A court in Tatarstan slapped a corrupt official with a record fine of 300 million rubles ($10 million) for graft, but analysts said it remains to be seen whether he would actually pay up.
“It might be a means of allowing senior officials to escape real punishment,” Kirill Kabanov, chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, said about the fine on Tuesday.
“But such fines are needed, because corruption is a business, and you need to hit where it hurts,” Kabanov said by telephone.
Alexander Timofeyev, 55, former district head in the republic, situated in the southeast of European Russia, was convicted by Supreme Court of Tatarstan on Monday of accepting a large-scale bribe.
In October, Timofeyev accepted a bribe of 5 million rubles from a local businessman looking to obtain land plots in his district, but was caught in the act of taking the money, the court said.
The official is the first victim of the new Kremlin legislation, signed into law in May, which proposes to punish graft with fines far exceeding the size of the actual bribe.
Russia ranked 143rd out of 183 countries in the latest corruption perception index by Transparency International, released in December. The country has been hovering around the bottom of the ranking throughout most of the 2000s.
The prosecutors asked to jail Timofeyev for nine years and fine him 500 million rubles, but the judge refused to put him behind bars, citing his health problems and the fact that he is taking care of his elderly parents and two underage children.
The current fine is nevertheless the biggest in Russian modern history. Timofeyev’s lawyer Askar Ponomaryov said on Monday he did not know if his client could afford it, Vedomosti reported.
It also remained unclear whether the prosecutors or the defense were going to appeal.
“If the sentence is not carried out, the court revises it,” said lawyer Sergei Smirnov of Yukov, Khrenov & Partners.
“He is going to either pay up or go to jail,” Smirnov said by telephone.
But Kabanov of the National Anti-Corruption Committee was less sure of that, pointing out that many corrupt officials register their property as belonging to their relatives and leave court marshals with nothing of value to confiscate.
“I think he might have been preparing for that,” Kabanov said.
He added that the court is entitled to revise the sentence and jail Timofeyev in case he fails to pay, but the prosecutors may opt not to request it, de-facto sparing him any punishment.
“We do need such fines … but we also need to develop the law enforcement practices for them,” Kabanov said.
“Corrupt officials need to know that if they don’t pay, the persecution is filing a request, and they get their eight-year prison sentences,” he said.