Russia is waging a war against corruption – at the lower levels of government at least. Those at the top of the tree continue to enjoy state largess with impunity.
The Kremlin has launched a drive to overhaul the Russian economy and make it more efficient. It has identified corruption as a major hindrance to Russia’s competitiveness and has begun the process of stamping out corruption in the rank and file – with mixed results.
The damage caused by corruption-related crimes has exceeded RUB123bn ($2bn) over the past seven years, chairman of Russia’s Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin said last week during a conference in the All-Russian State University of Justice.
The Investigative Committee answers only to President Vladimir Putin but has been sidetracked by politically motivated investigations. The anti-corruption tsar and presidential Ombudsman for Business Boris Titov has also been given extensive powers to stop legal cases that he believes state officers have brought for the purposes of extracting a bribe and also only answers to Putin. However, Titov admitted in an interview with bne IntelliNews that his office will be limited in what it can do to change the milieu of endemic corruption.
The crackdown on corruption in Russia has picked up steam, according to Bastrykin. Within the last seven years, over 71,000 corruption-related cases were forwarded to the courts for trial. The number of cases against corrupt organised groups and criminal communities, which were transferred to court, reached 453. Charges were brought against 78,000 people, who committed 166 corruption crimes in total, the Investigative Committee says.
Two out of five (40%) of those charged with corruption-related crimes in Russia (2,684 individuals) in 2018 were bribers, Russian Investigative Committee spokesperson Svetlana Petrenko told TASS.
Over the first nine months of this year, the Investigative Committee sent 6,123 corruption-related criminal cases to court and 6,885 people were convicted, Petrenko said.
The criminal cases were opened into small-scale bribery — 1,366 (22.3%), fraud — 1,210 (19.8%), bribery — 1,105 (18%), bribe taking — 926 (15.1%), embezzlement — 509 (8.3%), abuse of office — 228 (3.7%) and excess of power — 199 (3.3%).
In all, some 25,000 corruption-related crimes were uncovered in Russia and over 14,000 criminal cases were opened in the first nine months of this year. More than 60% of these cases sent to court were linked to bribery.
Most corruption-related investigations were opened in the Samara Region, by the Urals Investigative Transport Department, in the Moscow Region, the Rostov Region, the Krasnodar Region, Moscow, the Tatarstan Republic and the Chelyabinsk Region, the committee said.