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Russia: Extent of corruption, including anti-corruption legislation; government efforts to combat corruption (2009-Oct. 2012)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 16 November 2012
Citation / Document Symbol RUS104225.E
Related Document(s) Russie : information sur l'étendue de la corruption, y compris les lois anticorruption; les mesures prises par le gouvernement pour lutter contre la corruption (2009-oct. 2012)
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Russia: Extent of corruption, including anti-corruption legislation; government efforts to combat corruption (2009-Oct. 2012), 16 November 2012, RUS104225.E, available at: [accessed 22 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

1. Extent of Corruption

Sources describe corruption in Russia as a serious problem (Freedom House 2011, 454; Forbes 17 June 2011). The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 indicates that corruption is "widespread throughout the executive, legislative, and judicial branches at all levels of government" (24 May 2012, 38). RIA Novosti, a Moscow-based news agency, reports that the number of corruption-related crimes involving top government officials increased in 2010 compared to 2009 (4 May 2011). According to Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, an indicator that measures the "perceived levels of public sector corruption" in 183 countries and territories around the world (1 Dec. 2011), Russia was ranked 154th in 2010 (Transparency International 2010a) and 143rd in 2011 (ibid. 2011a). Country Reports 2011 states that practices of corruption include "bribery of officials, misuse of budgetary resources, theft of government property, kickbacks in the procurement process, extortion, and improper use of official position to secure personal profit" (US 24 May 2012, 38). Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer revealed that that, in 2010, police, judiciary, public officials and civil servants were perceived to be most corrupt (Transparency International 2010b). The survey sample was 1,500 (ibid. 2011b).

Some of the major corruption problems in the country involve education, commerce, housing, law enforcement, medicine, military conscription, pension, social welfare and the judicial system (US 24 May 2012, 38). According to the Indem Foundation, a Moscow-based think-tank, citizens are at the "highest risk" of becoming involved in corruption in dealing with the traffic police, when applying for a child care or to a higher educational institution, and with the state and municipal healthcare institutions (Indem [2011]). The Indem Foundation states that "these fields of activity account for almost half of the total petty bribery market in Russia" (ibid.). In a 2011 interview with the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, a director of the Center for Anti-corruption Research and Initiative Transparency International Russia stated that "low-scale" bribes are associated with doctors, teachers, and employees of any institution permitted to issue documents (Nieman Foundation spring 2011).

A public survey conducted by the Indem Foundation revealed that, in 2010, an average petty bribe was equivalent to about 93 percent of an average salary, or approximately US$176 (Indem [2011]). The public survey was carried out in 70 regions of Russia and included 17,500 people (ibid.). Country Reports 2011 states that, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the average commercial bribe in 2011 was 61,000 rubles [C$1,946 (XE 22 Oct. 2012], almost triple what it was in 2010 (US 24 May 2012, 39). In an interview with the BBC, a former BBC Moscow correspondent and a public-relations adviser to the Kremlin, claimed that an average bribe in Russia was more than US$10,000 (28 June 2012).

2. Government Anti-corruption Efforts
2.1 Legislation and Regulations

According to the 2008 Russian Federation Federal Law on Corruption Counteraction, N 273-FZ, corruption include

abuse of official position, giving bribe, acceptance of bribe, abuse of power, commercial bribery or other illegal use by a physical person of his/her official position in defiance of the legitimate interests of the society and the State for the purpose of profiting in the form of money, valuables, other property or services of material nature, other rights of property for oneself or for third parties, or illegal provision of such benefits to the said person by other physical persons. (Russia 2008, Art. 1)

Sources report that new legislation criminalizing transnational bribery was passed in May 2011 (Financial Post 12 July 2011; US 24 May 2012, 38). The US Department of State's 2012 Investment Climate Statement indicated that this legislation also increased penalties for domestic bribery (ibid. June 2012). The maximum penalty for offering and receiving a bribe has increased to 15 years of imprisonment (ibid. 24 May 2012, 38). Sources also indicate that the fine is 100 times the value of the bribe (ibid.; Financial Post 12 July 2011; Freedom House 2012). Sources report that the minimum fine is 25,000 rubles [C$790 (XE 23 Oct. 2012a)] (Russia 4 May 2011; Freedom House 2012). The maximum fine is 500 million rubles [C$15,790,858 (XE 23 Oct. 2012b)] (Russia 4 May 2011; Freedom House 2012; RIA Novosti 4 May 2011). However, according to Freedom House, "stronger penalties have little meaning in practice" because the authorities only selectively prosecute bribe-taking crimes (2012). Corroboration on the prosecution of bribe-taking crimes could not be found among sources consulted within time constraints of this Response.

