President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Chaika, there are several matters that I would like to discuss.
The first matter is the law on toughening penalties for crimes against the lives and health of children. The State Duma has passed this law, I have signed it, and it is going into effect. We need to ensure proper monitoring in this area and familiarity with the problems therein. Indeed, the problems are enormous, and in this regard, we are in a very difficult position. We need to ensure that the lives and health of minors remain a constant government priority.
Secondly, some time ago, we passed a special law limiting monitoring and auditing small businesses. As far as I understand, we already have some experience employing it. I would like for you to report on the results.
Prosecutor General Yury Chaika: Indeed, Mr President, we do already have some experience. This law has been in effect for three months. In my view, it has already led to some positive results. In the last three months, prosecution authorities have received 11,101 requests for permission to conduct unscheduled field audits of small and medium-sized businesses.
Dmitry Medvedev: Who is making these requests?
Yury Chaika: All monitoring and supervising bodies.
Dmitry Medvedev: So under the new law, all supervisory authorities must now turn to the Prosecutor General’s Office?
Yury Chaika: That’s right. We have denied 4,235 requests – nearly 40 percent. There are federal constituent entities where between 50 and 90 percent of audit requests have been denied. These include 28 federal entities, with Moscow and Krasnodar Territory among them. There are ten other federal constituent entities where only 15 percent of requests are denied. Thus, we have monitored and analysed these practices, and I have already sent new instructions on beefing up supervision.
Why do requests get denied? The most common reason is a lack of grounds for making such audits. Another reason is the absence of documents justifying such audits, since we require a certain set of documents in order for the supervisory authorities to present their case to the prosecutors. There are also denials in cases when supervisory agencies attempt to make audits that do not fall under their jurisdiction.
Dmitry Medvedev: It seems to me that often, when audits are performed, the supervisory authorities either act in excess of their jurisdiction or according to their own ideas about the extent of their rights and responsibilities.
Yury Chaika: We have seen civil litigations on the subject. In Yaroslavl, a denial by a public prosecutor was challenged in court, and the court fully supported the prosecutor’s position, expressing the view that the prosecutor’s demands were absolutely reasonable.
We are analysing this judicial experience, monitoring the situation, and shaping the mechanisms of the law application. At some stage supervisory agencies will limit their requests to the public prosecutors for permissions to conduct audits. If these trends continue, then we will come up with an initiative to apply this law to large businesses, as well.
Dmitry Medvedev: There is another relevant matter at stake: not only should we identify administrators who file requests to conduct ill-conceived, unnecessary, and sometimes corruption infested audits, but we should also consider firing them from their posts.
Yury Chaika: Beginning on January 1, 2010, we will be ready to keep a register of all audits within the Russian Federation. We are currently working to organise this.
And in the second part of 2009, we will be appealing the necessity of audits by the Interior Ministry, since it essentially audits small and medium businesses under the pretence of conducting investigative work.
Dmitry Medvedev: That’s good, since businesses have made complaints about this as well. It means that in many instances, they really do conduct inspections under the guise of investigative work, which can paralyse companies, and in the worst cases, forces them to pay bribes.
We must continue working on this matter, because despite the decisions we’ve made, the laws in effect, and the reassuring data you’ve spoken about, we still see an exorbitant number of audits.
Yury Chaika: Indeed.
Dmitry Medvedev: I have spoken to many small business representatives, and they say that for now, they are only seeing limited results, and in many cases, they still feel pressure from auditors. Please continue working on these issues.
Yury Chaika: Very well.
Dmitry Medvedev: There is another high-profile topic that I would like to discuss – casinos. We have closed all casinos, but it is no secret that people wish to continue making money. We need to verify what is happening at gaming establishments, and find out whether casino activities are actually continuing, in a new, legal or pseudo-legal format.
Yury Chaika: Unfortunately, many continue to function in a slightly different, semi-legal fashion, for example by changing the names of their establishments to ‘poker clubs.’
As of today, over 400 claims have been filed with the Prosecutor General’s Office to shut down illegal activities, 67 criminal cases have been initiated, and in respect of four individuals we consider their pre-trial detention.
As you know, I approach pre-trial detention on a case-by-case basis, because it must be applied only to gravest and particularly flagrant criminal deeds and in exceptional cases to crimes of medium gravity. But this is one of those very cases of crimes of medium gravity where the felons are defiantly affronting entire society. According to the law that is now in effect, there are four gaming zones where this type of business may be run.
Now, I have given direct instructions: in these cases, such offenders must be taken into custody. Four perpetrators have already been arrested, and a warrant has been issued for the detention of another individual.
These infractions of the law are a clear form of disrespect for the legislation and defiance of the government. We will respond harshly.
Dmitry Medvedev: I agree with your judgement. It is clear that at this point, it is a matter of certain proceedings and decisions that must be made by the Prosecutor General’s Office and the courts, but overall, you are right. Our people will be judging the degree of law and order in our nation based on how we react and how firmly we stand on this issue. Because if they see that the same old establishments are working under new names and titles, still run by all the same people as before, then this will discredit the decisions made by our government and our law enforcement agencies.
Now, getting back to the beginning of our meeting, we need to enhance monitoring of crimes against the lives and health, and sexual violation of children. This is a very important challenge for us because it concerns our children, so the harsher penalties of the criminal law, which was instated following my submissions to the Federal Assembly, must be enforced; at the same time, we must understand the overall situation.
Yury Chaika: We are monitoring the situation, and this is indeed a special area of our activities and analysis. The enactment of this law will greatly help us to implement mechanisms of criminal liability for these crimes.
Dmitry Medvedev: Very well. Please continue your efforts.