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FC expects quick approval of president-proposed foreign bank accounts ban for officials

February 12, 2013, 17:44 UTC+3

The president's bill enlarged the list of civil servants to whom the ban on foreign accounts and financial assets abroad applied

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MOSCOW, February 12 (Itar-Tass) - The Federation Council upper house of the Russian parliament does not expect any delays in passing the bill banning officials and lawmakers from having bank accounts abroad, and meant to protect them from possible influence by foreign authorities, FC deputy speaker Alexander Torshin said in comments on the president-proposed legislation.

"There'll be no delays. These /proposed restrictions/ are fair and right, they will be understood correctly /by the parliamentarians/," he said, "personally, I believe the bill could be reviewed within the shortest possible timeframe envisioned by the procedure."

The above initiative is in the vein of Vladimir Putin's election promises and his state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly. "So it did not come unexpected; as for the form, I believe this document offers an optimal solution of the tasks in combating corruption and protecting sovereignty," the FC first deputy speaker said.

Torshin also said accounts at foreign banks made it possible to influence the owners /Russian officials in this particular case/ through the threat of freezing their assets and so on. "We're protecting them /officials/ from such influence," the parliamentarian underlined.

He drew attention to the fact that the restrictions would concern those "who make decisions concerning our sovereignty and our economy."

The proposed amendments do not infringe upon anyone's rights. "Three months are given for consideration; if they wish to do business instead, let them do it," he said.

On Tuesday, the Communist Party said it would support Putin's bill. "We've long insisted that the measures to combat corruption should be more vigorous, substantive, resolute and principled, but it was only after many ministries and departments turned into criminal cesspools that the ruling parties mustered enough courage to make several resolute moves," Gennady Zyuganov told a news conference.

Having underlined that he regarded the measure insufficient, Zyuganov noted that the Communists had already collected 100,000 signatures on their website in support of ratification of Article 20 of the UN convention /illicit enrichment/.

"As for officials' accounts abroad, we support this proposal, but we're also hoping that the president and the ruling party will respond to our initiative," he added.

In Zyuganov's opinion, it would be logical for the president to come up with a number of other initiatives. "It's necessary to stop hiding our money on bank accounts. Under the budget law, we had to divert slightly more an 300 billion roubles to the reserve fund this year, whereas 900 billion were transferred to foreign banks.

Deputy parliament speaker Sergei Zheleznyak /United Russia faction/ said the list of persons to whom the ban applies, will be adjusted in accordance with the president's bill. The officials will be allowed to have property abroad.

"The president outlined the importance of restrictions and bans on financial assets of Russian officials abroad in his state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly. In this connection, the head of state deemed it necessary to have these matter regulated by a separate bill," Zheleznyak said.

The final document will apply to state-run corporations, foundations, and organizations set up under federal law. Commenting on the fact that the lawmakers' initiatives applies to all law-enforcement bodies, the parliamentarian explained that the restrictions would apply to "all the heads of law-enforcement agencies appointed by the president."

Officials are allowed to have real estate abroad, but they should declare it regardless of its value. When asked about the timeframe given to officials to transfer their ownership rights to bank accounts /three months/, Zheleznyak said "if one really means it, an account can be closed within a day."

The deputy State Duma speaker expressed confidence that the house would not delay the review of the first reading of the president's bill. "The issue will be discussed by the State Duma Council on Thursday; it will decide on the deadline for circulating the president's initiative among regions." "The second reading of the document will be discussed in package," Zheleznyak said.

A lack of authentic information about officials' assets abroad is explained by a lack of proper legislation. "Putin's bill does not limit the opportunities for travel, education or medical treatment. The rouble is a freely convertible currency, it makes no sense to open accounts in foreign currency for these purposes," he said.

Another co-author of the lawmakers' bill - head of the so-called independent group within A Just Russia faction Leonid Levin - noted the priority of Putin’s' bill. "The situation will be discussed at the next meeting of the State Duma Council to decide on procedure issues," he told Tass.

Levin noted that the president's bill enlarged the list of civil servants to whom the ban on foreign accounts and financial assets abroad applied, but lifted the requirements on giving up property outside Russia.


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