President of Ukraine orders creation of new SBU counterintelligence department

President Viktor Yushchenko ordered the firing of Ukraine’s top customs officials and the creation of a new counterintelligence department at the Security Service (SBU) to crack down on an estimated $25 billion worth of illegal imports, Ukrainian Journal reports. The measures come after a special anti-contraband operation by the SBU, the security service, failed, apparently due to sabotage from the top customs officials. Yushchenko joined a meeting of law enforcement agencies, including the Prosecutor General Office, at the SBU headquarters in Kiev in his most significant attempt so far to crack down on illegal imports.
The measures are the most significant attempt to curtail illegal imposts since early 2005, when then-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko launched her ‘Contraband. Stop’ campaign, Ukrainian Journal concludes. The campaign sent mobile SBU teams roaming throughout Ukraine with the authority to stop and to check papers of any cargo shipment. But the latest meeting at the SBU shows that campaign, as well as the most recent operation, had failed. Now, the SBU within a week will have to submit a plan to create a completely new counterintelligence department that would have sweeping powers to fight corruption and the illegal imports. President Yushchenko, citing expert research, said up to 70% of goods in high demand in Ukraine are thought to come via contraband, when traders completely fail to pay taxes and customs fees. This, he said, costs Ukraine up to 60 billion hryvnias, or $12 billion, annually, Ukrainian Journal notes. The developments come after the SBU’s most recent anti-contraband operation, known as Tsunami, failed following months of major opposition and sabotage from the top customs officials. “We can’t handle that if the top officials are hindering us,” interim SBU Chief Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, the acting head of the SBU, said. “This was not just corruption, this was the high level of corruption.” President Yuschenko urged Valentin Nalyvaychenko at an SBU meeting to submit the project of the new department within seven days, according to news agencies reports.

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