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Law enforcers return seized equipment to Turkish investor

11.03.2019

Subject of complaint: Investigation Department of the General Directorate of the National Police in Kyiv Oblast (National Police) 

Complaint in brief: On March 5, 2018, a company with Turkish investments specializing in plastic recycling and manufacturing goods from recycled materials, turned to the Council. The National Police, having violated pre-trial investigation reasonable terms, did not return the seized equipment to the Complainant. 

In late September 2017, law enforcers, in accordance with a court order, within the framework of criminal proceedings searched a production shop leased by the Complainant. A machine for grinding plastic, a dehumidifying centrifuge and a bench grinder were seized as material evidence. It is worth noting that the Complainant only leased the equipment, it belonged to a Turkish citizen. 

The company’s operations stopped alongside with the equipment seizure. However, obligations to the lessor remained. The Complainant appealed to the court twice but it was refused to return the property. On October 11, 2017, the equipment was sent for examination to find out whether the environment was harmed by its use. According to the investigators, the equipment was used to shred plastic pesticide containers in violation of hazardous waste disposal rules. 

At the time of appeal to the Council, the equipment was not returned to the company, as it allegedly was in the examination. Although, according to the Complainant, the equipment was transferred “for storage” to other commercial company. The Complainant’s representative also stated that availability of equipment for examination actually was not necessary, taken samples were enough.

Actions taken: The Council’s investigator correspondence with law enforcement agencies lasted 11 months. Law enforcers insisted there were no violations in their actions because the property had been seized legally and the examination was in progress, even despite the fact reasonable terms of the pre-trial investigation, according to the Council’s estimation, expired in September 2018. 
 
It should be noted that the Council did not interfere with the essence of the pre-trial investigation and did not express its own position as to how exactly it should be completed. However, the Council concluded both the pre-trial investigation and the Prosecutor's Office authority should ensure its completion as soon as possible, as the reasonable term of the pre-trial investigation had apparently expired. 
 
The Council acknowledged that the property had been seized based on the court order, therefore, lawfully. At the same time the investigator stressed there were no equipment examination results even in a year, and neither the Complainant’s officers nor the equipment owner was declared suspect. The investigator insisted on a reasonable proportional relationship between the means law enforcers apply to the Complainant and the purpose they seek to achieve. 
 
Therefore, the investigator recommended that the National Police and the Prosecutor's Office should decide the equipment future as soon as possible: either return it to the Complainant, or transfer it to the legal owner, or to furnish certain persons with a suspicion notice and launch equipment forfeiture procedure, if there were legitimate grounds for that. 
 
Result achieved: The law enforcement authorities accepted the Council’s and the Complainant lawyer’s arguments at last. In almost a year and a half after the seizure of property, after it became known that the examination hadn’t found a significant environmental damage, the equipment was returned to the owner – the Turkish investor. The case was closed successfully.