2.2 Other State Initiatives

The Russian Ministry of Economic Development is responsible for state policy focusing on fighting and eliminating corruption (Russia n.d.a). Since 2010, the ministry has been conducting sociological research focused on corruption, as well as an assessment of anticorruption actions taken by the government (ibid.). Further information on the results of the assessment could not be found among sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Work on anti-corruption measures is carried out under the National Anti-corruption Strategy and National Anti-corruption Plan (ibid.). The main goal of the National Anti-corruption Strategy is to eliminate the causes of corruption (ibid. 13 Apr. 2010).

The National Anti-corruption Plan was approved in 2008 (RIA Novosti 25 July 2009; Russia 14 Apr. 2010). According to the website of the President of Russia, the National Anti-corruption Plan identifies measures to prevent corruption, including but not limited to control over income and assets of government officials and monitoring compliance with anti-corruption legislation (ibid. 31 July 2008). The plan also identifies key areas of public policy for combating corruption, such as the introduction of anti-corruption standards, among others (ibid.). In March 2012, the Russian President signed the National Anti-corruption Plan for 2012-2013 (ibid. 13 Mar. 2012).

According to the Russian Legal Information Agency, the Russian Presidential Anti-Corruption Council, or the Council for Countering Corruption, was established in 2008 (n.d.). The website of the President of Russia lists the main tasks of the Council:

drafting proposals for the President on structuring and implementing state anti-corruption policy; coordinating efforts of the federal and regional executive authorities and local self-government bodies in carrying out state anti-corruption policy; overseeing implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Plan. (Russia n.d.b)

3. Effectiveness of Anti-Corruption Measures

In an interview posted on the website of the International Anti-corruption Conference, the Director of the Center for Anti-corruption Research and Initiative International indicated that Russia's anti-corruption laws are not effectively enforced (IACC 30 Apr. 2012). Country Reports 2011 states that the Russian government acknowledged that it was difficult to enforce the anti-corruption laws and that "officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity" (US 24 May 2012, 38). The website of the President of Russia indicates that "despite the measures, corruption … still seriously hampers the normal functioning of all social mechanisms" (Russia 31 July 2008). In March 2010, a German automaker was accused of bribing Russian officials to the tune of $6.7 million over ten years (Russia Profile 21 Apr. 2010). Although, the German company pleaded guilty, no investigations were launched in Russia (ibid.).

In 2010, the government issued regulations requiring government officials to disclose their assets as well as those of their family members (RIA Novosti 9 Dec. 2011). However, Freedom House reports that some officials in the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as regional governors, did not publish declarations of income in 2010 (Freedom House 2011, 455). A news release of the European Research Centre for Anti-corruption and State-building (ERCAS) at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin also indicates that the Russian asset disclosure law remains ineffective (20 Sept. 2011).

3.1 Prosecution and Punishment of Government Officials

Country Reports 2011 indicates that, according to Vlast magazine, approximately 2,800 state officials were charged with corruption between January and June 2011 (US 24 May 2012, 39). Country Reports 2011 indicates that, according to the head of Russia's Investigative Committee, in 2011, corruption charges were also brought against 120 investigators, 12 prosecutors, 48 lawyers, 8 members of election commissions, 214 deputies of municipal councils, 310 municipal officials, 11 deputies of regional parliaments, 1 State Duma deputy and 3 judges (ibid.). RIA Novosti reports that, according to the head of the Investigative Committee, approximately 600 Russian officials who had "enjoyed relative immunity from prosecution have been prosecuted on corruption charges" between January and September 2011 (9 Dec. 2011). These officials included 59 Interior Ministry officers, 9 investigators from the Investigative Committee, 8 drug policemen, 200 members of regional and municipal legislators, 208 mayors, 16 prosecutors, 4 judges and 49 defence lawyers (ibid.).

Various sources have reported on the prosecution and punishment of high-ranking officials for corruption, including but not limited to the following:

  • A top anti-corruption police chief was arrested in 2010 on charges of extorting US$46 million from a businessman (Business Anti-corruption Portal [2011]). Further information on the results of the investigation could not be found among sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
  • Several prosecutors were fired in February 2011 for reportedly providing "'protection'" to illegal gambling businesses in the Moscow area (US 24 May 2012, 39
  • A general of the Russian Defence Ministry and a colonel were detained on suspicion of corruption in June 2011. If convicted, they would face up to 12 years in prison (RIA Novosti 9 Dec. 2011).
  • Further information on the results of the investigation could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Freedom House indicates that anti-corruption measures "typically target low-level bribe givers, leaving public officials untouched" (2011, 454). Country Reports 2011 states that, although several high-level officials were charged with corruption in 2011, most anticorruption campaigns focus on "low-level" public officials (US 24 May 2012, 39).

