Draft law to strip corrupt officials of property

A draft law on the prosecution of officials unable to justify the origin of their income or property has been submitted to Russia’s lower parliamentary chamber, the State Duma.

­However, before any changes can be made to the Criminal Code, Russia should ratify Article 20 of the UN Convention Against Corruption. The article provides that if an official fails to explain why their fortune exceeds their official income, it is considered to be a criminal offense.

The UN Convention was partly ratified by the State Duma in February 2006. Back then five provisions were excluded from the ratification law, namely Article 20. Back then deputies judged that “it did not comply with the Constitution and the principle of the presumption of innocence,” explained Aleksandr Kulikov from the Communist Party, one of the bill’s authors.

Legislators are now pushing for the ratification of the Convention and eventual amendments to the law. Kulikov noted the law should have detailed provisions for punishment. He said there is no need to reinvent the wheel in the field, because the mechanism has been tried and proven itself to be efficient in other countries. The deputy believes a prison term is not the solution to the corruption problems. The officials whose guilt is proven should be stripped off their criminal proceeds and property – and that is a far more powerful deterrent than a prison term.

Elena Panfilova, director of Transparency International Russia, agrees that economic punishment, together with a ban on public posts appointments, is the most effective measure.  “An official should know that he lost everything and that he cannot earn any more,” she said. “And, if sitting behind bars they know, they still have their villa in the Canary Isles, they feel much more confident.”