Ukraine law enforcement agencies clash as wanted judge resurfaces

July 31, 2021 2:28 PM EDT

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By Ilya Zhegulev

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukrainian law enforcement agencies traded barbs on Saturday after a judge who disappeared in mysterious circumstances while facing a corruption investigation resurfaced and contacted the authorities from a village.

Judge Mykola Chaus left Ukraine for neighbouring Moldova in 2016 while facing bribery charges which his wife, Svitlana, says were fabricated. He disappeared in April this year in what Moldova's government said was a kidnapping.

His whereabouts had remained unknown until Friday when Ukraine's state security service (SBU) said it was contacted by Chaus from a village in UIkraine's western Vinnytsia region.

The SBU took Chaus to its headquarters in Kyiv, ignoring a request by the national anti-corruption bureau (NABU), which had investigated Chaus and wanted to take him into custody.

"The Security Service of Ukraine did not 'kidnap' Mykola Chaus, a former judge ... but acted within the law and its powers," the SBU said in a statement on Saturday.

Chaus had contacted the SBU by phone and said he had been "abducted, imprisoned, and subjected to other illegal acts," the statement said. "Measures have been taken to ensure Mr Chaus's safety."

Chaus was not available for comment.

The NABU said the SBU had acted "illegally" by refusing to hand over the judge. The bureau had accused Chaus in 2016 of taking a $150,000 bribe and hiding money in a glass jar in his garden.

After being stripped of his legal immunity by parliament, Chaus fled to Moldova and applied for political asylum and citizenship. The asylum claim was turned down in March.

Ukrainian leaders have promised to clean up entrenched corruption in the judiciary, which opinion polls show is one of the least trusted institutions in the country.

(Editing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Mike Harrison)

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