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State Duma not in hurry to pass a bill banning state officials to have property abroad

February 07, 2013, 11:04 UTC+3
Meanwhile, the bill is to be prepared for the second reading but amendments are available to no one, even its authors
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7/2 Tass

Itar-Tass World Service

MOSCOW, February 7 (Itar-Tass) –

State Duma not in hurry to pass a bill banning state officials to have property abroad

The security committee of the Russian State Duma lower parliament house on Wednesday adopted a program of its activities for the current parliament session. The program has no mention of a bill prohibiting Russian state servants to have real estate abroad and accounts in foreign banks. Meanwhile, the bill is to be prepared for the second reading but amendments are available to no one, even its authors.

The RBC daily cites one of the bill’s authors, lawmaker Vyacheslav Lysakov, as saying that the Duma security committee has provided no answer to his official request to give information about the bill’s fate. In the mean time, the committee’s chairperson, Irina Yarovaya, is giving a news conference on Thursday, however none of the five lawmakers who initiated the bill are invited to take part.

Earlier, Yarovaya told the RBC daily that the committee planned to discuss amendments to the bill at its first meeting after the regional week. The meeting was held on Wednesday but the bill was out of its agenda. Yarovaya refused to comment. She did not even say when the committee would finally consider this bill.

A State Duma source told the RBC daily that the bill’s authors had been placed in an information vacuum not to let them skim the PR cream off this subject they had been making hay on since August, when this scandalous bill was submitted to the State Duma. That is why Yarovaya has opted not to let her fellow lawmakers into her news conference plans.

It was only Alexander Ageyev of the A Just Russia party who has managed to receive an answer in the long run. But the document he received included only five amendments, most of them – from the opposition. There was no mention of the most essential amendment, i.e. the one that binds state officials to declare their foreign real estate.

According to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper, the key intrigue around the bill, especially its section that bans state officials to have overseas property, accounts in foreign banks and securities of foreign issuers, is that it was the government that demanded that the bill should be revised considerably. The government’s advance support was committed to paper in a Cabinet’s letter of opinion signed by Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov. Moreover, Surkov put forth an idea, later taken up by the president and prime minister, that whereas bank accounts could be banned, real estate issues should be tackled in a more delicate way. The executive branch worded its position the following way: “It is necessary to take into account the fact that a great number of such real estate located in the former Soviet republics could have been inherited from close relatives, thus having no relation to corruption.” The underlying motive, they claim, is not to frighten off talented and efficient people of business from state service by extra bans.

The restrictive bill was initiated by United Russia lawmakers who had won Duma seats under the Popular Front quotas, the newspaper writes. They wanted Russia’s state servants to keep all their property and money in Russia in order not to be influenced from outside. It turned out however that state servants themselves do not share such ideas. First, a number of ministers and deputy premiers expressed cautious disagreement with the draconian initiative, and later, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called it extreme and unreasonable, especially in what concerns foreign property. President Vladimir Putin drew the line under the matter in his state-of-the-nations address of December 12. He urged to ban state servants to have foreign accounts and securities. As for real estate, there is nothing wrong if a state official has such property, the main thing is to declare it properly.

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