But businessmen find little reason to believe him
Russian daily Vedomosti reports on Vladimir Putin’s promise to continue the liberalization of the business climate in Russia at the recent St. Petersburg Economic Forum. Measures include limiting the possibilities for unlawful prosecution, introduction of individual responsibility for law enforcement officials who cause damages to businesses, and transparency of the judiciary.
Businessmen were not impressed. One high company official remarked that he saw two Presidents at the Forum – one that frowned while reading economic data and the other who rambled at length about enemies with distinct pleasure. Everyone knows that the latter is his true face, the businessman concluded. Others considered Putin’s presentation bland – a member of the Forbes list stated that the President had already repeated the same story more than once, but to no avail.
Number of business-related criminal proceedings and incarcerated businessmen in Russia increased by 70% since 2012 – in 2015, there were 234,620 indictments against Russian businessmen. Although only 15% reached the courtroom, approximately 83% of the suspects and defendants ended up losing their businesses. In Putin’s own words, they were “prosecuted, fleeced and sent off.”
Business ombudsman Boris Titov stated that the number of businessmen awaiting trial in prison at the beginning of 2015 increased by 70% compared to April 2012. And while as many as 145,000 law enforcement officials were found guilty of irregularities during investigations, almost all of them got away with a warning.
Although in 2013 President Putin asked the Government to address the extremely high percentage of convictions, the problem only got worse. According to the Institute for the Rule of Law based in St. Petersburg, the percentage of acquittals is at a miserable 0.3% – and 30% of them get overturned in the second instance ruling. Convictions, on the other hand, get overturned in only 3% of the cases.
The ruling elite would certainly hate losing any of its political clout to meaningful judicial reforms, but it is by no means certain that the judiciary itself would like to be reformed, either.