President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Chaika, first of all, I want to take this opportunity to offer you and everyone working at the Russian Federation prosecutor’s office my sincere congratulations on your professional holiday. The prosecutor’s office has always kept watch over the country’s interests and I hope that it will continue to do so, and in accordance with our laws will make its contribution to strengthening the law in our country, maintaining law and order, investigating crimes and other breaches of the law, and in general fulfil all of the responsibilities the law on the prosecutor’s office places upon it.
Please pass on my warmest congratulations to your colleagues. I have many friends working in the prosecutor’s office. At one time I also had the offer to work in the prosecutor’s office, but back then I chose to follow an academic career instead. Perhaps I should have taken up the offer.
Apart from congratulating you, I wanted to remind you that I just recently signed a law on amending the tax legislation and criminal legislation regarding criminal prosecution of people who have committed tax crimes. I remind you that under these amendments people in such cases should be placed in detention only in strictly limited circumstances. In other words, as we discussed earlier, the idea is to apply other preventive measures in such cases.
I ask you to take the needed steps to oversee compliance with this law. We will continue to improve our criminal policy, criminal procedure and corrections law, including by moving in the direction that we discussed together just before the New Year. Proposals resulting from that meeting are in the process of being drafted right now. But I wanted to draw your attention to this particular law that I have already signed.
Prosecutor General Yury Chaika: Thank you, Mr President. First of all, I thank you sincerely for your congratulations and for taking the opportunity on this day of such significance for the Russian prosecutor’s office to congratulate the many thousands of people who make up its team.
You are absolutely right. For practically 300 years now the Russian prosecutor’s office has been entirely at the service of the country and the people, and this past year was no exception. We worked on resolving many of the key tasks you set on strengthening the law in our country, stepping up the fight against crime, terrorism and extremism, protecting people’s rights, especially labour rights, the rights of vulnerable groups of the population, and also small and medium business. In other words, we worked on many issues of importance for ordinary people and for our society as a whole.
Over the last year, the prosecutor’s office has brought to light more than 5 million breaches of the law, including 1.5 million in the social sector, more than 250,000 breaches of anti-corruption laws, and more than 2 million breaches of the law in areas such as inquiry, investigation and operational investigation activity. This work has enabled us to redress violations of millions of people’s rights. More than 2 million people came to us with their complaints and the prosecutor’s office gave satisfaction in a quarter of all cases, acting rapidly to redress people’s violated rights at no cost.
We produced some good results in cases of late wage payments: 4 billion rubles were returned to our citizens after the prosecutor’s office intervened and 26,000 criminal cases were opened following the checks we made.
The final task we worked on last year was to draw up a single comprehensive programme for inspections of small and medium business in 2010 based on the law on small and medium businesses that was adopted. This was a new undertaking for us. We had to analyse the statistics on inspections carried out by the supervisory bodies over the last five years. In other words, we had a huge amount of information to examine.
Furthermore, today, we have 4.2 million small and medium businesses registered as legal entities, and 3.9 million registered individual entrepreneurs. We analysed all of this information. We received 1.2 million proposals from the supervisory bodies for carrying out scheduled inspections in 2010. We excluded 570,000 of these as not conforming to the law and gave our approval to only 630,000 scheduled inspections over this year.
As for the tasks that you set, for example, on a more balanced approach to investigating criminal cases concerning tax law violations, these cases amount to only a drop in the ocean, a little more than 4,000 cases for the year as a whole. You are absolutely right. We need to take a very balanced approach to choosing the measures we apply in such cases. Our practice in this area is now in the process of taking shape, and we think that completely different measures should be applied in the case of economic crimes. I already gave you the statistics: bail was used in only 0.07 percent of total cases, and house arrest was used in just 0.02 percent of cases. You have set the task for us and I think that we can fulfil it.
I assure you that we understand the full measure of responsibility we bear, especially at this difficult time with all the economic complexities that we face. I think that the prosecutor’s office will resolve all of the tasks you have set. We have no doubt that this will be done on time, in quality fashion, and most importantly, in accordance with the laws in force. It is a matter of principle to ensure that the law is respected.
Dmitry Medvedev: You have given me quite a detailed account of the prosecutor’s office’s work. This is indeed important work, all the more so as we have been working on protecting people’s rights throughout last year. This is always part of your responsibilities, but it becomes particularly important during the crisis because it concerns practically everyone and their working conditions and basic rights such as the right to wages and so on.
The fact that the prosecutor’s office has been quite active in responding to breaches of the law in these areas (the Prosecutor General’s Office and the offices in the regions and cities throughout the country) has without doubt helped to ensure that wages and other benefits are paid on time, and in some cases have resulted in coercive measures being taken against those who refused to pay wages. The governors I met with yesterday told me about this, incidentally.
There is another thing I wanted to mention once again. Going through the areas the prosecutor’s office works on, you were right to note the particular nature of your responsibilities. Each country has its own unique legal system and system for protecting rights. Our country also has its own unique system, which, like any system, is in the process of development. We have a whole number of law enforcement agencies working with various degrees of effectiveness, though there are also plenty of complaints about them too. I am referring to the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service, the drugs control agency and other bodies. The prosecutor’s office holds a special place within this system. This has always been the case because we have no other agency that is responsible for ensuring respect for the law throughout the country in general, including by the law enforcement agencies. Do not forget this, take precise action and be attentive to all breaches of the law.
Yury Chaika: Mr President, first of all, I want to thank you for your understanding and support. The new powers we received through changes to the law last year made it possible for us to work more effectively, and we are grateful to you for this.
We held a conference on the role and place of the prosecutor’s office outside the area of criminal law, in which the prosecutors-general of almost all the Council of Europe member countries took part. Everyone studied our model and our experience very closely, and now we hope that the Council of Europe will adopt recommendations on the role and place of the prosecutor’s office outside the area of criminal law.
I fully share your position that the prosecutor’s office does indeed have a particular status (this has its roots in history as the prosecutor’s office has always been responsible for overseeing uniform and exact enforcement of the laws throughout the country), and this places particular demands on our agency in terms of respect for principles, scrupulous honesty, decency, and a high level of professionalism. On the whole, the people working in the prosecutor’s office today meet these criteria.
This is the first time in recent years that our work has received recognition from the country’s leadership on this symbolic day for us, and I want to thank you for this. This is the first time that 62 state decorations have been awarded to employees of the prosecutor’s office at all different levels.