Ukraine’s Security Service (the SBU) confirmed the fugitive Kyiv judge Mykola Chaus who was allegedly kidnapped from Moldova is now held at its detention center but denied meeting him, says Chaus lawyer Oleksandr Vyshnevyi.
Mykola Chaus lawyer expressed disappointment toward the Security Service handling of the case. They have kept the man for two denying his lawyers access to him for consulting, argued Oleksandr Vyshnevyi calling such actions ‘weird’ and ‘incoherent’.
He also drew attention to the unclear status of his client.
‘Is he now the aggrieved party or the suspect? Is he there of his own will or held as the detainee?’, said the lawyer adding that Mykola Chaus could be also facing pressure to make him get more ‘cooperative’ defenders.
Oleksandr Vyshnevyi joined the team of Mykola Chaus lawyers in April, 2021, soon after the judge was kidnapped in Moldova.
The SBU refused to provide comments on the situation.
Later, in its Saturday statement, the Security Service stressed it acted ‘within their framework of powers’ and denied it used force for detention of the former judge.
Mykola Chaus was detained near Vinnytsya by police tipped by a local. The SBU team escorting him to Kyiv was challenged by NABU agents who staged a chase claiming the authority over the investigation.
The Backstory of Mykola Chaus case
Mykola Chaus was arrested by NABU investigators after taking a $150,000 bribe and stashing money in a glass jar in his backyard. The judge opted not to wait for a court ruling and fled the country. The investigation found that fleeing Ukraine Chaus got assistance from his lawyer Andriy Smirnov, and it was confirmed by ruling no. 991/1532/20 of High Anticorruption court. Andriy Smirnov is currently a top official of Zelensky’s administration.
Andriy Smirnov’s involvement in Chaus escape was back into the spotlight. In the leaked tapes of Roman Truba, Smirnov is heard instructing the chief of State Investigation Bureau to ‘f*ck him (Chaus) right now’, which meant abuse and grillings of the judge family and his new lawyer to “lure’ the fugitive back to Ukraine.
In Truba recordings Smirnov is also heard claiming he was still in touch with Chaus with the latter obviously being not excited about that fact.
Mykola Chaus had no intent of going back and applied for political asylum in Moldova. Denied this status, he later filed an appeal to this ruling. With the decision on his appeal still pending – it was due somewhere around April 22-28,2021, he could freely stay in Moldova. Yet, he failed to know the verdict.
On April 3, Iulian Balan, Mykola Chaus lawyer in Moldova, made a video about his client disappearance, and later reported the accident to the local police claiming that such acts put to doubt Moldova’s powers to protect basic human rights.
Two days later, Moldova’s Interior Ministry held a press briefing and reported the details of Chaus kidnapping. The investigators detained one person in connection to the crime and traced the cars of the alleged abductors. They also obtained text messages of the latter.
According to Moldova’s police data, the judge was allegedly kidnapped by a group of men heard speaking in Ukrainian and Russian, who later were seen driving to the Ukrainian border and crossing it.
The scandal rocked Moldova. Maia Sandu, Moldova’s president, made an official statement deeming abduction of Chaus ‘an introlerable act’. Media reports pointed to involvement of Ukrainian intelligence services in this crime.
According to Moldova media accounts, the judge was allegedly taken out of the country in the back of a Ukrainian diplomats’ car. Soon the photos of kidnapped Mykola Chaus emerged. In the photos, his face was visibly bruised.
On April 8, joint investigation of Moldova and Ukraine’s journalists revealed the evidence showing that the judge was kidnapped by Ukrainian nationals with the ties to Ukraine’s intelligence service. The journalists obtained the abductors’ photos and copies of their documents. The investigation claimed that Chaus kidnapping could be used for a smear campaign against Ukraine’s senior intelligence official Vasyl Burba who was at the time facing scrutiny over his role in the failed Wagner mercenaries capture scheme. Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, denied involvement of official Kyiv in the kidnapping story. Overall, Ukrainian officials chose not to comment the scandal.
On April 9, Moldova’s parliament launched a probe in Chaus case – a special commission was established to investigate possible involvement of Ukraine’s state officials in the judge kidnapping.
Moldova’ politicians pointed to the Ukrainian government involvement in Chaus abduction on claims that it was used to hamper ‘Bellingcat’ investigation on infamous Wagner mercenaries capture scheme.
‘Servant of the People’ MPs were, at the time, seen awkwardly dodging Chaus-related questions on TV talk shows.
Moldova’ president reportedly tried to call up Zelensky following the accident but her calls were never returned. Official Chisinau also demanded removal of diplomatic immunity for Ukraine’s military attaché who was reportedly involved in the illegal transportation of Chaus to Ukraine.
On April 22, Moldova and Ukraine’s media produced new evidence of Ukrainian intelligence operatives’ role in Chaus abduction. The journalists revealed the identities of Ukrainians who kidnapped the judge. They also obtained the tracking history of the rental cars they abductors used, which allowed to reconstructed their movements in Chisinau prior to the kidnapping.
Media reports were providing new mounting evidence of Ukrainian diplomats role. The military attaché of Ukrainian Embassy was reportedly seen driving the car that took Chaus over the border. Ukrainian officials disregarded the claims and refused to have the car searched.
The Moldova’s parliament came up with its own investigation confirming most of the media findings.
The story soon saw new developments in Ukraine. According to Ukrainian media accounts, Mykola Chaus was supposedly kept at the military facility in Khotyanivka, Kyiv region, and was set to be relocated to either Moldova or Crimea’s border to make the official narrative of his return to Ukraine more credible.
The Ukrainian officials have kept mum about Mykola Chaus and his whereabouts. The chief prosecutor Iryna Venediktova said she knew nothing about where he could be now, while Ukrainian diplomats in Chisinau kept ignoring meetings of Moldova’s parliamentary investigation commission. Zelensky’s officials were said to be trying, this time unofficially, to reach out to Maia Sandu officals, snubbing Moldova parliamentary investigation.
The pressure was mounting amid Moldova’s reports of another arrest in relation to Chaus kidnapping and allegations that Ukrainian state prosecutors were sabotaging the investigation.
May 16-17, 2021
Mykola Chaus ‘reemerged’ with his ‘Telegram’ video to claim that he was, in reality, abducted in 2016, and not in 2021. In his video, the judge states that he remains in a ‘safe place’, says ‘hello’ to his wife, promising her, on return to Ukraine, to punish those who were to blame for ‘their woes’.