‘Passport professor’ gets a warning
Kochenov did nothing wrong, but he was negligent
For that, he’s been given a warning, the UG announced after they published the results of the investigation into Kochenov’s extracurricular activities on Tuesday evening. Kochenov is a professor of constitutional law and citizenship.
According to the investigators, there was a conflict of interest, since Kochenov was ‘using his position at the UG to receive money into his private account from third parties’. Kochenov was paid for undivulged extracurricular activities.
Also known as the ‘passport professor’ for his expertise, Kochenov will be given an official warning for not reporting his extracurricular activities to the UG.
According to television programme Nieuwsuur, Kochenov was advising the Maltese government on the sale of Maltese passports. The sale of European passports isn’t illegal, but it is controversial.
After the news report led to parliamentary questions on Kochenov’s extracurricular activities, the UG commissioned an external investigation in 2019.
According to the investigative committee, Kochenov ‘didn’t provide any advice on whether individuals were eligible for a Maltese passport. […] Nevertheless, Mr Kochenov’s activities for the Maltese government did take place in a politically sensitive context between the European Committee, the European Parliament, and several member states, including Malta. The committee feels Mr Kochenov took a risk in doing this.’
Conflict of interest
The committee was also tasked with investigating whether Kochenov’s extracurricular activities were a danger to his academic independence. The committee has concluded that they are not.
However, the committee does say that Kochenov was in the wrong when he failed to divulge some of his extracurricular activities to the law faculty board. While he was open about them, mentioning them on his personal information page on the UG website, the investigators say that someone of ‘his level and position’ is expected to talk to ‘his supervisor and/or faculty board’ himself.
The committee says that among the undivulged activities is the fact that Kochenov chaired the Investment Migration Council, an organisation that promotes the trade in passports and residence permits, as well as most of his work for Malta.
Kochenov also failed to report some of the income he earned from his activities to the university. Since 2016, Kochenov received more than 36,000 euros in remuneration for services rendered to parties other than the university in a private account. ‘More than 75 percent of this stems from his work for Malta’, the report states.
‘He was offered remuneration and rewards and accepted this. We also conclude that he requested remuneration and rewards.’ The investigative committee says Kochenov’s actions concerning the payments are ‘illegitimate’ and not in line with the rules included in the university’s collective agreement since 2011, nor in line with the code of conduct concerning integrity that the UG created in 2017.
Kochenov isn’t the only one who acted rashly, says the investigative committee. Kochenov’s immediate supervisor was aware of his work outside the university, but felt it didn’t need to be reported as extracurricular activities.
The committee explains this by saying the procedures concerning permission for extracurricular activities don’t meet the standards of regulation at universities. The committee says that both the faculty board and Kochenov’s supervisor have failed in executing the correct procedures.
The UG board of directors has said that everyone directly involved in the matter has received a warning and that the ‘internal information services and the procedures concerning the need to ask for permission for extracurricular activities and extracurricular incomes’ will be improved.
The schools inspectorate and education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven don’t entirely agree with the steps the UG has taken. In a letter to parliament, they write that Kochenov should pay back the money he earned.
The schools inspectorate says that ‘reimbursement is in order and a more effective signal’. Van Engelshoven agrees, but also says this is a matter between employer and employee, leaving the decision up to the UG board. The UG says reclaiming the money is legally impossible.