CORRUPTION WATCH: Bribery still on the rise

Cash Handed OverRussian police uncovered 35,000 cases of corruption in the first nine months of 2010, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday, including alleged crimes involving four deputy governors and five regional ministers, reports Bloomberg.
[Original of image copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036]

President Medvedev's drive to cut corruption has faced stiff criticism that while he talks a good game, effective action has been thin on the ground. The latest Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International on Tuesday showed that Russia fell eight places in the last year, to leave it 154th out of 178 countries, and make it the most corrupt major economy in the world (i.e. amongst the G20) according to perceptions of business and NGO leaders.

Whilst the announcement was clearly timed as a riposte to the report, it also appears to support claims that there is a glass ceiling when it comes to corruption investigations that leaves senior officials and Moscow-based public servants with the right connections safe from charges. Cases in the spring that saw Mercedes-Daimler and Hewlett-Packard admit to paying bribes to the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor General's office respectively are still to see any Russian officials charged for their part in the cases.

Major bribe taking increased by 17.5 percent from January to September compared with the same period of 2009, the Interior Ministry said. The average size of a bribe increased 1.5 times to about $1,400.

"We understand that you can't overcome corruption in one year," Alexander Nazarov, deputy head of the ministry's economic crimes department, said at a briefing outside Moscow. "We are trying to minimize this problem so it doesn't affect the development of the economy."

Russians pay bribes totaling $300 billion a year, equivalent to almost a quarter of gross domestic product, according to Kirill Kabanov, head of the National Anti- Corruption Committee. Medvedev's promises to reduce corruption won't succeed unless law enforcement is improved, Kabanov said.

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