KYIV -- The Ukrainian parliament has passed a bill that amends existing legislation to protect businesses against extortion, harassment, and illegal searches by law enforcement agencies.
The bill, initiated by Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman and supported by Ukraine’s business community, envisages compulsory video recording of every search and the presence of a lawyer during all property seizures.
Moreover, prosecutors must now justify the necessity of any seizure of original or copied documents during searches. Law enforcement agents will also be prohibited from seizing computer hardware and required to make copies of any data they gather under the supervision of relevant experts.
A majority of 312 lawmakers voted in favor of the law, according to the press service for the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament.
Ukraine has struggled to shed a reputation for endemic corruption, and businesses often complain of harassment from law enforcement agencies. A common tactic used to interrupt, intimidate, and extort businesses is what is often referred to in Ukraine as a “mask show” -- a search by armed agents who wear masks to conceal their identities.
Andy Hunder, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, wrote on Facebook ahead of the November 16 vote in parliament that the bill would help stop the bullying.
Ukraine climbed slightly up the latest World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index released this month, moving from 80th place last year to 76th place.
While business leaders and experts say Ukraine has made some economic reform achievements even as the country fights a war against Russia-backed militants in its eastern regions, the consensus is that it still has much room for improvement.