The Supreme Anti-Corruption Court found Olga Panchenko, the head of the Kharkiv Administrative Court, guilty of transferring unlawful benefits and sentenced her to 5 years in prison.
Recall that on September 21, 2020, NABU and SBU employees entered Panchenko’s office after she allegedly handed over $3,000 to Elena Zaichko, a judge of the court she heads, for making a court decision.
Panchenko did not plead guilty, and only after more than 2 years, during the trial, in one of the last meetings voiced your version of events. She assured that on that day she was only returning the money that Zaichko left a few days ago in the rest room adjacent to the office of the chairman of the court. It seems that the colleague herself shared the bribe with her, and Panchenko was indignant and gave her the money. Judge Olga Panchenko also argued that Zaichko could act out of revenge and in the hope of career advancement after the exposure of the chairman of the court.
WACS believes that the version of leaving a stash of money in the break room is not supported by any evidence. This information was never heard during the pre-trial investigation and could not be verified and confirmed or refuted by the detectives in a timely manner. It seems strange that Panchenko and her defenders did not try to obtain evidence of visiting Zaichko’s rest room on the evening of September 17, 2020. Judge Olga Panchenko herself stated in her testimony that a video surveillance camera was operating in the Kharkiv Administrative Court, recording the entrance to the rest room. The materials of the criminal proceedings do not contain data that the defenders applied to the court in order to obtain video surveillance recordings for September 17, 2020.
All other video recordings show that Judge Zaichko always entered Panchenko’s office and the adjacent rest room from the side of the reception room, so the defense’s assertion of predominantly free access to the office of the chairman of the court from the side of the rest room is not confirmed.
If you believe the version of the accused, then, having seen the money in the desk drawer, she did not report it to law enforcement agencies, but took it and kept it for three days. VAKS believes that such behavior is atypical, irrational and, to a certain extent, contrary to the law. And at the same time, telephone conversations these days refute Panchenko’s testimony that she was indignant at Zaichko’s act and wanted to return her money as soon as possible.
It was about the fact that Zaichko should leave the decision she had already made, by which the Department of the Kharkiv City Council was obliged to issue urban planning conditions for the housing cooperative “Slice”, and not satisfy the application for review of the case due to newly discovered circumstances.
At the hearing, the recordings of conversations obtained during covert investigative actions, as well as the video camera that worked in Panchenko’s office, were examined.
The judges have no doubts that Judge Olga Pachnenko’s question is “can we close … the question?” concerned the very decision in the case of ZhSK “Slice” in the transfer of unlawful benefits. Surveillance video recorded Panchenko pausing and showing a gesture of three fingers raised, after which he continued the phrase “can we close … the question?”.
The defense argued that the demonstration of three fingers was about the number of working days during which Zaichko had to make a decision. The panel of judges is critical of this, since the gesture with fingers obviously contradicts the line “can we close tomorrow … the question?” and the fact of the subsequent transfer of $3,000.
The verdict contains the content of the last conversation between Zaichko and Panchenko before the exposure.
Q: Sabbath, Sabbath?
Q: What does he do?
Panchenko took a rectangular folder of the dissertation author’s abstract from her desk and handed it to Zaichko, saying:
Q: Sabbath? candidate candidate.
Zaichko took a white envelope from the folder and opened it, saw dollars and asked:
Q: Is this a slice?
Q: Maybe something…?
B: No, no, no, yes, everything is fine, please, they gave me everything, don’t worry.
– Come on, come on. Right?
Panchenko took a folder from the table and handed it to Zaichko once more. The conversation continued:
Z: You hear, but … could be thirty.
V: Well, you see, I’m telling you, people have turned to me.
B: I’m ashamed.
B: Calm down.
B: Please, please.
B: I tell you everything is fine …
Z: Please, I’m ashamed.
Q: We seem to communicate normally.
P: It was brought on this issue, I could not tell people, but I say that I do not want to participate in these ups and downs of yours, and therefore such, such situations. I was told that if you boil some, we will find out that this is some kind of garbage, then no one will allow anything, so everything should be quietly stucco, this is the most …
Further, SBU officers and NABU detectives entered Panchenko’s office and began investigative actions.