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Medvedev proposes to confiscate suspicious property from public servants

March 14, 2012, 13:51 UTC+3

People at public posts, public and municipal servants should provide the information what funds they or members of their families spent to buy some types of propert

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MOSCOW, March 14 (Itar-Tass) — On Tuesday, at a meeting of the Presidential Council for Counteraction to Corruption Russian President Dmitry Medvedev presented a bill, which will make public servants report about their big expenses, which do not match their incomes. Those public servants, which will not be able to explain clearly, for what money they bought flats, cars or shares, will be seized of this property.

Neither criminal responsibility nor fines threaten them, the property will be just confiscated from them, the Kommersant daily notes. First of all, Dmitry Medvedev explained that the procedure developed to control the expenses fully meets Article 20 of the UN Convention Against Corruption. Although this mechanism does not introduce criminal responsibility for public servants, which according to the bill failed to explain, where they took the money to buy property, which costs higher that his aggregate three-year incomes together with the incomes of his wife (on average 3-4 million roubles). Article 20 of the convention demands to take the expenses, the sources of which the public servant failed to explain, as illegal enrichment and recommends introduce criminal responsibility for this offence. This is the stumbling block for the fulfilment of the recommendations given in the convention, because the criminal law should have shifted the burden to prove the innocence on a citizen that violates the presumption of innocence principle stipulated in the Russian Constitution.

“The presumption of innocence does not permit to take criminal legal measures against public servants, if it is not proved that they got these funds in the criminal way,” the newspaper quoted Medvedev as saying. “So, the term of illegal enrichment in Article 20 can be used in our legal system only, when the crime is exposed and proved as a criminal offence,” Medvedev said.

Under the bill, people at public posts, public and municipal servants, as well as employees of state organizations should provide the information what funds they or members of their families spent to buy some types of property, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily notes. This is real estate, transport vehicles and securities, the newspaper reports. This is the property, which is registered by state-run agencies, chief of the presidential staff Sergei Ivanov said after the meeting. The state authorities cannot control the purchases of pieces of arts, furniture, jewellery and watches.

The provision about the confiscation of property, the origin of which a public servant failed to explain, can be called the most progressive provision of the bill, the RBC daily notes. This provision includes the so-called confiscation in rem that is the confiscation, which is based on the shifting of burden to prove the lawfulness of property origin that is suspected to have corruption connection on a person concerned. This procedure is applied in the United States and Great Britain for a long time.

The chairman of the board of directors of the Presidential Institute of Modern Development, Igor Yurgens, valued highly the presidential efforts in this issue, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta cited him as saying. “As a specialist in the America by education I can say that it is the America that copes with this evil. The neighbours of a public servant can call the US taxation services and say that he bought an expensive car and the taxation services will investigate this fact,” he said. The scale of corruption in Russia turned in a structural evil and, therefore, the instruments of struggle against corruption offered by the president are justified, Yurgens added.

The Vedomosti noted that the reasons for the inspection of a public servant will be written and non-anonymous from the law enforcement agencies, state agencies, local self-government bodies, state funds and state corporations. The bill takes the information about major deals and the grounds for them as the restricted access information and can be even taken as a state secret, and people to blame for their disclosure bear responsibility under the law.

The newspaper also cited the opinion of the experts criticising on the law. In particular, director of the Transparency International Russia Yelena Panfilova believes that if an income declaration of a public servant passes the inspection, no additional control is needed over his incomes. “After the first income declaration each next income declaration actually turns in an income declaration that is the world practice,” she noted.

Public servants conceal personal information out of fears for punishment, the Trud newspaper reports. The newspaper recalled that now it is offered to detain the corrupt officials only on the day they file personal income declarations. So, it turns out to take place once a year and even through income declarations of public servants.

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