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Public Associations May Be Held Against Government Officials


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed two decrees creating new oversight for the government's new anti-corruption measures.

This will be carried out by the personnel department of the agency in which the civil servant works. The department will verify the authenticity of the income and property declarations made by public officials, their spouses, and their dependent children as required by the government's new anti-corruption measures.

Agencies such as the Federal Security Service and the Ministry of the Interior that carry out investigative work will also be taking part in this oversight process. Additionally, they will have the right to carry out related activities such as questioning, surveillance, undercover work, test purchases, etc. At the same time, however, the presidential decrees prohibit the investigative agencies from using such measures as wiretapping, seizing mail (including e-mail), and searching the offices, apartments, and vehicles of the officials who are under investigation.

The law-enforcement agencies are allowed to call upon overseas colleagues such as Interpol for assistance in the investigations.

The official under investigation may offer explanations and present additional materials to be included in their case and may request to meet with representatives from the branches of the Russian government involved in the investigation.

An investigation may be called for based on information about or reports concerning illegal activity. Law enforcement and tax authorities, the Public Chamber of Russia’s parliament, and also all public associations and political parties have the right to present such information against the official under investigation. However, the president’s decree notes that “information given anonymously cannot be used as the basis for an investigation.”

The results of an investigation are reported to the official as well as to the instigator of the investigation and any collaborators in the case.

The decrees also demand that the heads of government departments “enlighten their employees about the law" so as to allow these anticorruption measures to be carried out.

The decrees, published September 21, only directly affect investigations of federal employees and those holding central government service positions in Russia. The decrees play more of an advisory role for regional government authorities. Governors are endowed with the right to file corresponding requests for investigations of their own employees with agencies that perform such investigative functions.

It is worth noting that, according to the existing legislation, government officials do not have to disclose their sources of income – an official that receives a modest salary may confirm, without fear of prosecution, that his earnings are actually far greater and that he has townhouses in Moscow, a villa in the Canary Islands, limousines, and a plethora of other assets. Attempting to take officials to court over their unconfirmed sources of income is considered unlawful by many lawyers, including the Chairman of the Supreme Arbitration Court Anton Ivanov, since it would violate the official’s presumption of innocence.

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