MOSCOW, August 19 (RIA Novosti) – Senior Russian officials, including lawmakers, judges and the heads of state corporations, as well as their spouses and underage children, are no longer allowed to keep their money in foreign bank accounts or financial instruments abroad as of Monday.
The legislation, initiated by the Kremlin to “nationalize the elite” and deter corruption, originally envisioned a ban on owning any assets abroad, but the bill was softened in parliament to allow ownership of foreign real estate.
The law came into force in early May, but officials were given three months to get rid of the respective assets or resign. The only penalty for incompliance is relinquishing one’s post.
“Only mentally retarded lawmakers and officials will be incapacitated by this legislation,” Dmitry Gudkov, a lawmaker in the lower house of parliament, wrote in his LiveJournal blog on Monday.
Gudkov, a member of the leftist A Just Russia party, listed in the blog entry several ways to circumvent the ban, including through trust funds or offshore shell companies, or by registering ownership in the name of a non-dependent relative.
The ban also affects members of the Cabinet, regional governors, the heads of municipalities and a handful of other senior officials, including the prosecutor general, the head of the Investigative Committee and the president himself.
Several senators in the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, have quit rather than give up foreign assets, Speaker Valentina Matviyenko said Monday. The press service for the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, said the same day that no deputies there had resigned over the ban.
Earlier reports said that nine of 166 senators – including Nikolai Olshansky, who featured on Forbes magazine’s list of the richest Russians – and some 15 of 450 Duma deputies reported getting rid of foreign assets.
Billionaire Roman Abramovich has given up his job as a regional lawmaker in the Chukotka Region, and Anatoly Chubais, head of state nanotech corporation Rusnano, has transferred all of his money into an unspecified Russian bank, the company said.
Top Russian officials and lawmakers are obliged by law to disclose their income but not specify its provenance, which, anti-corruption activists say, leaves a loophole for corrupt civil servants.
Russia ranked 133rd of 174 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index last year.