OPEN LETTER from lawyer Igor Fomin to Hromadske TV Program Board, donors of Hromadske Project, Journalism Ethics Commission, NGO "Detector-Media", web-based paper "Telekritika" and the entire journalistic community in Ukraine
I call upon the journalistic community in Ukraine, experts, lawyers and the public to provide critical and frank assessment of the actions of journalists of Slidstvo.Info Investigation Agency, which, in my belief, have grossly violated the standards of professional ethics and resorted to outright manipulation of public opinion. I also call upon the donors of Hromadske Project to investigate this case and provide adequate legal and professional assessment of actions of journalists who, in my opinion, have strayed from the principles of impartiality and objectivity in favour of one-day rankings and resonant coverage opportunity.
On June 10, 2018, independent Ukrainian Investigation Agency "Slidstvo.Info" publicised a documentary titled "General Arrangement", which gave false information on the progress of the case of former Minister of Finance of Ukraine Yuriy Kolobov, defended by me during the relevant period. Moreover, in the investigation documentary, journalists deliberately manipulated the facts about my activities as a lawyer. As a result, not only the material misrepresented the information about the life of my client, but also questioned my own professional honour and reputation. Legally clean case, confirmed by a judgement of a Spanish court, was presented to the viewer as a manipulation and "corruptive story". All of those things have nothing to do with my client or my law practice.
I call particular attention to the fact that during filming the journalists were provided with all the available and objective information, including official documents. In fact, the film shows a fictional story about Yuri Kolobov's alleged release from prison by virtue of my personal contact with Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko as a lawyer. In reality, Kolobov was released from custody before I entered the case and became his defence attorney.
Important! All legal events in the courts of the Kingdom of Spain were held before the appointment of Yuriy Lutsenko as Prosecutor General of Ukraine (May 2016). After the release of Yuriy Kolobov and refusal to extradite him, hard advocacy work lasted for almost three years. The defence conducted 5 expert examinations, including using the polygraph (lie detector). All the achievements in the case were made exclusively through professional actions of the defence, which resulted in the judgements of Spanish and Ukrainian courts in favour of my client. Yuriy Kolobov is the only member of Mykola Azarov's Government, granted political asylum by a European country – the Kingdom of Spain.
To ensure better understanding of the extent of manipulation, I will give a few examples of how things actually happened and what was shown in the documentary "General Agreement".
Here's how it was shown in the "General Arrangement" documentary (literal meaning of voice-over):
Yuri Kolobov spent 8 months in a Spanish prison. At that time, he met Igor Fomin, who became his lawyer. Prior to this, the ex-minister was defended by several Ukrainian and Spanish attorneys. But Fomin is the one who significantly shifted the case. The lawyer believes the charges in the "Ukrtelecom" case are just a point of view of some particular prosecutors.
A letter from the Ukrainian prosecutor's office signed by Deputy Prosecutor General helped Kolobov to get released from Spanish prison. This document, dated September 15, 2015, stated that Yuriy Kolobov was a witness, not a suspect in this case. Later, the General Prosecutor's Office declined writing such a letter, and called it a fake.
Both Kolobov and Fomin claim that they have nothing to do with this letter and it only impaired the case.
But it was this letter that influenced the decision of Spanish authorities to refuse Kolobov's extradition to Ukraine. It has a logic to it, if a person is a witness, and not a suspect, then there is no need to extradite him. A few months after Yuri Kolobov was released from a Spanish prison on the basis of questionable letter. Prosecutor General's Office began to investigate this fake.
"Yuriy Kolobov was released from prison and with a new lawyer his case started moving faster. Soon, the article, under which he was charged, was changed and the ex-official was suspected just of neglect of duty, without any office abuse charges.
A few months later, the case was closed and Kolobov was discharged from liability by lapse of time. Maybe the former Finance Minister just got lucky to have a lawyer, who personally knows Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko and does not hide the fact of negotiations with the Prosecutor's Office in his client's case.
And that's how it really happened.
