Deal 5: Former Deputy Head of the State Customs Service of Ukraine on Dismissal Dispute

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On April, 6, 2021, CEE Legal Matters reported that the Esquires law firm had persuaded Ukraine's Sixth Administrative Court of Appeal to revoke an order of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dismissing former Deputy Head of the State Customs Service of Ukraine Denys Shendryk from that position. CEE In-House Matters spoke with Shendryk to learn more about the case.

CEEIHM: Please give our readers a bit of background with regards to your case. 

Denys: A few words about myself – I have more than 15 years of experience working as a professional tax and customs consultant in a Big 4 company. Also, in Ukraine for several years I led the Customs Committee of a Ukrainian professional association, so I am well known as a customs expert and lobbyer in the interests of transparent business.

With the election of the new President – Mr. Zelenskiy – I agreed to a proposal of the newly appointed Prime Minister and Head of Ukrainian Customs to help to reform the Ukrainian Customs agency. One of the immediate and challenging tasks was to separate the Ukrainian Customs and Tax Service of Ukraine, which previously were combined into one fiscal authority.

Also, together with my team, we started to implement a number of other reforms, including updating the legislation and IT instruments used by the customs service. While the international business community was supportive of many reforms, the bureaucratic system was extremely resistant.

After the dismissal of the Prime Minister and the entire Government, support for the reform began to drain away, and I and my team of reformers become undesired. So the new Prime Minister used controversial provisions of the law to dismiss me, even though I was appointed through the procedures of the public contest for a five-year period.

CEEIHM: What was your main claim? 

Denys: It is worth mentioning that I become aware of my dismissal from the press, as I was sitting at my workplace on a Friday at 8 p.m. There were no communications of reasons, no negative evaluation of my work. Just a formal resolution for dismissal.

Such an attitude is against my principles. I am accustomed to planning my career and appreciate my personal and business reputation. Therefore, I decided to go to court to prove to myself and to demonstrate to the government that this kind of behavior is unacceptable.

CEEIHM: The court ordered you reinstated to your former position. What did they rely on in doing so?

Denys: I believe that the court ruled in my favor by accounting for the following:

- The procedure through which I was appointed. As I mentioned there was a public contest won by me based on clear and transparent rules.

- The fact that my Constitutional rights were disrupted; and finally

- The controversial provision of law that was used as the formal reason for my dismissal had been removed from the law as being in contradiction of the Constitution of Ukraine.

CEEIHM: What are your plans following the reinstatement?

Denys: Immediately after my dismissal I was hunted for a managing position by my current employer – one of the leading international audit and consulting companies. So, reinstatement was not the ultimate goal. Moreover, in Ukraine, you need to fight to implement a court ruling. I believe that the current government is not aimed at reform and I am not sure that I will be comfortable working with the acting team.

Nevertheless, I do believe that, at some point, there will be political will and a strong desire to destroy the highly corrupt system around Ukrainian customs.

CEEIHM: Finally, why did you choose the Esquires law firm as your legal counsel on this case? 

Denys: Preparation of homework. This was a key reason I selected Esquires law firm. Their lawyers came to the initial meeting well-prepared, with an already combined set of arguments, and also were honest in evaluating the chances of the case.

Compared to other law firms I had conversations with, Esquires really demonstrated that they cared about my case, and it follows that I made the right choice.