Accusations of corruption: what to do and how to defend yourself?

Corruption is one of the most significant problems in Ukrainian society. However, accusations of corruption are not always objective. An innocent person who has not received improper benefits, abused their official position, or enriched themselves through illegal methods can also come under pressure from law enforcement agencies.

Who is in the “risk group”? Practically anyone can be accused, not necessarily those with significant political or public influence. For example, accusations of corruption can be made against those who decided to “thank” a civil servant to expedite a bureaucratic process, such as processing documents for a land plot.

Does the amount of the improper benefit matter?

The amount of a bribe matters, but more for the recipient. The rule is simple: the larger the improper benefit, the more serious the crime, and the harsher the potential punishment for the recipient. At the same time, the size of the improper benefit does not significantly impact the person who gives or attempts to give it.

Therefore, a substantial kickback amounting to millions of dollars for securing a deal and a modest few thousand hryvnias to a policeman to avoid a fine both formally constitute criminal liability. The severity and harshness of the punishment also depend on the position of the recipient. The higher the official’s position, the harsher the punishment for the person who decided to give the bribe.

Defence against corruption accusations: what to consider?

Accusations of corruption are something that no one is immune to today. They tarnish a person’s reputation, lead to business difficulties, and other significant problems. Moreover, an acquittal or case closure may only happen years later.

Are you summoned for questioning by an investigator? Under no circumstances should you provide hasty statements driven by emotions, attempting to justify yourself. The best course of action at this stage is to refuse to give statements, based on Article 63 of the Constitution of Ukraine, and subsequently seek assistance from a lawyer. Despite what law enforcement may say, refusing to testify is not grounds that automatically make you guilty of committing a crime. The worst thing you can do is provide convoluted, contradictory statements that change several times. Even if a person is innocent, it creates the impression that they are trying to “cover their tracks.”

Unfortunately, it is quite common for political or public figures to be targeted by their competitors or adversaries. In such cases, you can defend yourself by proving that there was a provocation to offer an improper benefit. This approach is based on the practice of the European Court of Human Rights, which condemns provocative methods that violate human rights, often used by law enforcement agencies.

Provocation of offering an improper benefit occurs when it can be proven that:

  • Law enforcement officials or their recruited agents influenced, coerced, or incited a person to accept a bribe.
  • The initiative in committing the crime often comes from the agent rather than the accused.
  • The agent systematically collaborates with law enforcement in similar cases and is involved in other criminal investigations.
  • There are no objective reasons to believe that the accused person is inclined to engage in bribery.

Therefore, in such cases, it is challenging to manage without professional legal assistance from a lawyer who can help establish a defence strategy and ensure the collection of necessary evidence to justify or mitigate the person’s involvement in the alleged crime.

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