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Russia's Komi governor, his entourage arrest sends Thou Shalt Not Steal warning to elites

September 22, 2015, 19:11 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
Russian Komi Republic’s governor, Vyacheslav Gaizer

Russian Komi Republic’s governor, Vyacheslav Gaizer

© Vyacheslav Prokofiyev/TASS

MOSCOW, September 22. /TASS/. The arrest of the Komi Republic’s governor, Vyacheslav Gaizer, and more than a dozen other senior local officials on charges of fraud and organized crime sounds an explicit message to the elites: the federal authorities are determined to crack down on corruption in defiance of ranks and posts, polled experts told TASS.

The criminal proceedings against Vyacheslav Gaizer and his entourage were launched on September 18. Of the 19 persons on the list fifteen, including Gaizer himself, were remanded in custody following a court ruling. The investigators say the accused alienated government stakes in profitable businesses and transferred the money to offshore zones as dividends. Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin has said the size of the damage caused in this way is yet to be established, but at this point one can say with certainty that billions of roubles are involved.

The director of the Institute of Political Studies, Sergey Markov, believes that the arrest of a governor and his team in a major Russian region is a sure sign the country’s top leadership is determined to push ahead with the crusade against corruption.

"I strongly disagree with those experts who suspect that the arrest of Gaizer and his team is nothing but a high-profile PR campaign. On the one hand, it surely demonstrates the determination to take a hard line against the embezzlement of budget funds. The authorities even dared bear certain reputation losses. There have been no attempts to play down the affair. On the contrary, for the first time in Russia’s recent history a governor was accused of running a crime ring," said Markov, a member of the Civic Chamber.

"And still, the high-profile detention and arrest on the basis of a court verdict of the Komi Republic’s senior officials have drawn a mixed response from the public. People are wondering: ‘How come the governor of the Sakhalin Region, Aleksandr Khoroshavin, was arrested last March and charged with taking huge bribe? Now Gaizer and his team are in custody. What had the superior authorities been doing all the time then?’ Let me say it once again, it was not at all easy for the country’s leadership to take this public step indicating that the war on corruption will proceed unabated."

The director of the Globalization Problems Institute, Mikhail Delyagin, believes that the arrest of the governor-led crime ring in Komi will have a positive effect on the public opinion, because the people will see for themselves the authorities are prepared to fight against corruption at the highest level. "But skeptics are speculating the Oboronservis affair may have a rerun. The main culprit, Yevgenia Vasilieva, who caused grave damage to the state budget, was released from jail virtually in no time with a dozen TV camera crews around filming the procedure. It is to be hoped the authorities will take the negative effect into account and bring the affair of Gaizer and his associates to the logical outcome," Delyagin said.

The ongoing budget crisis has forced the country’s leadership to take the hardest line possible against corrupt officials.

"Whereas two or three years ago most corrupt civil servants got away with theft at the regional level, now it has gone intolerable. The costs are too high. They are estimated at millions," Delyagin said. "The arrest of senior officials in Komi sounds a warning to the regional elites they should toe the line amid the financial and economic crisis," Delyagin said.

And the general director of the Centre for Political Technologies, Igor Bunin, has recalled that the Komi Republic had invariably remained in the top five Russian regions.

"That so many heads have rolled is a reminder to all governors they should behave themselves at a time when the country has found itself in an adverse environment. This is precisely what President Vladimir Putin told the new governors elected on September 13," Bunin told TASS.

TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors