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Law banning civil servants from having foreign accounts comes into effect in Russia

August 19, 2013, 10:15 UTC+3

Starting from Monday, non-compliance with the demands of this scandalous bill may be fraught with resignation

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A law banning Russian officials and parliamentarians from having foreign accounts and assets comes into effect on Monday. Those who have not done this will have to quit their posts or be sacked. However, experts believe that hardly anything will change for civil servants, as the money laundering schemes are too well known in Russia.

The new rules involve persons “making duty-bound decisions that involve issues of sovereignty and national security of the Russian Federation,” the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily reports. Putting it plainly, if an official or a deputy has treasures abroad, it is easier for foreigners to put pressure on him in the settlement of a particular issue,” President of the Association of Regional Banks, Anatoly Aksakov, explains. But first of all, a moral aspect is important, he adds. “If a person keeps money abroad, the question arises how close his interests and the interests of the state that he serves are,” he says.

Starting from Monday, non-compliance with the demands of this scandalous bill may be fraught with resignation, the Kommersant daily reports. So far only Deputy Communications Minister, Denis Sverdlov, whose wife has a foreign bank account, has announced quitting the government. Civil servants see this new measure as “a demand that makes property and gains more transparent,” Minister for Open Government Mikhail Abyzov said. The upper house of parliament does not disclose accounts and assets statistics. Last week, the head of the Federation Council’s commission for control over veracity of declarations, Yuri Vorobyov, said “all who opted for doing business” had already left the upper house. These are the people mentioned by Forbes - Andrei Guryev, Andrei Molchanov, Nikolai Olshansky and Dmitry Ananyev. Sergei Bazhanov has also asked out. Vitaly Malkin has also left his post amid a scandal with dual citizenship. Boris Schpigel has resigned, saying his family has a foreign account.

The Kremlin is confident that “the expediency of the decision is being proved out”. Political analyst Alexei Markin believes “cleansings will not be mass-scale”. “Officials who have had bad luck or who lost government support will fall under the law. In any case these won’t be high-ranking officials,” he told the Kommersant.

Director of the Institute for Globalization Studies, Mikhail Delyagin, for his part told the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily that “the schemes of money laundering are too well mastered in Russia. For example, right from Moscow you may open a specialized offshore company that quite safely insures your anonymity, although it is more expensive than opening a British Virgin Islands offshore company. It is also possible to set up a charity foundation, managed by your daughter of the full legal age or simply an authorized delegate,” he adds.

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