Seizure of the property whose owners are Canadians was based on a fraudulent scheme
Kyiv, Sept. 28. Andrew Witer, a founding partner and President of Romyr & Associates has announced that a raider seizure of the office of the firm, located at 25, Prorizna street, in Kyiv took place on Sept. 2, 2016.
On that day, unidentified persons posing as couriers entered the office and announced that they represent the new owner of the property and demanded that the staff leave the premises. Police were immediately summoned. The police determined that the office should be sealed and an investigation launched.
Andrew Witer, a Canadian citizen and former member of Canada’s parliament, was utterly shocked by this situation. For many years Mr. Witer has supported business development in Ukraine and the popularization of Ukrainian culture abroad. He expected that his legal rights and the property rights of his family would be protected. However, it appears that the blatant neglect of the law, and impunity of those who perpetrate large-scale fraud, is still prevalent in Ukraine.
The scale of the fraudulent scheme is indeed impressive. Firstly, a decision of the Makariv (Kyiv oblast) district court was fabricated. Based on this decision an attempt was made at the national real estate registry in September 2014 to transfer ownership of the property belonging to the Canadian family to the fraudulent owners. Officials at the land registry were suspicious of the validity of the court decision and requested an investigation. A criminal investigation was launched by the Makariv police department which determined that the apparent court decision was never signed or issued by the Makariv district court. In other words the decision was fabricated. Nevertheless a second attempt to transfer ownership of the property at the national real estate registry, using the same fabricated Makariv district court decision, in March of 2016, was successful. The frauds proceeded to sell and resell the property three times in less than four months. The purchasers of the property reside in different cities of Ukraine, yet there are reasons to believe that they are no more than instruments of the real beneficiary of the scheme. An illegal decision by the Kyiv City Council in December 2014 to issue a permit at 25 Prorizna Street for a commercial development complex including offices, retail space and underground parking to a company, initially owner by a well know sports personality and his sister (ownership of the company has recently been transferred to a relative of the sports personality) sheds light on the raiders plot. Clearly the property of the Canadian family at 25 Prorizna in Kyiv stood in the way of this plan, so the situation was “resolved” in the best traditions of 90-ies.
Lawyers for the Canadian family have launched a number of court actions in an attempt to regain the family’s property. However, neither the courts nor law enforcement agencies are in a hurry to defend the aggrieved party’s rights. Even though infringement of the law is evident, the chances to reclaim the property are minimal. For, as the Pavlo Petrenko, the Minister of Justice of Ukraine has stated, in the past year about 90% of raider seizures in Ukraine were successful. Experts believe that one of the largest problems Ukraine faces is a lack of effective judicial reform. The current judicial system is ineffective in protecting property and investor rights, and provides fertile ground for law-breaking activities. Mr. Witer’s case is yet another confirmation of this problem and sends a clear warning to potential investors in Ukraine.
Mr. Witer and his legal representatives appeal to the public and mass media not to stay indifferent to this case. Otherwise Kyiv will lose one of its historical building and an office center will be constructed in its place.
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