MOSCOW, April 8 (RIA Novosti) – The Kremlin’s anti-corruption crusade seems to be flagging, with the number of graft cases in decline and top kleptocrats unaffected, experts and legislators said Monday citing new statistics from Russian Prosecutor General’s Office.
Only 6,576 cases were opened against Russian bribe-takers last year, 371 less than in 2011, according to prosecutors’ data, available on the newly launched website Crimestat.ru.
Most cases are petty: 60 percent of all convicts in bribery cases in 2012 accepted sums between 1,000 and 10,000 rubles ($33 to $330), senator Alexander Savenkov said at a press conference in Moscow.
Most of these were either rank-and-file traffic police officers or underpaid educators and medics, said Savenkov, who is the deputy head of a legal affairs and civil society committee at the Federation Council, Russian parliament’s upper chamber.
Meanwhile, studies indicate that bribes in Russia really average 300,000 rubles ($10,000) per case, Savenkov said.
The people taking this kind of money are educated officials with good connections and administrative resources that can be brought down on the heads of any whistleblowers, he said.
“For many, the chance to embezzle is the main motivation to work for the state at all,” Kirill Kabanov, the head of the independent watchdog National Anti-Corruption Committee, said at the press conference.
The Transparency International global watchdog estimated corruption in Russia at $300 billion in 2012, placing Russia 133rd out of 174 countries in its last year’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
Last fall the Kremlin launched an anti-corruption campaign, promising to limit the right of legislators and state officials to own assets abroad, purging several lawmakers over allegations of illegal business activity and implicating two federal ministers in corruption cases – a former and a then-active one. But neither minister was charged, and the law on assets remains stuck in legislative limbo.
President Vladimir Putin is toeing a dangerous line in his anti-graft campaign because state bureaucrats are his core power base, Kabanov said.
Putin won their loyalty by looking the other way when they abused their authority for personal gain, Kabanov said.
But now that the public is growing increasingly displeased with rampant corruption, Putin is forced to maneuver between appeasing the people and not disturbing the bureaucracy too much, the expert said.
“It is still not too late to change the system, and Putin is earnest about his campaign. But it’s a race against time, with total disintegration [of the country] as the worst outcome if he fails,” Kabanov told RIA Novosti after the press conference.