National Anti-Corruption Bureau indicts Ukraine's Agriculture Minister Solskyi over land scheme
Photo: press service of the Servant of the People

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau has indicted the Minister of Agrarian Policy Mykola Solskyi, the press service of NABU and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office reported on Tuesday.

The name of the suspect is not explicitly mentioned in the NABU and SAPO reports, but's source in the law enforcement agencies confirmed that it is Solskyi.

He and several other suspects are accused of taking over 2,500 hectares of state land (valued at UAH 291 million ($7.3 million)) and attempting to take over another 3,300 hectares (valued at UAH 190 million ($4.8 million)). This is Article 191 of the Criminal Code with a maximum penalty of 12 years of imprisonment.

"The criminal group, which was headed by the former chairman of the Agrarian Committee of the Verkhovna Rada – a current minister, included top officials of the State GeoCadastre bodies, as well as persons who controlled the activities of these bodies," the prosecutor's office reported.

According to the investigation, in 2017, the current minister, who owned several agricultural companies, allegedly conspired with the head of the State GeoCadastre of Ukraine to seize land that was used by two state-owned enterprises in Sumy Oblast.

To do this, they first destroyed the documents on the basis of which the state-owned enterprises had the right to permanent use of the land, and then drew up acts on their arbitrary occupation of the plots.

Later, the land was transferred into private ownership ahead of schedule to predetermined citizens under the guise of realizing their right to free land. The condition for receiving the land was signing a lease agreement to transfer it to an agricultural holding even before receiving it.

The scheme operated in 2017-2021.

Now the land plots are under arrest.

In addition to the minister, three more people were charged. NABU names two of them as handlers of the State GeoCadastre bodies, one as a person who contributed to the commission of the crime.

Mykola Solskyi was elected a member of the Verkhovna Rada from the Servant of the People party in 2019. In the same year, he was elected chairman of the Committee on Agrarian and Land Policy. In March 2022, he became the Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food.