Russia gets new powerful investigative agency

President Medvedev has signed a decree on establishing Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation and submitted a draft law on the new crime-fighting body to the State Duma, the parliament’s lower house.

The new law enforcement agency will become the legal successor of the existing Investigative Committee of Prosecutor General’s Office (SKP). The new body will be independent from the Prosecutor’s Office and is expected to answer directly to the president.

According to the decree published by the Kremlin press service, the main point of the move is “to make work of preliminary investigative bodies more efficient and to strengthen the prosecutor’s control over the observation of the law by those bodies.” The decree comes into force as of the date of its signing.

The new committee will be headed by a chairman who will have 13 deputies, including one first deputy. The staff of the committee’s head office and its territorial branches will account for 21,156 people. The personnel of the military investigative bodies will include 2034 people, the decree states.

The previous committee – SKP – was created in 2007 to investigate serious criminal offences. But, as practice has shown, a clearer differentiation between functions of prosecutor’s control and preliminary investigation is necessary, the Kremlin said.

The draft law that has already been submitted to the parliament for approval will set the tasks, goals and principles of work of the Investigative Committee as well as define its legal status, organization and material support.

President Medvedev, who chaired a council on Russia’s law enforcement system on Thursday, said other executive agencies authorized to conduct investigations will not be affected by the change immediately, but that situation may later be reviewed.

“It’s important not to ruin the existing balance,” Medvedev said.

Up until now, four federal bodies have had the power to prosecute. Those are the Investigative Committee of the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Interior Ministry, which handles misdemeanors, the Federal Service for Control of Drug Circulation, and the Federal Security Service (FSB), which is involved in fighting terrorism and counter-intelligence operations.

Earlier, the chair of the Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, said unification of the bodies would improve crime-fighting efficiency in Russia.

The SKP personnel includes more than 16,500 civilians and 2,000 military. Over the three years since its creation, it has investigated about 600,000 criminal cases, and more than half of these have been referred to courts.