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Plans for hiding names of property owners from public scrutiny in focus

October 07, 2015, 18:32 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© ITAR-TASS/Ruslan Shamukov

MOSCOW, October 7. /TASS/. The bill just initiated by the federal security service FSB for making secret the personal data of property owners contains a rational idea - protecting people from criminal encroachments - but at the same time it leaves vast room for corruption and criticism, polled experts have told TASS.

The gist of the proposal is personal data contained in the official property register will be available only to authorized bodies of power and law enforcers. Public activists and journalists will be barred from it. On Monday, the Russian government’s legislative commission came out in support of the bill. After its discussion at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers the draft will be submitted to the State Duma (lower house of parliament) for consideration.

In the meantime, Russian media and society have launched a wide discussion of the FSB’s idea of protecting the owners of private properties, planes and yachts from inquisitive compatriots. The general director of the anti-corruption studies and initiatives centre of Transparency International-Russia, Anton Pominov, has told the daily Noviye Izvestia the bill contradicts the concept of anti-corruption, civil and media control. Pominov sees the fears of corrupt officials possessing ill-gotten fortunes behind the proposed legal act. The co-leader of the Delovaya Rossiya (Business Russia) non-governmental organization, Anton Danilov-Danilyan, disagrees. This is what he told the RBC Daily: "The problem is the data from the state register of real estate is being used by one and all without restrictions for private commercial interests. Raiders do the same, too. The bill is correct. May there remain only official control, and not private control of unknown origin."

The director of the Globalization Problems Institute, Mikhail Delyagin, sees the FSB’s bill as an element of supporting the security of society and the security of individual citizens.

"Let us recall the recent unrest in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities, which last February resulted in a government coup in Ukraine. The rioters were terrorizing top officials, let alone governors, mayors and leaders of political parties at home, threatened their families and forced them to leave the country. That became possible because information about the property of individuals was open to everybody," Delyagin told TASS.

"Hence the conclusion: a private person has the right to demand the authorities should make secret the family address. But this right should not apply to other properties, let alone yachts and planes. I believe that the FSB’s bill is a response to high-profile exposures of civil servants’ undeclared properties by some opposition figures, like Aleksey Navalny," he believes.

The head of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, member of the presidential committee for human rights, Kirill Kabanov, who had participated in drafting the bill, has told TASS the purpose of the document is not to make secret the data contained in the state property register, but to close the register to public access.

"Regrettably, the statistics of crimes and raider attacks in Russia are rather high. Those who own a multi-level apartment or a large plot of land should remember some smart people may find a loophole and some flaws in the documents to prove in court the deal was void and strip owners of their assets. There have been many such cases across the nation," Kabanov said.

"As for planes and ships, the proposal for removing the names of their owners from open data bases was made by the Transport Ministry. As a rule aircraft and ships belong to large public corporations, so property data may be used by competitors for criminal or defamation purposes," Kabanov said.

"I am involved in anti-corruption activities myself, but I don’t think that the FSB’s bill will infringe my right to public investigation. Firstly, the system of declaring incomes and property by civil servants remains. Secondly, there remains the system of queries addressed to the state register or to law enforcement agencies regarding property owners. When the inquirer gets the reply, the agencies concerned will retain a clue to who requested the information and why. This will minimize the misuse of information about real estate for criminal purposes or for marring reputations," Kabanov said.

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