December 12, 2017 / 9:40 AM / in 10 months

Ukraine aims to pass IMF-backed anti-corruption law in February

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine aims to pass legislation backed by the International Monetary Fund to set up a special anti-corruption court in February and implement the law within 6-8 months, Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko told Reuters.

The pro-Western government has pledged to tackle entrenched corruption in exchange for a $17.5 billion staggered aid package from the IMF, but has faced criticism for perceived backsliding that has delayed billions of dollars in new loans.

Passing the court law in February would be a significant step towards securing more aid from the IMF, which also wants Ukraine to raise gas tariffs, make its pension system sustainable and lift a moratorium on the sale of farmland.

Ukraine pledged to pass the law by last June but MPs have wrangled over the reform, with President Petro Poroshenko promising to introduce a new bill this week to replace an existing draft that has languished in parliament.

Petrenko said gathering support for the law is delicate given that some lawmakers might find themselves under investigation from law enforcement, but thinks it would pass if the majority of MPs believed it would be fairly applied.

The law outlines how the anti-corruption court will be given financial autonomy and the process of choosing new judges, aiming to break the system of members of the judiciary amassing wealth and influence through bribes.

“I think that there is every chance that the parliament will vote it through literally in the first days of the next session, in February,” Petrenko said in an interview.

“If this law is introduced with the principles of non-political, transparent and independent recruitment of judges, there is a high probability that there will be a majority in the parliament,” he added.

Petrenko also said recent battles between rival law enforcement agencies were hurting Ukraine’s fight against corruption and offered to mediate between the sides.

Actions against the national anti-corruption bureau (NABU) by lawmakers and prosecutors have provoked a chorus of criticism from the IMF and Ukraine’s main western backers.

One recent episode had the General Prosecutor’s office unmasking an alleged sting operation being carried out by NABU against suspected corruption in the migration service. It said NABU had overstepped the law.

“There should be no wars between law enforcement agencies because this harms the effectiveness of the fight against corruption,” Petrenko said, adding that there should be no question of NABU’s independence being curtailed.

Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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