Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, former director of the Procurement Department of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence, had a power of attorney from the minister enabling him to enter into ministry contracts single-handedly. Plus, the Turkish company Vector Avia, the scandal-ridden supplier of jackets for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, was involved in several criminal proceedings back in 2022.
Source: Tetiana Nikolaienko, a member of the anti-corruption council at the Ministry of Defence, on Facebook; court rulings published in the unified state register
Details: Nikolaienko said members of the anti-corruption council had asked representatives of the ministry on Friday how the supplier of uniforms for the Armed Forces of Ukraine had been checked out. They replied that the ministry did not yet have an anti-corruption council at the time, and the ministry’s approach to procurement had three criteria: speed of delivery of the goods, quality, and the third criterion was price.
"At the same time," Nikolaienko wrote, "according to representatives of the ministry, Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, [former – ed.] head of the public Procurement Department, had a power of attorney from the minister to enter into contracts single-handedly, and all legal responsibility for them rests with him. How and where Khmelnytskyi found this supplier is unknown. Perhaps it was not him: a lot of people, including MPs, were flying to Turkey in search of manufacturers. You are unlikely to find the culprit. The person who directly led on the contract has disappeared, and this is not the first contract to run into trouble like this."
According to Nikolaienko, when the infamous US$30 million Defence Ministry contract for jackets for the Armed Forces of Ukraine was concluded, payment was made after the first batch had been delivered to Ukraine.
"This means that the supplier paid for the order with its own money. So the mundane version may be that he paid some little-known companies in cash and entered the official payment in the customs declaration," Nikolaienko said.
She does believe, however, that the infamous jackets purchased by the Ministry of Defence for the Armed Forces of Ukraine were not actually "summer ones", as the media outlet Dzerkalo Tyzhnia (Mirror of the Week) claimed in its investigation of 10 August.
"As far as the weight is concerned, at both the parliamentary committee meeting and the meeting with members of the anti-corruption council, [Oleksandr] Fydyna, a representative of the department, said that a winter jacket can weigh both 1.1 kg and 0.8 kg. Moreover, if you open the same trade terms and conditions that appear in the criminal proceedings and were used by the Institute of Forensic Expertise for research, you will find requirements for the material, seam length, drawstring size, etc., but no weight requirements," she wrote.
It is however clear from the Register of Court Rulings that back in 2022, the controversial supplier of jackets for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Turkish company Vector Avia, was involved in several criminal proceedings relating to embezzlement, substandard goods and the forgery of customs documents.
The National Police is investigating two cases relating to supplies by Vector Avia. They were opened on 4 October and 8 December 2022.
In one of the cases, two suspects have already been announced: Roman Pletnov, owner and director of Vector Avia, and Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, former director of the Defence Ministry’s Procurement Department.
According to the investigation, Pletnov "had strong ties" to Defence Ministry employees and arranged the supply of winter jackets and trousers that did not meet the technical requirements. This is likely to have been around September 2022.
An expert examination was conducted in March 2023 as part of the investigation. It concluded that the jackets and trousers supplied "cannot be used for their intended purpose". In particular, the clothing did not meet the requirements for outer material and durability.
Roman Pletnov is now abroad. The police have established that he left Ukraine by car in the direction of Türkiye on 5 March 2022 and has not returned since.
The court granted permission to detain Pletnov and arrested him in absentia. The second person involved, Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, is in custody on suspicion of a number of instances of corrupt procurement.
The second case being investigated by the police concerns another delivery, this time of 2,500 winter jackets and trousers for the military, in the autumn of 2022. In October of that year, customs officers reported that a driver who was importing goods from Vector Avia into Ukraine had submitted incorrect documentation.
The documents contained no markings from the customs authorities of Moldova, from where the car had entered Ukraine. Furthermore, other documents found in the driver's cab showed a different total cost of the goods.
At Ukrainian customs, the goods were declared to be worth US$367,500, while at Moldovan customs their stated value had been US$27,500 - a US$340,000 (UAH 12.4 million) difference in the cost of the military clothing.
No one was served with a notice of suspicion in this case, but the clothing and documents were seized. On 13 December 2022, the court released the military uniform it had seized, and on 21 March 2023 the documents were released.
The infamous delivery which the media has learned about took place on 8-9 December 2022, in other words after the customs officers had caught Vector Avia with possibly fake invoices and on the same days when the police launched an investigation into the substandard jackets.
At the time of the deliveries which are under investigation by the police, the nephew of Hennadii Kasai, an MP from Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party, was still a co-owner of the Turkish firm. He withdrew as a founder in February 2022.
Learn more in an investigation by Ukrainska Pravda (with English subtitles): Servant of jackets for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Who is making money out of the war in Ukraine?
- On 10 August, the Dzerkalo Tyzhnia outlet reported that in 2022, a Turkish company had sold summer jackets to the Armed Forces of Ukraine under the guise of winter jackets.
- The outlet’s website, ZN.UA, has a package of supporting documents for one of the batches of goods from Vector Avia company. It shows how 4,900 jackets worth US$142,000 were transformed into 4,900 jackets worth US$421,000. On their way from Turkish to Ukrainian customs, the jackets magically transformed from "camouflage jackets" into "windproof winter jackets" and gained in value from US$29 to US$86 per piece.
- At a meeting of the Anti-Corruption Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, it was reported that the scandal-ridden procurement of jackets and trousers for the Armed Forces involved a fake invoice scheme, that the supplier company was probably set up specifically for this supply, and that about 120,000 sets of uniforms are now in the hands of the military.
- Ukrainian Pravda found out that Vector Avia, a Turkish company which supplied Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence with an overpriced summer military uniform instead of a winter one at a cost of US$30 million, turned out to be co-owned by Oleksandr Kasai. He is the nephew of Hennadii Kasai, a Ukrainian MP and member of the Sluha Narodu (Servant of the People) party who sits on the Verkhovna Rada (Parliamentary) Committee for National Security, Defence and Intelligence.
- Reznikov responded to the accusations by offering Ukrainska Pravda journalist Mykhailo Tkach and MP Anastasiia Radina a wager; they replied to his proposal. After that, Reznikov urged journalists to wait for the investigation into the controversy surrounding the summer jackets purchased for Ukraine’s Armed Forces. At the same time, he did not comment on the involvement of an MP's relative in the purchase. Reznikov added that he "had no idea" why the jackets were sold at a lower price in Türkiye.