Compliance with fire safety regulations in the regions was also discussed during the meeting.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Chaika, I want to discuss two matters with you today. The first concerns amendments to the law. You and other colleagues had an active part in preparing amendments to the criminal law and a number of other documents, the Administrative Offences Code in particular, on introducing alternative penalties for commercial and other forms of bribery.
Acting on my instruction, the State Duma examined and supported these amendments, and I signed them into law today. They introduce fines imposed in multiples of the amounts of the bribes involved, and vary between a minimum of 25,000 rubles and maximum of 500 million rubles. This is the first time we have introduced such a system of penalties, and it could prove very useful, as it makes it possible to impose penalties other than imprisonment on guilty persons, while at the same time being severe enough to make people guilty of committing or aiding bribery realise that the state can impose penalties that not only affect their personal freedom but also their property. They will suffer material losses, in other words. As we have discussed in the past, for some people this could have more of a dissuasive effect than, say, the threat of being sent to prison.
In any event, the Criminal Code offers this penalty too now, and so we need to look at how to enforce it in practice. Given that the Prosecutor’s Office is responsible for the accusation side in the courts, we need to make sure that all prosecutors acting on behalf of the state in the courts are aware of these new possibilities. Perhaps we could actively encourage them to using these new penalties or proposing them to the court for consideration when passing sentence.
The amendments also introduce large administrative fines for legal entities. We did not go as far as some countries have and introduce actual criminal liability for legal entities. But we have introduced penalties that are fully commensurate with the penalties imposed on legal entities in countries that do have criminal liability for legal entities. These are very large fines that can be imposed directly on organisations, which will create problems for them if they are found to be guilty of administrative offences. I hope this will prove a useful innovation for our country and help us to fight corruption, which is still a very serious and widespread problem in Russia.
The second matter I want to discuss is a current issue. I recently met with the members of the Government to discuss fire prevention, held a Security Council meeting, and issued a number of instructions. Fire safety is not just an organisational matter but also has a legal aspect, and so I want to hear from you on the state of affairs at the moment, what the authorities are doing, whether any violations have been detected, and what response the prosecutors have taken.
Prosecutor General Yury Chaika: Mr President, we think that the amendments just signed into law organically complement Russia’s anti-corruption legislation and for the first time introduce new legal possibilities that set a precedent in our country’s legal practice. The law’s main aim of course is to undermine the economic foundations of corruption by making it economically disadvantageous. The amendments to the Criminal Code and the Administrative Offences Code, in my view, will produce results and help to make the law enforcement agencies’ work more effective.
You are absolutely right that we now have a new type of penalty that can be used as the main or additional penalty – the fines imposed in multiples of the bribes concerned. I think these penalties will enable us to enforce the law more effectively, because there are cases when people have been found guilty of bribes that have caused huge damage to the country’s and the public’s interests, and get sent to prison…
Dmitry Medvedev: But do not suffer at all financially.
Yury Chaika: Precisely. They work there as caretakers, say, earn a few kopecks.
Dmitry Medvedev: We all know that in the case of those caught taking or giving bribes, this is often not the first time, and there is reason to assume that the total amount of bribes in which they are implicated could in fact be ten or twenty times bigger to the sum that got them caught. In this sense, the multiple fines are a just penalty.
Yury Chaika: Absolutely right.
Essentially, the amendments introduce a new offence – acting as an intermediary to corruption. There is a new differentiation in the criminal liability of people guilty of bribery. In the past, bribe-takers could be charged only as a participant in the crime, and it was hard for us to demonstrate their particular role in the crime. But now we have specific charges that can be laid.
Dmitry Medvedev: Such people are now the main culprits and not simply participants in the crime.
Yury Chaika: Absolutely right.
I think it was the right decision to amend the Administrative Offences Code regarding liability of legal entities for receiving unlawful recompense. We did not have such provisions in the past. This effectively implements the GRECO [Group of States Against Corruption] recommendations in our legislation.
We now have a whole section on international legal assistance in cases involving administrative offences. The Supreme Court, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Justice Ministry and others all play a big part here.
We have already finished work on the recommendations on how to implement this law.
I think the law will make our work more effective and enable the law enforcement agencies to take a more differentiated approach to criminal liability in bribery cases.
Dmitry Medvedev: So as to leave no doubt in anyone’s minds, imprisonment as the main penalty for bribery in all its forms – taking and giving bribes – is still on the books and can be imposed by the courts. We are simply delimiting a number of legal categories and creating new possibilities for imposing alternative penalties on people guilty of these crimes.
Yury Chaika: In some cases this could be more effective than imprisonment.
Dmitry Medvedev: Time will tell. Let’s hope so, anyway.
Yury Chaika: As for the second matter, we are keeping your instruction under our control and constantly monitoring the situation with wild fires. During the first quarter we inspected 35 regions. These were comprehensive inspections of federal, regional, and municipal organisations. We inspected tenants too. I can report that we found breaches of the law at all levels.
Overall, we found more than 1,000 violations. We filed 400 requests to the courts to oblige various officials to carry out their duties. The violations primarily concerned fire safety. A total of 700 reports were made and more than 700 people, including tenants and officials, faced administrative liability. In other words, we are working constantly and monitoring the situation.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good. I want you to instruct the prosecutors to keep close watch on the situation, so that your colleagues – the regional and local authorities – realise that they need to work, because the summer could be a very difficult one, and no one has abolished liability for breaches of fire safety regulations or failure to take the organisational decisions needed to prevent fires.