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15 Mar, 2013 09:13

Officials' foreign property ban axed by Duma - report

Officials' foreign property ban axed by Duma - report

MPs from all the parliamentary parties have agreed not to include real estate in the planned ban on foreign assets for officials, the Deputy Duma speaker said in an interview.

The changes come despite the fact that the initial draft of the bill, approved by the Lower House only a few months ago, banned all foreign real estate, bank accounts and securities belonging to state officials and civil servants of all levels, including military servicemen and customs officers, as well as to their families.

President Vladimir Putin recently submitted his own much milder bill to parliament, that only bans bank accounts and securities ownership.

One of the sponsors of the harsher draft, deputy Duma speaker Sergey Zheleznyak (United Russia) told Izvestia daily that there were no plans to recall the bill, but said MPs agreed to bring it closer with the presidential initiative. The two bills will be merged into one and submitted for a second reading together.

Zheleznyak added that the presidential suggestions were “more logical and weighted”. “One can quickly close a bank account without any problem, but it becomes complicated when real estate is concerned. It is difficult to quickly sell an apartment or a house. Besides, we would have to exclude the property in CIS countries from this ban,” the MP said.

As the parliament started discussing the foreign property ban, the issue has already created a number of scandals. Most notable is the departure of Vladimir Pekhtin, the former head of the State Duma ethics committee, who said he was giving up his parliamentary seat after opposition bloggers claimed he owned a luxury apartment in Miami. As bloggers celebrated their victory, Pekhtin said that the apartment belonged to his son and promised to go to the USA and collect proof.

Other MPs said they regretted having to sell their foreign property if the ban comes into force.

The only politician who expressed readiness to leave the Lower House was Fair Russia MP Aleksey Lysakov who announced that he had opened a bank account in France in order to pay for his daughter’s education and would not close it. If the ban on foreign property comes into force and the MP’s ex-wife does not agree to re-register the account in her name, Lysakov promised to leave the Duma.