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Some 3,000 people will be eligible for economic amnesty

July 02, 2013, 16:11 UTC+3

According to the Interior Ministry, 1,299 criminal cases might be dropped

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MOSCOW, July 2 (Itar-Tass) - Some 3,000 people might be set free under the economic amnesty is which under lawmakers' review, presidential representative in the lower house of the Russian parliament Garri Minkh said on Tuesday.

A large package of documents on every individual will be considered, Minkh said. According to the Interior Ministry, 1,299 criminal cases might be dropped, while the Federal Penitentiary Service /FSIN/ believes amnesty will apply to 180 people serving sentences in prisons and another 160 people who are now in remand wards. The persons who are on file of FSIN inspectorates, i.e. those who were given suspended sentences, number 1,350. "The sum of these figures yields the potential number of those eligible for amnesty," the presidential representative said.

Earlier, head of the parliament committee for civil legislation Pavel Krasheninnikov said "the amnesty will apply to 10,000 persons."

Meanwhile, Russian public and economic organizations hailed the business amnesty. The draft resolution "is very important to Russia because not only the number of persons to be set free early has significance, but the very beginning of this strategy of interaction between business and government," vice president of the center for strategic communications Dmitry Abzalov noted.

Abazov underlined that the draft resolution separated "true business persons from corrupted ones and is meant for the whole community, not individual players. As for possible amendments during further review, no major changes are likely, just certain adjustments."

For his part, deputy dean of the applied political science department, National Research University - Higher School of Economics, Leonid Polyakov underlined that reviewing the draft resolution on amnestying business was something which had long been expected and which largely indicated a change in the attitude to business."

"Although people have unequivocal feelings to business persons, the trend toward positive dynamics has been growing visibly, whereas earlier, negative feelings obviously prevailed," the expert said.

He noted that the draft resolution was forged through serious debates, "so no questions should arise regarding its content." Of course, the amnesty only applies to those who were misled or broke the law through inexperience, who are not fraudsters or corrupt persons.

Hence, the amnesty does not contradict the trend to combat corruption and will normalize the situation in the business community, Polyakov said.

Public Chamber member Sergei Markov voiced a similar position. He is confident that the draft resolution was certainly needed. "It is important that its compromise version was adopted, while the initial variant - which envisioned amnesty for a far larger number of business persons -- would have been resented by the Russian society.

Markov believes major amendments to the document are unlikely. "I believe it is necessary to adopt another law to decriminalize competition, so that business persons win by improving the quality of goods and decreasing their prices, instead of setting up each other," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament approved the first reading of the draft resolution on economic amnesty. The document was supported by 295 legislators from the United Russia and A Just Russia factions, with one abstention. The Liberal Democratic Party /LDPR/ and Communist factions did not take part in the voting.

The final reading of the document will be considered later in the day after discussion of the amendments, including those suggested by LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

"We've brought forward amendments. One of them is that the amnestied go to the Far East for permanent residence. The second amendment is to take out Article 159 /fraud/ from the draft resolution because this cannot be corrected," he explained.

The president submitted the draft resolution on amnesty on June 25. It calls for amnestying the persons who are being prosecuted or were convicted for crimes in the field of entrepreneurship, or for other crimes the first time, as well as for dropping their criminal prosecution.

The amnesty applies to persons convicted under 27 articles of the penal code, including copyright law violations, illegal entrepreneurship and banking, fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and non-repayment of loans. It also applies to the persons who were given suspended sentences or are on parole. The mandatory condition for qualifying for amnesty is meeting the obligation to return property or reimburse damages. Those who committed crimes with use of violence or threats of violence are not eligible.

More than one-third of Russians support economic amnesty, Russia's business ombudsman Boris Titov said last week. "We've carried out a poll: 32 percent supported the amnesty, and 36 percent objected. The others were undecided," Titov said. He explained the results by Russians' unequivocal attitude toward entrepreneurs.

Titov stressed that in 2012, more than 155,000 cases were opened under penal code articles on economic crimes, and that only 35,000 cases were sent to courts.

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