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8 Jun, 2009 06:54

Corruption six feet under

A woman in Moscow has complained that strangers have been buried in her family grave and claims her family plot was sold for a bribe.

Visiting her family's grave one day, Galina Keller discovered that someone else was buried in it. The head stone had been replaced with a new one which had her mother's name on it, along with two other names she didn't know.

“This is our family grave. My relatives are buried here. No one else legally has the right to be buried in this plot. I have all the documents proving that. But these people's relatives bribed the cemetery workers, and now those strangers are in there too!” says Galina Keller.

The reason behind this is that the number of people living in Moscow has increased by 50% in the last twenty years. The number of cemeteries has not kept up with the dying population, which has turned plots into valuable commodities.

Corruption is a major problem for Russia that has put down roots in every minor sphere of people's lives. According to recent research by the International Transparency Agency, about 30% of Russians have had to bribe somebody in the past year. Respondents mainly named law enforcement, health care and education officials. And experts say the percentage has increased lately.

“Kickbacks in public procurement have started to reach as much as 30-40% – which are absolutely incredible figures. If you check how much the Russian government and regional governments are purchasing through public procurement it is billions of rubles a year,” says Elena Panfilova, head of the Russian department of Transparency International.

President Medvedev said recently that fighting corruption is a priority for Russia. And Galina is now trying to fight it on her own. She's gathered all the necessary documents demanding the strangers be moved out of her mother's grave.

In Russia, corruption works its way even six feet under, and unscrupulous cemetery workers are selling off places reserved for other people, as they exploit families' desires to find a final resting place for their loved ones.