State Officials Must Not Own Foreign Property

MOSCOW, April 22 (RIA Novosti) – A spokesman for the Kremlin said in an interview aired on Monday that state officials should not own real estate abroad, as it could leave them open to “pressure.”

“Officials should not possess real estate in foreign countries,” Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said in an interview with the state-run Rossiya 24 TV channel.

“[People] working for the government shouldn’t possess any assets or real estate that could leave officials open to pressure,” Peskov said. “Officials would be better advised to be patriotic and have both feet in their own country.”

Putin submitted a bill to Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, in mid-February, prohibiting Russian officials from holding bank accounts abroad or owning foreign-issued shares and bonds. The bill came as part of the Kremlin’s much touted anti-corruption drive.

However, the bill allows state officials to own property abroad, on the condition that they declare it.

The bill was amended in its second reading last week to extend the ban to all foreign securities, including traveler’s checks. Government officials are also banned from holding any valuables – including precious metals – with foreign banks and cannot use foreign financial instruments for trust management.

After Putin signs the bill into law, government officials will have three months to close any foreign accounts and transfer their funds to Russia or quit their government posts.

The head of the Duma’s ethics committee, Vladimir Pekhtin, stepped down in February after allegations that he owned undeclared luxury real estate in the United States. He denied the allegations, but said he was quitting parliament so as to protect the ruling United Russia party’s reputation. Two other United Russia lawmakers followed suit after similar allegations.

Russia ranked 133rd of 174 countries in the latest Corruption Perceptions Index by the Transparency International watchdog, alongside Iran, Kazakhstan and Honduras. Corruption has been cited by the government as one of the principal threats to Russia’s national security.

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