Lawyer Vladimir Aleshin on Principal Amendments to Economic Articles of the Criminal Code
13 December 2011
Soft Paws of Law
In 2011, less than 1% of criminal cases initiated under economic articles were brought before the court. In 2012 criminal levers for putting pressure on business will be reduced.
Amendments to the Criminal Code signed by the President of the Russian Federation last Thursday keep liberalizing economic articles of the Criminal Code.
However, practice shows that reduction in number of levers for putting pressure on business does not always turns as liberalization in fact.
Court is not an Authority for Us
So far, the police have been entitled to settle the issue on initiation of cases relating to tax evasion at its discretion, sometimes ignoring arbitration awards.
As a result, even in cases when claims of taxation authorities against a businessman were acknowledged as groundless, it did not guarantee its protection against criminal prosecution including all resulting consequences (searches, interrogations, and sometimes even arrests, etc.). Another amendment provides for an opportunity to legally “buy off”.
“The taxpayer currently has several months to cure violations identified by the tax inspectorate. If a businessman pays fivefold compensation for damages, no criminal proceedings can be instituted against it,” Vladimir Aleshin, prime consultant of S&K Vertical law firm, says.
No criminal prosecution is currently threatening for illegal transport of cargo across the boarder (except for drugs, weapons, strategic products, etc.) either. There is a threat of a criminal case for the cargo owner only for failure to pay customs duties for the amount exceeding 2 mln rubles, and all other violations are acknowledged only as administrative offence.
A reason why the authorities got concerned about liberalization of criminal articles is high level of corruption of law-enforcement agencies. It is noted even in the explanatory note to a draft law introduced by Dmitry Medvedev, and it is also confirmed by statistics: only about 1% of criminal cases related to economic crimes are brought before the court; according to data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, last year more than 5.4 ths. such crimes were committed in Saint Petersburg, while courts examined a little more than 50 cases. Most likely, the remaining cases simply fell apart.
However, liberalization on paper is not always implemented in practice. Recall that previously adopted amendments prohibit taking suspects or accused under economic articles into custody. However, in practice this prohibition is not always effective.
The most recent example – arrest of Elena Repina, former head of Rosselkhozbank branch, who is suspected of credit fraud. She is under arrest since the end of October. According to recent data, pre-trial restrictions for her are extended till February 19.
“Not quality of laws but their application is a problem,” Boris Gruzd, who represented Boris Khodorkovsky before the court, says. “As practice shows that while mispresenting the law, law-enforcement agencies and courts apply it contrary to its spirit, and sometimes even contrary to its letter. Or, when necessary, they do not apply it at all.”