Putin to ban foreign bank accounts for officials

Moscow, Feb 13 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted a bill to the State Duma prohibiting officials from holding bank accounts abroad or owning foreign-issued shares and bonds.

The ban applies to people holding government positions, the prosecutor general's deputies, members of the Central Bank's board of directors, federal civil servants and officials at state-run corporations, foundations and other organisations established under federal law, who can only be appointed or dismissed from their posts by the president, government or the prosecutor general, the president's bill says.

Putin and the government have had their sights on officials' foreign assets for some time, as part of the wider effort to stamp out rampant corruption in the country.

In his state-of-the-nation address in December, Putin said: "If a person has chosen state service, he should be prepared for these restrictions, and for public oversight, and to meet special requirements, as is the norm in practically all nations of the world."

"How can there be trust in a bureaucrat or politician who says highfalutin words about what's good for Russia, but tries to expatriate his funds, his cash, overseas? I ask you to support legislative proposals to limit the rights of bureaucrats and politicians to have foreign accounts, securities and shares."

The Duma is also preparing a similar bill which would ban government officials and military personnel, and also their spouses and underage children from owning real estate abroad, holding accounts with foreign banks outside Russia or owning foreign issued stocks and bonds, including foreign government securities.

The president's draft bill will ensure Russian officials are not subject to foreign influence, said Alexander Torshin, first vice-speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament.

"All these measures are aimed at ensuring the country's sovereignty: officials making decisions on the country's state security must be free of the possibility of being influenced from abroad," Torshin said.

If such foreign bank accounts are found, options for dealing with them could include sequestrating them or freezing them, he said.

The president's bill stipulates Russian officials will be given three months "either to rid themselves of accounts abroad or rid the state of themselves," Torshin said.

Another positive effect of the measure would be that such account holders would keep more funds in Russian banks and consequently support the Russian banking system and the domestic economy, he said.

It was not immediately clear whether Putin's bill would replace the Duma's earlier bill, or be integrated with it, or would replace it.

Russia's Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said the Communists, Russia's main opposition party, would support the president's bill.

"We have long insisted that anti-corruption measures should be energetic, more decisive and principled," Zyuganov said.

--IANS/RIA Novosti

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