Putin Submits Foreign Accounts Ban Bill

MOSCOW, February 12 (RIA Novosti) – President Vladimir Putin has submitted a draft bill to the State Duma prohibiting Russian officials from holding bank accounts abroad or owning foreign-issued shares and bonds, according to information posted on the Duma’s website.

“This ban applies to persons who hold government positions in Russia, the Prosecutor General’s first and other deputies, members of the Central Bank’s board of directors, government officials in the regions, federal civil servants and officials at state-run corporations, foundations and other organizations established under federal law, who can only be appointed or dismissed from their posts by decision of the President, the Government or the Prosecutor General of Russia,” the president’s bill says.

Putin and the government have had their sights on apparatchik’s foreign assets for some time, as part of the wider effort to stamp out Russia’s rampant corruption.

Speaking to the Parliamentary Assembly in December last year, Putin said: “if a person has chosen state aervice, he should be ready to be devoted to it exclusively, and to be subject to control from society, and to meet special requirements, as is accepted in practically all nations of the world. How can there be trust in a politician or bureaucrat who speaks loudly about Russia but tries to send all his wealth overseas? So I ask you to support this draft bill to limit the rights of bureaucrats and politicians to have foreign accounts, shares and bonds.”

Meanwhile, the Duma is currently preparing for a second reading of a similar bill which would ban government officials and military personnel, and also their spouses and underage children from owning real estate abroad, holding accounts with foreign banks outside Russia or owning foreign issued stocks and bonds, including foreign government securities.

The president’s draft bill will ensure Russian officials are not subject to foreign influence, said Alexander Torshin, first vice-speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament.

“All these measures are aimed at ensuring the country’s sovereignty: officials making decisions on the country’s state security must be free of the possibility of being influenced from abroad,” Torshin said.

If such foreign bank accounts are found, options for dealing with them could include sequestrating them or freezing them, he said.

The president’s bill stipulates Russian officials will be given three months “either to rid themselves of accounts abroad or rid the state of themselves,” Torshin said.

Another positive effect of the measure would be that such account holders would keep more funds in Russian banks and consequently support the Russian banking system and the domestic economy, he said.

It was not immediately clear whether Putin’s bill would replace the Duma’s earlier bill, or be integrated with it, or would replace it.

Russia’s Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said the Communists, Russia’s main opposition party, would support the president’s bill.

“We have long insisted that anti-corruption measures should be energetic, more decisive and principled,” Zyuganov said.

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