Four Russian officials appointed by the Russian Economic Development Industry to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) are being investigated by the City of London and Russian police for charges that include accepting bribes and doling out false credits to various projects. According to an EBRD spokesman, it is not clear what spurred the investigation, but it was not that they “were wearing the wrong clothes.”
The EBRD is the world’s only bank that fosters transition from command economies to open market economies following the collapse of communist regimes. Owned by 61 countries, including Russia, and two international institutions and partly funded by the U.S. and E.U., the EBRD provides project financing for banks, industries and businesses, including both new ventures and investments in existing companies.
Although the allegations will not affect the EBRD’s current investment activities in Russia, as the EBRD will deal directly with the Economic Development Industry instead of the Russian representatives on its board of directors, the news comes at a time when Russia could truly use some positive press with respect to its anticorruption efforts.
RIANovosti recently reported that the number of corruption-related crimes involving top government officials and large bribes increased 100% in 2010 year-on-year, according to Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev. President Medvedev has responded with an increased clamp down on government officials who provide false income declarations and welcomed a new draft of anti-corruption bills proposed by Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee. According to Vedomosti, the amendments provide for fines 100 times the amount of the bribe instead of the currently stipulated prison sentences. Additionally, middlemen involved in negotiating corrupt payments and foreign nationals could face prosecution.
Also in the news is former Siemens director Thomas Ganswindt, who appeared on charges on Thursday in Germany for corrupt payments made in Russia and Nigeria related to the $1.6 billion Siemens FCPA settlement in 2008.
It is difficult to conclude whether these incidents are attributable to a few bad apples or an unrelenting ideology of inherent corruption in Russia, but one thing appears to be certain: allegations of corruption will continue to surface. In fact, RuLeaks.net, a website likening itself to WikiLeaks, has recently committed itself to leaking original material on corruption, one of Russia’s most sensitive subjects.