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MOSCOW, December 26. /ITAR-TASS World Service/. A department for combating crimes related to state property would be created in the Russian Interior Ministry, a federal official has told the Vedomosti newspaper. An Interior Ministry representative has also confirmed this.
In 2014-2016, officials plan to receive to the federal budget from privatization 455.2 billion rubles: 196.8 billion, 158.5 billion and 99.9 billion rubles, correspondingly. In autumn, Russia’s Investigative Committee prepared draft amendments to the laws on operational and search activity, on privatization and to the Russian Criminal Code and sent the draft to the government. The Federal Antimonopoly Service and the Accounts Chamber have supported the document. It is currently in the government, an Investigative Committee official says.
According to the amendments’ concept, operatives from the new Interior Ministry department will be bringing to light cases of collusion between officials and buyers of state assets, affiliation of the participants in a tender or an auction. In order to fight fictitious tenders, the Investigative Committee proposes to exclude from bidding affiliated investors without returning their deposits. If the law enforcement officers find out even after the sale of the asset that the buyers had been connected, the deal can be recognized null and void by court.
The Investigative Committee proposes to impose on the officials, giving preferences to investors, fines worth up to one million rubles and put them in prison for a term of up to six years.
The draft allows conducting operational and search activity against the state property buyers. It will also be possible to keep investors under observation, to monitor their telephone conversations and scan their personal mail. As any operational branch, the new department will be able to conduct the whole set of operational and search activity, confirms a police officer: both open (checks, inquiries) and secret (outdoor surveillance, agent recruitment, sting operations).
Asset stripping ahead of privatization is currently a standard method of state property management, head of the Financial Investigation Centre Sergei Lesnichy says: as soon as a company director learns that his company gets into the privatization plan, he immediately begins to take fictitious loans from affiliated creditors and then declares the company bankrupt - the assets are sold out or are given to the creditors as payment. There is another scheme that is applied for major companies, continues Lesnichy: the management withdraws money from circulation and then uses it to buy shares of the same companies during their privatization.
The new Interior Ministry department will more deal with small state companies, because the decision on the sale of large ones is taken by the government, officials believe. Small privatization last year brought a mere 6.3 billion rubles, deputy head of the Federal Agency for State Property Management (Rosimushchestvo) Ivan Aksenov said, but it was also a good result — 125% of the plan.
The Investigative Committee official said the investors would not feel operational and search activity: checks would often be reduced to making of inquiries. Investment bankers have a different opinion: the broadening of powers of security officials might scare foreign investors away from Russian privatization, as they would not want to be wiretapped.
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