3.2 Cases of Whistleblowers Who Reported Official Corruption

Country Reports 2011 states that, when whistleblowers complained about official corruption, sometimes the government officials who were the subjects of the complaints were the ones asked to investigate, which often led to retaliation against the plaintiffs, usually in the form of criminal prosecution (US 24 May 2012, 40). For instance, a corporate lawyer, who reported tax fraud, was arrested and a year later died in prison after a severe beating and months of medical neglect (BBC 30 Nov. 2011; The Daily Telegraph 24 Sept. 2012; US 19 Sept. 2012, 14). Country Reports 2011 indicated that the lawyer discovered that Internal Affairs Ministry officers were implicated in the theft of US$150 million through a fraudulent tax-rebate scheme (US 24 May 2012, 40). According to the Daily Telegraph, a London-based newspaper, the lawyer was arrested on charges of tax evasion by the police officers that participated in the fraud (24 Sept. 2012). Freedom House reports that the "authorities have actively blocked efforts to investigate police corruption" that led to the lawyer's death in custody in 2009 (2011, 454). However, a report by the US Congressional Research Service states that a prison doctor and the deputy head of the prison were charged in 2011; the case against the doctor was dropped in 2012 because the "time limit for filing charges had expired" (US 19 Sept. 2012, 14). Further information on the charges brought against the deputy head could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. Interfax, an international English-language news agency providing information on Russia, states that, in October 2012, the mother of the lawyer appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to declare the prosecution of her son "illegal" (18 Oct. 2012).

Media sources report that an anti-corruption blogger, who published a series of documents about the head of Russia's Investigative Committee, is facing criminal charges (RIA Novosti 27 July 2012; The Moscow News 6 Aug. 2012; The Telegraph 29 July 2012). The documents state that the official concealed from Russian authorities a real estate and business company he acquired in the Czech Republic (ibid.). RIA Novosti explains that, under Russian law, government officials may not engage in any commercial activity (27 July 2012). The head of the Investigative Committee denied all allegations (ibid.). According to the Telegraph, if convicted, the anti-corruption blogger faces up to five years in prison (29 July 2012). Further information on the charges brought against the anti-corruption blogger could not be found among the sources consulted within the time constraints of this Response. Sources report that the blogger's website monitors allegations of government corruption (RFE/RL 10 May 2011; US 24 May 2012, 40; RIA Novosti 18 May 2011). As of May 2011, the website tracked down US$58.4 million in alleged government fraud (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 28 June 2012. James Melik. "Russia's Growth Stifled by Corruption." [Accessed 1 Oct. 2012]

_____. 30 November 2011. Daniel Sanford. "Russians Tire of Corruption Spectacle." [Accessed 2 Oct. 2012]

Business Anti-corruption Portal. [2011] "Russia Country Profile." [Accessed 19 Sept. 2012]

The Daily Telegraph. 24 September 2012. Philip Aldrick. "Hermitage Traces Cash from Russian Tax Fraud; London Hedge Fund Tracks Down $135m in More than 50 Companies in Eight Countries." (Factiva)

European Research Centre for Anti-corruption and State-building (ERCAS). 20 September 2011. "Asset Disclosure Law Remains Ineffective." [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

Financial Post. 12 July 2011. Julius Melnitzer. "Russia Strengthens Anti-Corruption Law." [Accesses 24 Sept. 2012]

Forbes. 17 June 2011. Kenneth Rapoza. "Russia Plagued by Corruption Perception." [Accessed 2 Oct. 2012]

Freedom House. 2012. Robert W. Orttung. "Russia." Nations in Transit 2012. [Accessed 24 Sept. 2012]

_____. 2011. Robert W. Orttung. "Russia." Nations in Transit 2011. [Accessed 24 Sept. 2012]

Indem. [2011] "Everyday Corruption in Russia." [Accessed 3 Oct. 2012]

Interfax. 18 October 2012. "Magnisky's Mother Files Complaint with European Court of Human Rights." (Factiva).

