On November 22nd, the court will hear an appeal in the case of Artem Sytnik, the NABU director facing corruption charges in connection with a luxurious holiday paid from somebody else’s pocket, which Sytnik failed to mention in his e-declaration. To learn first-hand details of this high-profile case, we arranged an interview with Nikolai Nadeyko – the person who picked up the tab for the NABU director’s swanky holiday and the key witness in this case, whose testimony may thwart Sytnik’s career of a self-proclaimed corruption fighter.
For more details, read the full article on OBOZREVATEL.
In May 2019, the State Bureau of Investigations opened a criminal case against NABU director Artem Sytnik. He was charged with accepting a free holiday at the members-only Poliske-Sarny hunting lodge in Rivne Region, which was paid for by his businessman friend Nikolai Nadeyko.
Mr Sytnik was found guilty of an administrative offence and fined 3,400 hryvnas by the Sarny District Court of Rivne Region. However, this decision is yet to stand after Mr Sytnik’s appeal scheduled for hearing at the Rivne Court of Appeals on November 22nd. Before the court hearing, which may ruin Mr Sytnik’s career (if found guilty on corruption charges, he will have to resign), we met with the key witness to shed light on the details of this high-profile case.
– Nikolai, let us go back to how it all started. Could you tell me how you ended up as a witness in the Artem Sytnik case?
– In early spring, I was summoned to the Prosecutor General’s Office as a witness in a case involving allegations of Artem Sytnik’s interference in the U.S. election. During the interrogation, I was played an audio file and asked to confirm that it was my voice on the recording. I did confirm that it was me speaking and that such a conversation actually took place.
– Were you told how the recording was made? Can you comment on the circumstances in which the conversation was recorded?
– At the Prosecutor General’s Office, they did not bother to explain how the recording had come about. They just played the audio file stating that it was part of the criminal proceedings that I mentioned earlier. I have no idea where the recording came from. All I can say is that such conversations did take place. Specifically, they took place at a hunting lodge in Rivne Region.
– What was the subject of the conversation in the recording?
– I’m afraid I don’t recall it verbatim. However, the conversation was about Artem Sergeyevich [Sytnik] assisting Hillary Clinton during the U.S. presidential election. There was mention of the so-called black ledger and Paul Manafort. [Paul Manafort, Jr. is a former U.S. lobbyist who chaired the Trump Presidential campaign team. He was convicted of tax and bank fraud in 2018.]
– Was this the only interrogation or were there others? How did it turn out?
– I was summoned to the Prosecutor General’s Office on three occasions and interrogated as a witness. I am not aware of the current status of this investigation. Ongoing or completed – that I don’t know. What I do know is that later on the regional economic security department in Rivne region followed up on the evidence with investigative activities. In particular, they scrutinized the ledgers and financial documents containing records pertaining to the holiday taken by Artem Sergeyevich and his family.
– Do you mean that it was not you who reported Sytnik to the police?
– Of course not! That wasn’t me. And I don’t know who did. As far I am aware, after seizing accounting records and completing the investigation, the police referred the case to the Sarny District Court. The case concerned a holiday accepted by Sytnik, for which he did not pay.
– Tell me more about the holiday. Why did Sytnik turn to you to organise it?
– I have known Artem Sergeyevich since around 2016. The acquaintance grew into a friendship. If my memory serves, I helped him 5 times or so to organise trips. For himself and his family, that is.
– By the way, can you explain how come the original allegation was that Sytnik had failed to pay over 200,000 hryvnas, but the first instance court ruling specified a much more modest amount of 25,000 hryvnas?
– As far as I understand, the prosecutors only accounted for documented expenses. I mean the amounts stated in the financial documents and accounting records. This is how they ended up with such an amount. Some other expenses not taken into account were money spent on fishing, quad bikes, alcohol, and various delicacies, which were paid separately.
– You have mentioned being friends with Sytnik, haven’t you? Did you have any interaction with him at the court or during the court hearing?
– When I was summoned to the Prosecutor General’s Office for interrogation, I had a conversation with Sytnik. I told him that I was being officially summoned to the Prosecutor General’s Office. He responded that it was merely a ploy to drive a wedge between us, and that I should not fall for it.
– And with the court hearing looming, did he approach you in any way – perhaps, with an offer?
– If you mean direct contact with Artem Sergeyevich, the answer is ‘no’. The only thing that comes close was congratulating me on my birthday which we both have on the same day. However, I had a visit from his witness, a defence witness, a lawyer by the name Dennis. He conveyed Sytnik’s proposal to meet and, how shall I put it, change my testimony. I replied through Dennis that I would be happy to meet at any time, but I would not change my testimony. I did not slander anyone, I only spoke about what had actually happened.
– The court will hear an appeal in Artem Sytnik’s case on 22 November. What decision are you expecting?
– Let me reiterate, my testimony is true. My testimony before the first instance court is borne out by documentary evidence. If it raises doubts, I am ready to prove that it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And I am frustrated by those attempts to portray me as a liar. I’m ready to take a lie detector test at any time. Is Sytnik ready to do the same alongside me? I don’t know – we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, let me just say that I am also ready to testify about many other worrying facts in connection with the NABU director.
– And the last question: You advise Oleg Bakhmatуuk’s sister, whose brother is the subject of Mr Sytnik’s ongoing investigation, don’t you? Bakhmatуuk claims Sytnik has a conflict of interest [with him]. Can you comment on the situation?
– Yes, I do advise the CEO of AVANGARDCO IPL. I started in this function long before this case was opened. Is it possible that Sytnik holds a grudge against Bakhmatуuk and this affects his judgement? I would not rule it out, which is, however, pure speculation.