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Putin gives customs officers a dressing-down for shocking video

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has criticized the head of Russia’s Customs Service over a scandalous New Year’s video clip made by customs officers in the Far East city of Vladivostok.

In the music clip, customs inspectors are having fun at a New Year’s party – dancing on desks, drinking champagne and behaving in a manner far from appropriate for state officials. The lyrics of the song – “Columbia Pictures has no idea how people at the customs service rock” – which is a remake of a Russian pop hit, are also pretty cheeky, to say the least.

The video was posted on the Internet and became the hottest topic for discussion among Russian web surfers. On Wednesday, it was discussed on a high level – at a meeting between Putin and the Chief of the Federal Customs Service, Andrey Belyaminov.

“Indeed, some [customs] departments lack discipline and that has to be improved,” Putin said, cites Itar-Tass. “I personally like joking and having fun, but there are other places for that like cultural centers”. It’s been a tradition since the Soviet Era that every large state company has its own professional club – the House of Culture – where people can celebrate different events, have concerts and dance.According to Putin, House of Culture for customs service workers would be just perfect for these clip-makers to tap their creative talents.

“In an office one should focus on observing the customs law and proper compliance with one's professional duties,” the Prime Minister pointed out.

Belyaminov thanked Putin for the criticism and assured him that nothing like that would ever happen again.

“They are young talented people who displayed their skills in a place not appropriate for demonstrating their creative abilities,” the Customs chief said admonishing his department’s employees.

It is not the fact that employees are having fun that drew so much attention and criticism, but the very idea of the clip. Brightly dressed people sing that despite low salaries customs officers are perfectly well-off, and can afford expensive designer brands and posh cars.

Earlier, the party video drew the attention of the Vladivostok prosecutor office that launched an inspection and identified 13 customs service employees who were starring in the footage, reported RIA Novosti. A source at the prosecutor’s office told the agency that now the officers are being questioned.

“So far none of the officers filmed were fired,” the source said, adding that the probe is continuing. The prosecutors will file a report with its results and some of the customs employees may face serious consequences, including job dismissal.

Vladimir Zubkov, a representative of the Federal Customs Service, said that the video soiled the reputation not only of the Vladivostok customs department, but the entire service.

A law enforcement agency source in Vladivostok told Interfax that the clip was made by a professional studio and was not intended to be made public. But now the joke may turn out to be on the customs officers.