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Corruption is a state system in Russia and Chechnya is no exception

Sergey Bachurin (vest-news.ru)

The average size of bribes in the North Caucasus was ₽500,000 ($8,800) in the first quarter of 2017 — twelve times the previous year according to Sergey Bachurin, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the North Caucasus.

According to Bachurin, the increase in the average size of bribes in the region is because law enforcement agencies have become more likely to catch criminals — both those who give and receive bribes. Bachurin noted that this year, the police have already documented seven high-profile corruption cases, involving bribes of ₽1,000,000–₽1,500,000 ($17,500–$26,300). Between January and March 2017, 67 cases of bribery were documented in the North Caucasus, 18 of which involved large sums of money.

In Soviet times, both the North and South Caucasus were widely considered the most corrupt regions in the Soviet Union. The centrally managed system of corruption from this period survived the collapse of the Soviet Union and remains largely unchanged. Chechnya, which Russian officials often hail as ‘the most prosperous and safe republic’, is in no way immune to the systemic diseases of the Russian government.

The Chechen authorities don’t like it when the republic’s internal problems become known to the whole world. For this reason, numerous cases of high-level officials accused of corruption have not appeared in the media. This does not mean that they always get away with everything. The fight against corruption in Chechnya is somewhat different, sometimes violating the law.

It’s difficult to count the numerous cases of Chechen officials who were punished for stealing state money. Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov considers such cases a personal insult, and the most stringent measures are taken against offenders. The authorities can confiscate their entire estates and cars. This is what happened with a number of officials who were in power in the late 2000s, during the large-scale reconstruction efforts to rebuild the republic after the war.

In Chechnya, despite the authorities’ assertion that there is no corruption in the republic, bribes are a daily occurrence. Only a small percentage of such crimes are made public. For instance, the recent arrest of Isa Yusupov, a high ranking officer of Russia’s Investigative Committee in Chechnya. Yusupov was caught red-handed accepting a bribe of ₽100,000 ($1,750) to shut down a criminal investigation that he himself had opened. Following the popular custom, he returned one banknote to the person giving the bribe, as according to custom — ‘he that giveth shall not lack’.

In Chechnya, corruption blossomed in the early 2000s, when the Russian authorities began to pay material compensation to people who lost their houses and property during the fighting. Payments of ₽350,000, just over $10,000 according to the rates at the time, were incommensurable with the damage inflicted, yet they became vitally important for many people living on the verge of poverty in the war-torn republic. Despite the meagre amount, people were eager to receive the money.

Still, very few people received the full sum. Different scammers who had connections in the commission for payment of compensation took a share from each payment, blatantly and openly. The usual rate was ₽50,000 for people to simply receive their compensation. In order to accelerate the process and receive it within a few days, people had to pay 50% of the total compensation.

Those few people who decided to complain to the authorities, were intimidated and even prosecuted on fabricated charges. The last such incident occurred last year in the Chechen village of Kenkhi, which is located high in the mountains, close to where ethnic Avars live. Local resident Ramazan Dzhalaldinov complained to the media about the behaviour of the local authorities, who he claimed hadn’t fulfilled their duties and had appropriated funds allocated to rehabilitate and develop the village. For the Chechen authorities, this statement was considered a daring challenge and soon the entire repressive state machine was directed against the man on his quest for the truth. His house was raided by the security services and he, together with his family, managed to escape across the mountains to neighbouring Daghestan. There, a month later, he recorded a retraction of his accusations, and apologiesed to Ramzan Kadyrov. Only then did construction works began in the village. However, Dzhalaldinov raised the issue once again saying that the work which was being done was a fiction designed to divert people’s attention. For this, he had to flee again. Currently, he resides in Daghestan.

‘What happens to people speaking out against corruption in Chechnya’

In order to get a job in Chechnya, as for example a police officer or even a low ranking soldier tasked with raising and lowering a barrier, it is necessary to pay a bribe. According to some sources, this varies between ₽200,000–₽300,000 ($3,500–$5,300).

For more serious positions, bribe is much higher. At the same time, corrupt officials and bribe takers do not hide the fact that the entire state system in Russia is built and sustained on corruption.

‘If I don’t take [bribes] and pass on sums to the people above me, I will be thrown out of work and replaced with another link in this chain’, one official told OC Media.

‘We are not guilty of taking and giving bribes. The system that has existed since Soviet times is to blame. True, at that time the scale was different and our officials were not so hypocritical’, the official continues.

Independent Chechen analysts who agreed to anonymously comment on corruption in the republic told OC Media that there is no doubt that the system runs with the approval of the local leadership.

‘Everybody knows about this situation, and despite this, it is tightly controlled and regulated’, one analyst said.

Along with general corruption and bribery in Russia, the authorities often declare their will to fight against financial crimes and bribery. Special attention is traditionally paid to the North Caucasus. In 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin raised figures for corruption in the North Caucasus, which he later estimated as too large, during a government meeting.

‘Putin demands fight against corruption in the North Caucasus’

According to Putin, over 1,600 corruption-related crimes were committed in the first half of 2013 — an average of ten a day. He demanded that the police intensify their fight against corruption. The data provided this year by Sergey Bachurin showing how corruption in the region has sharply increased since last year’s figures clearly shows that this fight against corruption in Russia is not real.

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