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Main Directorate for Combating Corruption and Organized Crime

The one division within the SBU that is most controversial and has caused it great reputational damage, it is the unit that fights corruption and organized crime. Known as Directorate K, it was formed in the turbulent privatization era of the 1990s. It was justified then, because definitely if the SBU is aimed at providing state security, the country's economy is one area where bad actors can try to undermine the countr. But very soon Directorate K learned how they could make money.

Directorate K agents have been known to shake down businesses for bribes and raid the offices of companies competing with those connected to the president they serve. Such raids have come to be known as "maski shows," because the agents involved usually wear balaclava ski masks during them. With their fancy clothes, members of the unit were easy to spot amid the suffering economy and hyperinflation of the 1990s. Oleksiy Melnyk, co-director of the foreign policy and international security programs at the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center. said. "The socks of Directorate K's captain were more expensive than the suits of the agents in other departments".

Today, Directorate K employees and other top SBU officials -- whose official monthly wages are less than $1,000 per month -- can be spotted not only in fancy threads but also driving high-end vehicles, including in one case a $155,000 Mercedes SUV. In 2017, deputy SBU head Pavlo Demchyna and his family were accused of owning lavish estates worth millions of dollars.

According to the Law of Ukraine "On the Security Service of Ukraine", key tasks of the Security Service of Ukraine relate to prevention, identification, preclusion, and detection of corrupt and organized crime acts in the sphere of governance and economy, as well as other illicit actions that are direct threats to Ukraine's vital interests. Under Article 10 of the said Law, there should be a corresponding element within the SBU's Headquarters. Based on that, the Main Directorate for Combating Corruption and Organized Crime (Directorate "K" SBU* - SBU's Main Directorate BKOZ*) has been established when its statute was approved by the Head of the SBU in his order of June 8, 1992. Within the system of state bodies specially founded to combat organized crime, the SBU's Main Directorate BKOZ is a special element of the Security Service of Ukraine for combating corruption and organized crime.

The primary objectives of the SBU's Main Directorate BKOZ are the following:

  • safeguarding the social and economic interests of Ukraine and the rights of its citizens against encroachments of corrupt and organized crime elements in state's executive, law enforcement, and regulatory agencies, as well as in the economic sphere, and in the credit, banking or financial systems;
  • identification, restriction, neutralization, and elimination of organized crime gangs operating on an interregional or transnational basis;
  • prevention, identification, and preclusion of smuggling activities in the sphere of foreign economic trade relating to illegal across-the-border transfer of raw materials and other resources, consumer goods, currency, historical, and cultural assets, poisonous, harmful, radioactive, and explosive substances, or weapons and ammunition; and
  • detection and preclusion of criminal activities of foreign narcosyndicates and organized narcotrafficking gangs in Ukraine.

Andy Hunder, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Kyiv, said the activities of Directorate K have scared away potential investors. He said he has met with members of Zelenskiy's team to encourage them to reform the SBU and warn them that anymore "maski shows" would hobble the country's ability to attract new business. "We said, 'You know, the worst possible image any country could send to an investor, shareholder, a general manager, an employee, is when you have men in balaclavas and [with] Kalashnikovs kicking down the door of your company's office and looking for tax receipts,'" Hunder told RFE/RL in August 2019.

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Page last modified: 19-08-2019 16:37:05 ZULU