RIA Novosti: Chief investigator details corruption cases in Russia as Putin vows action

Cropped File Photo of Two Men in Business Suits Shaking Hands and Passing Cash

(RIA Novosti – December 4, 2013) Crimes of corruption in Russia cost the state more than R9bn (about 270m dollars at the current exchange rate) over two years, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported head of the Russian Investigations Committee Aleksandr Bastrykin as saying on 4 December.

Damage to state, need to extend investigation period

“As for damages inflicted on the Russian state and citizens, they come to more than R9bn,” Bastrykin was quoted as saying at a visiting session of the Duma Committee on Security and Prevention of Corruption at the Investigations Committee in Moscow.

Bastrykin also called on parliamentarians to consider legislation to increase the period for the preliminary investigation of crimes of corruption, privately-owned Russian Interfax news agency reported.

“I appeal to you to consider increasing the period of preliminary investigation. Today we encounter complex criminal schemes that the law-enforcement agencies haven’t come across before,” Bastrykin said.

The investigation of crimes of corruption require complex financial analysis and the involvement of specialist experts, he said.

Bastrykin said that of the R9bn damages since 2011, less than half (around R4bn) had been compensated for.

Corruption case prosecution figures

Bastrykin said that over 2,500 decisions were taken to criminally prosecute individuals with a special legal status, including more than 1,600 deputies of territorial and municipal elective bodies, 53 representatives of legislative bodies and courts, 16 judges, more than 200 investigators of the Interior Ministry system, and 42 investigators of Investigations Committee bodies.

Bastrykin also complained that Russia lacked a financial control agency.

“The directorates for fighting organized crime and the tax police were wound up. We have suggested setting up a special body that would monitor financial flows in the country – financial police – but we were criticized,” Bastrykin said.

Fines go unpaid, prison sentences down

One in two-and-a-half corruption crime cases have been brought to court since 2011, Bastrykin added.

“Since 2011, the Investigations Committee has instituted almost 57,000 criminal cases relating to crimes of corruption, 22,000 of which were sent to court,” he said.

Furthermore, acquittals in corruption cases are extremely rare, he added.

“For this category of case there are practically no acquittals. If there are any, then they [make up] 1 per cent,” he said.

As for fines in corruption cases, Bastrykin said, only 1 per cent of those ordered by a court to pay such penalties in corruption cases have actually paid them in recent years.

“Of the R20bn [about 600m dollars] – the amount that people convicted of corruption should pay as a criminal punishment – today 1 per cent has actually been paid: R20m,” he said.

He also said that people convicted of corruption had been sent to prison much more rarely in recent years.

“If two years ago 25 per cent of those convicted of corruption crimes were sentenced to prison terms, now this figure is 8 per cent. Maybe this is good,” he said.

Signs authorities worried about corruption

On 3 December, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to set up an anti-corruption directorate within the presidential administration, liberal heavyweight daily Kommersant reported. Oleg Plokhoy, a long-serving Kremlin official, was made head of the directorate, the paper said. Putin recently reiterated his commitment to eradicating corruption.

“We shall continue our efforts, in earnest, to eradicate this evil, notwithstanding, I repeat, posts or party affiliation. Let everyone know this,” Interfax quoted him as saying at a meeting of the Supervisory Board of the Strategic Initiatives Agency on 14 November.[

About one-third of Russians (31 per cent) have said that they generally do not approve of Putin’s actions as president, business daily Vedomosti reported on 4 December, quoting an opinion poll by the independent pollster Levada Centre – his lowest rating in 12 years.

Opinion polls in recent years have suggested that corruption is one of the main issues that ordinary Russians are concerned about.

Russia was ranked 127 out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2013.