural and Land Policy, conspired with the head of the State Geocadastre of Ukraine and curators of the State Geocadastre to seize land used by two state-owned enterprises in the Sumy region in the interests of a private agroholding.

The scheme was implemented in several stages.

Initially, its participants ensured the destruction of documents that granted the state enterprises the right to permanent land use. Due to their absence, the regional State Geocadastre drew up a report on the unauthorized occupation of these plots by state enterprises. 

To prevent the transfer of land to third parties, it was included in the list for auctioning the right to lease, but no auctions were conducted.

Subsequently, with the help of subordinate officials of the regional State Geocadastre, the plots were transferred into private ownership to pre-designated individuals under the guise of realizing their right to free land. A condition for obtaining land ownership was signing a lease agreement with the agroholding even before obtaining it.

Because of the scheme's implementation from 2017 to 2021, the participants seized 1,250 land plots totaling 2,493 hectares, with a value at the time of the crime of over UAH 291 million. They also attempted to seize 3,282 hectares of land worth approximately UAH 190 million, but were thwarted by NABU detectives and SAP prosecutors, who conducted searches and imposed arrests on the plots.

In total, there are 13 suspects so far:

  • the former chairman of the Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Agricultural and Land Policy;
  • the former head of the State Geocadastre of Ukraine; 
  • the head of the State Geocadastre in the Sumy region; 
  • two curators of the State Geocadastre; 
  • officials of the State Geocadastre in the Sumy region; 
  • the director of an agricultural holding;
  • other persons who contributed to the commission of the crime.

The actions of the suspects fall under Part 3 Art. 27, Part 5 Art. 191, Part 3 Art. 27, Part 3 Art. 15, Part 5 Art. 191 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

According to Article 62 of the Constitution of Ukraine, a person is considered not-guilty in the commission of a crime and cannot be subject to criminal punishment until he or she is found guilty by court.