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Case against brother of Zelensky's chief of staff closed, says anti-corruption agency

by Oleg Sukhov April 1, 2024 10:23 PM 4 min read
Denys Yermak, the brother of presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak, speaks to RFE/RL in March 2020 (a screenshot from RFE/RL video footage).
This audio is created with AI assistance

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A corruption case against the brother of presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak has been closed, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) told the Kyiv Independent.

The case, which was investigated under the abuse of power article, was closed on Dec. 14, 2021 but the closure wasn't publicly announced and had not been reported earlier. The reasons for the closure were not indicated in the NABU's response to the Kyiv Independent.

In 2020, Geo Leros, who was then a lawmaker from President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, published videos that appeared to show Andriy Yermak's brother Denys Yermak considering candidates for government jobs and discussing receiving money from some of them.

The Yermak brothers did not deny the authenticity of the videos, but Denys Yermak claimed they were taken out of context. Denys Yermak and Andriy Yermak denied the accusations of wrongdoing. Zelensky backed his chief of staff, emphasizing that Andriy Yermak has his full trust.

The tapes triggered a major scandal in the media in 2020 but little has been reported about the case since then. Leros has accused law enforcement agencies of trying to bury the investigation due to Andriy Yermak's political influence.

Yermak and the President's Office did not respond to requests for comment.

Leros was reportedly allied with Zelensky's former chief of staff Andriy Bohdan, according to Ukrainian media. Bohdan fell out with the president after less than a year of service and was replaced by Yermak in 2020.

The MP has become known for his flamboyant speeches and extravagant behavior. He has repeatedly accused Yermak of corruption and gave the finger to Zelensky when he attended a parliament meeting in 2021.

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The tapes

The video tapes were leaked by Serhiy Shumsky and Dmytro Shtanko, Denys Yermak’s alleged partners in the graft schemes.

They told the Bihus.Info investigative journalism outlet in 2020 that the chief of staff’s brother had allegedly received payments from candidates for state jobs. They claimed that the whole corruption scheme had been initiated by Andriy Yermak – an accusation that he denies.

In videos leaked to Bihus.Info, Yermak also discussed cracking down on the business of Danish logistics company MAERSK and Ukrainian logistics firm TIS.

The NABU opened a corruption case based on the videos, but anti-corruption prosecutors transferred the case to the police.

Later, then-Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova sent the case to the presidentially controlled Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), prompting Leros to accuse law enforcement agencies of burying the case. The SBU did not respond to a request for comment.

Later in 2020, a court ordered the NABU to open another graft case based on the Yermak videos, and the bureau complied.

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Alleged pressure

Leros, Shumsky and Shtanko have claimed that they were being pressured by the authorities in connection with the tapes.

Leros was expelled from the Servant of the People's parliamentary faction in 2020 and temporarily suspended from parliamentary work in 2023.

The State Investigation Bureau launched investigations against Leros in 2020, accusing him of divulging a state secret and interfering in the work of a state official, something that Leros sees as a political vendetta.

Meanwhile, a court upheld Denys Yermak's libel lawsuit against Leros in 2021.

In 2020, Shumsky and Shtanko told The Babel news site that unknown individuals burned Shtanko’s motorcycle and threw a hand grenade into Shumsky’s car during. Both men connected the incidents to their interview with Bihus.Info, where they accused both Yermak brothers of graft.

Shtanko was also arrested in a separate fraud case by the SBU in 2020.

In 2022, Shtanko was mobilized as a conscript during Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine and was killed, according to the Сensor.net news site.

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