Putin drafts bill on criminal responsibility for graft mediation

Putin drafts bill on criminal responsibility for graft mediation
The Russian president has drafted a bill that would introduce hefty fines or prison time for acting as a middleman in commercial graft. At the same time punishment would be softer for first-time offenders convicted of graft and bribery.

According to the document published on the lower house’s official website on Tuesday, mediation in graft schemes committed by representatives of private businesses as well as promises of such mediation must be punished with a fine up to 700,000 rubles (about $10,450), or between 20 and 40 times the size of the offered bribe. It can also ban certain official positions from being occupied, or up to four years in prison.

The bill covers not only direct money payments, but also transfers of securities, property or property rights and services.

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The explanatory bill attached with the document explained the necessity for the criminalization of graft mediation by Russia’s obligations taken when country joined the anti-corruption convention of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Current Russian law punishes commercial graft with fines of up to 500,000 rubles or prison terms of up to 4 years. However, punishment can only be applied to those who give or receive the payment for certain actions or inactions disadvantageous to the graft-taker’s company but wanted by the graft-givers.

The fresh bill reads the responsibility for first-time bribery and graft must be softened if the amount of illegal money transfer is less than 10,000 rubles (about $150). At the same time, the document urges tougher responsibility for repeated offenders, even when the size of the bribe is small.

Russia reformed its anti-corruption laws in 2011 by introducing proportional fines for bribery on the initiative of then-President Dmitry Medvedev, and as part of a pro-business liberalization of laws. However, after returning to the presidency and analyzing the situation, Putin criticized the move as ineffective and ordered various federal ministries to draft suggestions and plans to tackle the situation.

In April 2014, the president approved a nationwide anti-corruption program and in December of the same year Putin himself drafted a new anti-corruption bill, proposing correctional labor be used as punishment and a decrease in the amount of fines for minor offences.

READ MORE: Russian bill seeks to make foreign companies accountable for bribery abroad

In addition, in August 2015, the Russian government approved a legal amendment that, once passed, would allow Russian law enforcers to open administrative cases against foreign bribe-givers, when that bribery damages the interests of the Russian Federation as a state.

In January, Putin told the major session of the anti-corruption council that in the first nine months of 2015, 8,000 people were convicted in anti-corruption processes and about 11,000 people received remands at work for failing to follow anti-corruption standards.