Yuriy Kolobov was released from custody by the national court of Spain on October 21, 2015. At that moment, I was not his attorney. Kolobov's Ukrainian attorneys were Inna Rafalska and Igor Boyko, contract with them was terminated on November 24, 2015. And only on November 24, 2015, after the former Finance Minister of Ukraine was released from prison by the judgement of the National Court of Spain, I officially signed the contract of his defence.
The case of Yuriy Kolobov involves a letter from the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine. This letter was provided to Spanish lawyers of Yuriy Kolobov by a person, which they do not disclose. Later it became known that this letter allegedly was not signed by the Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine.
Neither the Spanish, nor the Ukrainian defence team based their defence in the National Court of Spain on the fact that Yuriy Kolobov was a witness in the case. But such a point of view of journalists shows the lack of basic understanding of criminal process, since witnesses are not detained, held in custody, and the issue of their extradition is not considered by court. Suspect Yuriy Kolobov could be reclassified into a witness only by an order of prosecutor or ruling of court on the closure of criminal proceedings regarding him.
Please note! According to the documents of Ukrainian prosecutor's office, at the moment when the Spanish attorneys were provided with the "fake letter" (October 2015), I was not even the attorney of Yuriy Kolobov. The former Finance Minister was held in custody in Madrid at the request of the prosecutor's office of Ukraine. According to Spanish legislation, all conversations in this institution, including those with lawyers, are recorded. Accordingly, even our hypothetical participation in any absurd fraud, as well as the very opportunity to discuss such things is excluded.
On January 15, 2016 the National Court of the Kingdom of Spain rejected the request for extradition of Yuriy Kolobov, since the Court concluded that the notice of suspicion against him did not show any evidence of his guilt. The procedural status of a suspect is not doubted in the National court of Spain, and it was never questioned neither by his Spanish attorneys, nor by me or his Ukrainian attorneys.
Yuriy kolobov was granted political asylum in the Kingdom of Spain on September 6, 2017. The competent authorities of the Kingdom of Spain concluded that his prosecution in Ukraine had political grounds rather than legal ones. Unbiased, comprehensive and objective consideration of this issue is in no doubt.
The decisions of all courts in the case of Yuriy Kolobov are public documents that are available for your reference.
Any dirty allusion in the film "General Agreement" that Igor Fomin was a lawyer, protecting the rights of Yuri Kolobov, acting as an "acquaintance" of Yuriy Lutsenko is a direct falsification, attempt to tarnish my reputation, cast doubt on successful results of my three-years work in two countries, courts and international institutions.
Over thirty-one years of my lawyer practice, I had thousands of court cases. Many of the cases were won. In the days of Viktor Yanukovych I defended the Ministers of Yulia Tymoshenko Government Bohdan Danylyshyn, Yuri Lutsenko and Yevhen Korniichuk from politically motivated criminal prosecution. Thanks to professional defence, for the first time, the court of the European state Czech Republic refused to extradite Bohdan Danylyshyn, he became the first government official to receive political asylum there.
As for Yuriy Lutsenko, the European Court of Human Rights made a decision on political, rather than legal grounds for his prosecution. The case of Yevhen Korniichuk was also won in the European Court of Human Rights. All the defendants were subsequently acquitted in Ukrainian courts: Bogdan Danylyshyn (currently Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of Ukraine), Yuriy Lutsenko (Prosecutor General of Ukraine).
I'm really proud of my cases, the prestige gained, the ability to make friends and communicate freely with my former clients. However, this is not the reason to devalue hard work and commitment to principles in achieving the objective of justice.
I am convinced that professionalism and objectivity, as well as the desire to follow the spirit and the letter of the law and the principle of justice in everything, form the professional basis not only for a lawyer but also for a journalist. Taking into account the role of information and media in the modern world, as well as the influence of formation on public opinion, standards of professional ethics must be the basis for all media. There are real people and their lives behind every word and behind every case. Impeccable reputation and trust should not be coins to exchange for a reputable journalistic community.
Lawyer, managing partner of Fomin and Partners Law Union.