The Kommersant daily has reported that the Kremlin is ready to adopt the most stringent version of the law on foreign accounts and assets of public servants. According to the newspaper, of two similar bills that have been submitted to the State Duma will be adopted the one that prohibits state employees to have foreign assets and accounts in foreign banks. The newspaper’s Kremlin sources hope that the bill submitted by representatives of the All-Russian People’s Front (ONF) will remove irritation in the society, will remind civil servants of loyalty, and the subsequent enforcement practice will begin immediately with the prosecution of violators. However, experts believe that the terrible bill contains loopholes that would allow them to easily circumvent the law.
The Kommersant recalls that on July 26 and August 1, respectively, two bills on cash deposits in foreign banks, on foreign property of officials and MPs were submitted to the State Duma. The first was initiated by MP Ilya Ponomarev (A Just Russia), joined by vice-speaker of the lower house of parliament Sergei Zheleznyak. The second was introduced by ONF representatives Vyacheslav Lysakov and Valery Trapeznikov, and then they were supported by representatives of all Duma factions. The bills differ in the degree of strictness and the scope of jurisdiction. The first document requires four categories of officials (members of the Federal Assembly, the regional governors and deputies, holders of the ‘A’ category of public office) to disclose at special websites information about their foreign property and accounts. The bill envisages criminal liability for the distortion of information in the declaration or evading disclosing it.
The second bill applies to all those, including municipal employees, who already now under the law “On Combating Corruption” are obligated to declare their annual income and expenses, including property abroad and deposits on accounts in foreign banks. The bill prohibits having foreign property if it is not related to the needs of the service, and accounts abroad, if they are not related to medical treatment or education. The ban applies to the spouses of state employees and their minor children. The document proposes to punish violators with a fine from 5 million to 10 million rubles, or imprisonment for up to five years, with the following deprivation of the right to hold public office for three years. Such officials are given six months after the beginning of 2013 to rectify the situation.
According to the publication’s source in the presidential administration, there are several reasons to insist on stricter version of the bill “It’s a matter of loyalty of civil servants and assessment of their patriotism. In addition, there are many people partying in Courchevel resorts and the like, which causes most powerful irritation in society.” The Kremlin is ready to take it that not all officials will like the bill: “Even some members of United Russia, unaware of which way the wind is blowing, are trying to argue.” It also understands that they will start to move money offshore, to register property as belonging to “the mother in law and adult children.”
Immediately after the two bills appeared, the expert community members gave their explanations of why the Kremlin needs them. In particular, against the backdrop of the sensational law on NGO - foreign agents, which was taken by part of the society as an attack on the opposition and human rights, the prohibition to officials to have property abroad could look like a conciliatory political argument. In addition, Russia in September will have to deliver a report on the fight against corruption to the international community, including the Group of Twenty countries.
Political analyst Yevgeny Minchenko believes that all this is true: “The authorities fear the external influence on the decision-makers. In addition, this is a populist move, jingoistic sentiments. However, the bill is rather convenient for the authorities that can use it selectively, and for the perpetrators – that can circumvent it.”