By Patrick Armstrong
Corruption. I believe that the single greatest problem in Russia today is corruption. I wouldn’t try to estimate how great a proportion of GDP is “taxed” this way, but it is very large. (Others don’t hesitate: 40% or 50%. Surely too high: if that much went to corruption, the only industries left would be brothels and fast cars!). Reducing corruption is said to be a high priority of the government, but how effectively is it being done?
Siberian mayor's choice of foe cost her jail-time
By John Bonar
The Mayor of the Siberian village of Listvyanka, Tatyana Kazakova, 47, has been released after nearly two and a half years pre-trial detention following an intervention by The New York Times. The paper was investigating her case for a series of articles examining corruption and the abuse of power in Russia two decades after the fall of communism.
Ms Kazakova was arrested in 2008 after an unprecedented investigation by the F.S.B., Russia’s successor to the KGB. According to the NYT “More than 25 agents have delved into every aspect of Ms. Kazakova’s life, carrying out what they have termed a ‘counterintelligence operation.’ Masked special service officers with automatic weapons have raided her associates’ homes. More than 250 witnesses have been interrogated, and 67 volumes of evidence have been amassed, according to the trial records.”
The investigation was apparently triggered by Ms. Kazakova’s complaints against a secretive FSB vacation resort near the village. According the NYT, “A major construction project at the resort had exposed a hot water main, threatening the heating supply for the entire village as temperatures plunged to 30 degrees below zero.”
Ms. Kazakova, had enough. She filed a lawsuit against the resort, and asked the regional prosecutor to open a criminal inquiry.
A criminal inquiry was indeed opened — against Ms. Kazakova, reported the NYT.
She is now on trial in a case that the NYT describes as “already become a disquieting example of the power of the security agency in today’s Russia.”
After The New York Times made repeated inquiries to the F.S.B. about the charges against Ms. Kazakova, the judge in the case reversed previous decisions and agreed to release Ms. Kazakova on bail. The next day, Ms. Kazakova embraced her family for the first time since 2008.
The F.S.B., which protects national security and investigates major felonies, has never publicly explained why it decided to devote such resources to pursuing the mayor of a village of 1,700 people. She was charged with abuse of office and election irregularities, crimes that the F.S.B. rarely scrutinizes at the local level.
After her arrest in March 2008, she was held in a cell at Pre-Trial Detention Center No. 1, a jail in the Siberian regional capital of Irkutsk that was once used by Stalin’s secret police. For nearly two and a half years, she was denied all contact with her fiancé, mother and three children, including a 15-year-old daughter who has a neurological disease.
Ms. Kazakova, described by the NYT as a “a real-estate magnate with a blond ponytail who represented a new breed of Russian entrepreneur” made her fortune in hotels and markets in the Regional capital of Irkutsk.
Listvyanka is the most popular place on Baikal lake. Many travelers visit it, because it's the easiest way to reach Baikal. Listvyanka is located 60 km south-east from Irkutsk, and it takes about 1 hour to get there by car.
There is a wide range of accommodation (from luxury hotels for $100 / room to budget, but clean, dorm rooms for $5 a night, and bed and breakfast accommodations with locals).Since 2006 Ms. Kazakova has been mayor and built a hotel there. Aafter her election she promised to spur an economic revival. She planned a major vacation complex, called Baikal City, and even proposed building a residence for the Russian president.
Her family said she spent more than a million dollars of her own money building a municipal government headquarters for Listvyanka and modernizing utilities and other services. Those figures could not be confirmed independently by the NYT. Still, the revival of the village was widely praised around Siberia by leaders of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s governing party, and residents said the changes were notable.
When the F.S.B. resort, which is also a rehabilitation center, began renovations and expansion, it would not divulge its plans to local officials. It said the work was being done under an “antiterrorism program” and thus had to be kept secret, according to court records.
Russian Colonel at centre of Magnitsky death free and enjoying multi-millionaire lifestyle
Lt. Col. Artem Kuznetsov, 38, the man accused by the late anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky of colluding in the theft of $230 million from the Russian state is exposed by an investigation which has turned up purchase of property, cars and luxury trips abroad.
The investigation by friends of Magnitsky, led by the Jamison Firestone, the founder and managing partner of the law firm that employed him drew on the resources of liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta and posted a video on YouTube which promises to be the first of a series on Col Kuznetsov and his colleagues that the group has dubbed the Russian Untouchables.
A statement from Firestone says, “ Russian Interior Ministry officers responsible for the torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky, the 37 year-old Russian anti-corruption lawyer who had exposed their role in the theft of $230 million from the Russian people, have been caught red-handed. In a video released today onyoutube.com, see the evidence of how much money they received and how they are spending it. See the shocking video of how Russian public servants have turned on the people they were sworn to protect. Follow them as they falsely imprison, murder, and make lots of money.”
The video – shown here on BSR-Russia is available in Russian at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0QYb2b6yR8 and in English at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZB3YoAvEro
“The brutality of Magnitsky’s false arrest and murder in custody is compounded by the way his killers have profited from the crimes he had exposed and their absolute impunity. More than six months after Magnitsky’s death, no one has been brought to justice for his murder. Nor has a single official has been prosecuted for the embezzlement of $230 million, Firestone’s statement says.
Firestone runs his business in Russia from London, from where he has refused to return to Moscow fearing he will also be arrested and imprisoned.
Kuznetsov is alleged to have spent $3m (€2.4m, £2m) on luxury properties and cars in Moscow and surrounding areas and thousands more on luxury holidays over the past three years. The properties and cars were registered in the names of his father, mother and wife.
Mr Kuznetsov is alleged to have spent more than 322 times his annual salary on Moscow apartments and a string of luxury holidays in Dubai, Italy and Cyprus.