International Anti-corruption Conference (IACC). 30 April 2012. "Interview with Elena Panfilova." [Accessed 3 Oct. 2012]

The Moscow News. 6 August 2012. Mark Galeotti. "Is the Force with Bastrykin?" [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard (Nieman Foundation). Spring 2011. Fatima Tlisova. "Russia: Corruption Isn't only a Threat to the System - it is the System." Nieman Reports. Vol. 65, No. 1. [Accessed 2 Oct. 2012]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 10 May 2011. Tom Balmforth. "Russia Launches Criminal Probe of Top Antigraft Activist." [Accessed 24 Sept. 2012]

RIA Novosti. 27 July 2012. "Russia's Chief Investigator Dismisses Fraud Corruption Claims." [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

_____. 9 December 2011. "Nearly 600 'Untouchable' Officials Prosecuted in 2011- Chief Investigator." [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

_____. 18 May 2011. "Russian Anti-corruption Campaigner Accused of Mocking State Emblem." [Accessed 24 Sept. 2012]

_____. 4 May 2011. "Medvedev Signs Landmark Anti-corruption Law." [Accessed 3 Oct. 2012]

_____. 25 July 2009. "Russian President Urges Proactive Use of Anticorruption Laws." [Accessed 16 Nov. 2012]

Russia. 13 March 2012. President of Russia. "Executive Order on National Anti-corruption Plan for 2012-2013." [Accessed 3 Oct. 2012]

_____. 4 May 2011. President of Russia. "Amendments to Bolster Anti-corruption Legislation." [Accessed 3 Oct. 2012]

_____. 14 April 2010. President of Russia. "Dmitry Medvedev Signed an Executive Order Approving the National Strategy for Countering Corruption and a New Draft of the National Anti-corruption Plan for 2010-2011." [Accessed 16 Nov. 2012]

_____. 13 April 2010. President of Russia. "National Anti-corruption Strategy (Approved by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation No. 460 of 13 April 2010." [Accessed 23 Oct. 2012]

_____. 31 July 2008. President of Russia. "National Anti-corruption Plan." [Accessed 3 Oct. 2012]

_____. 2008. The Russian Federation Federal Law on Corruption Counteraction, December 25, 2008, N 273-FZ. [Accessed 3 Oct. 2012]

_____. N.d.a. Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation. "Anti-corruption Plan." [Accessed 3 Oct. 2012]

_____. N.d.b. President of Russia. "Presidential Councils." [Accessed 24 Sept. 2012]

Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI). N.d. "The Russian Presidential Anti-corruption Council." [Accessed 23 Oct. 2012]

Russia Profile. 21 Apr. 2010. Tom Balmforth. "Spring Cleaning for the Power Vertical." [Accessed 3 Oct. 2012]

The Telegraph. 29 July 2012. Tom Parfitt. "Russian Corruption Campaigner Alexei Navalny Facing Jail." [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

Transparency International. 1 December 2011. "Release of the 2011 Corruption Perception Index." [Accessed 24 Oct. 2012]

_____. 2011a. "Corruption Perceptions Index 2011." [Accessed 28 Sept. 2012]

_____. 2011b. "Data and Methodology." [Accessed 16 Oct. 2012]

_____. 2010a. "Corruption Perception Index 2010." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2012]

_____. 2010b. "Corruption by Country/Territory: Public Opinion." [Accessed 24 Sept. 2012]

United States (US). 19 Sept. 2012. Congressional Research Service (CRS). Jim Nichol. Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S Interests. RL33407 [Accessed 19 Oct. 2012]

_____. June 2012. Department of State, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. 2012 Investment Climate Statement - Russia. [Accessed 24 Oct. 2012]

_____. 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Russia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011. [Accessed 19 Oct. 2012]

XE. 23 October 2012a. "Currency Converter Widget." [Accessed 23 Oct. 2012]

_____. 23 October 2012b. "Currency Converter Widget." [Accessed 23 Oct. 2012]

_____. 22 October 2012. "Currency Converter Widget." [Accessed 22 Oct. 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives of the following organizations were unsuccessful: Carnegie Moscow Center, Moscow Helsinki Group, Novaya Gazeta, and Transparency International in Russia.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Carnegie Moscow Center; Centre for International Policy Studies, University of Ottawa; Committee to Protect Journalists; Daily Magazine; The Economist; Factiva; The Guardian; Human Rights Watch; The Independent; Interpol; Jamestown Foundation; Jane's Intelligence Review; Legislationline; Lexology; Moscow Helsinki Group; The Moscow Times;; The New York Times; Novaya Gazeta; Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development; Political Handbook of the World;; RBC Daily; Reporters Without Borders; Russia — Federal Antimonopoly Service, Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Prosecutor General's Office, Russian Law Academy of the Ministry of Justice; Russian Law Online; Russian Legal Information Agency; Russia Profile; Sidley Austin LLP; The Times; UN — UN Human Rights Council, Office on Drugs and Crimes, Refworld; UN Convention Against Corruption Coalition; US Russia Civil Society Partnership Program; US — Federal Bureau of Investigations, Law Library of Congress; Vedomosti.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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