Andrei Kozlov's assassination does not mystify us, it shocks


MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kolesnikov) It is more or less understandable why revenge was taken on the first deputy chairman of the Central Bank, one of the architects of the country's banking system: he supervised the banks, revoked licenses, enforced the money-laundering law, and was very uncompromising and tough in dealing with bankers.

But to decide to kill a high-ranking official for intransigence or hardness is something extraordinary. It takes one aback.

Andrei Kozlov was not well liked in the banking community, although his high level of professionalism was generally acknowledged. One Central Bank colleague of his recalled that during the summer crisis of 2004, when several banks had their licenses withdrawn, a caged goat was driven in an open Gazel van before the windows of the Moscow City branch of the Central Bank (not even where Kozlov's office was situated) - giving a clear hint [Kozlov's name calls to mind a goat in Russian] to the functionary who spoiled the lives of many an unscrupulous banker. But deep down everybody understood: the Central Bank, through Andrei Kozlov, was only laying down the ground rules. Perhaps they were rough-edged, but Russia's banking system needed to be civilized, purged of crime, and made stable and transparent. In effect everything was being done for the good of the ordinary client and customer.

Specialists say that nearly half the requests for opening criminal cases against money laundering came from the Bank of Russia, with the rest furnished by the Federal Financial Monitoring Service. And someone got his revenge. And revenge, as a Mario Puzo character said, is a dish best served cold, although the killing may have been an "emotional" backlash following a conversation or an event involving Kozlov.

Throughout Russian history very few attempts have been made on the lives of top-ranking financial executives. In the late 1990s Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov's car was blasted, and shots were fired into a window of the apartment of the then Central Bank chairman Sergei Dubinin. But that was a different era with different motives, and the memory of those incidents has faded. Not because such practices have gone out of use, but simply because offenders have not taken issue with state representatives and regulators. Here we have a cold-blooded, blunt and well-calculated shooting of one of the main civil servants in the Russian banking and financial field.

The system is cleaning up its act, becoming civilized and turning its face to the clients. It has ceased to be exclusively for money-laundering and has gotten more competitive. It is now a place for rank-and-filers who solve their daily problems by means of banking tools. The Russian banking system is also becoming more transparent for both the domestic and foreign users of its services: in recent years Russian banks have started introducing International Accounting Standards (IAS). These indicators help to regulate bank activity more competently, and enable market players to better see their headaches and ways of dealing with them.

There is, of course, a certain amount of resistance. That is inevitable. No one, however, could forecast that the resistance would toughen: a reply to the rehabilitation of the system was a pistol shot ... But this will change nothing about the banking system. The only pity is that such a dear price - a human life - has to be paid for progress.

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