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Russian officials banned from keeping assets abroad

April 09, 2013, 10:31 UTC+3

However, no special mechanism to check compliance with the ban has been designed

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The bill banning Russian officials from keeping bank accounts and securities abroad was discussed at the parliament's committee for security on Monday, and became stricter still after the discussion, prohibiting the keeping of any valuables, such as gold, precious stones or paintings.

The house committee for security and combating corruption recommended the parliament to legitimize the president and his administration's right to run surprise checks on the information about foreign accounts and assets in possession of officials, and expand the circle of person to whom the new ban will apply, the Kommersant underlines. The parliament has to adopt a package of presidential and lawmakers' bills, and in that event, the ban on foreign assets will apply not only to incumbent lawmakers and officials, but also to the candidates to these posts. Experts are confident that restrictions should come into force immediately after election, so the owners of foreign assets will not want to take risks if they are nominated by Opposition parties.

By the second reading, United Russia members decided that aside from incumbent officials and lawmakers, and their spouses and underage children, the candidates running for elective offices should forsake foreign assets, too. Therefore, Article 38 of the law on "Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Rights of Citizens of the Russian Federation to participate in a Referendum" commits the candidates for governors and regional legislatures to submit, simultaneously with other documents necessary for registration, "a written notification" that the candidate has no bank accounts or other assets outside Russia.

"Making a person give up ties and businesses cultivated for years in advance is a serious thing, head of the political council of the Rodina Party /not represented in parliament/, former lawmaker and owner of the Delo /Business/ group of companies Sergei Shishkaryov said.

Restrictions are to apply as soon as the candidate is elected.

Leader of the Party of Business, head of the Rosagromash board Konstantin Babkin told the newspaper he "does not understand" the new restrictions: "Elections in this country have been violated as it is; they are not a method to influence the authorities."

According to the Civil Palatform leader Mikhail Prokhorov, the move will lumpenize the government.

Director of the Institute for Election Technologies Yevgeny Suchkov believes that the amendments show "the same ideology on which the idea to set up People's Front is based the people who come to power should somehow reflect the interests of an ordinary person."

No special mechanism to check compliance with the ban has been designed, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes. Meanwhile, the existing anti-corruption legislation does not even require officials and lawmakers to declare such valuables: obviously because of the difficulties to control them. The second reading of the complete package of restrictions, initiated by Vladimir Putin, is likely to be held on April 17, the day when Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is expected to deliver the first annual report. It might be a coincidence, but it is executive officials at the federal, regional and municipal levels, as well as law-enforcement bodies, that are targeted by the ban on accounts in foreign banks and financial instruments of foreign origin.

The new amendments commit high-ranking officials to stop keeping not only money at foreign banks, but also valuables, such as gold bullion, the RBK Daily notes. Also, it introduces a ban on possession and use of financial instruments, such as shares, bonds, depositary receipts, equity interest, options, futures, forwards and swaps.

According to the newspaper, the bill, which even members of the United Russia faction do not fully understand, will meet with greater resistance at the Federation Council upper house of the Russian parliament.


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