Russia admits to 'barefaced' corruption

  • 2008-02-20
  • In cooperation with BNS
MOSCOW - Barefaced corruption is rampanton Russia's western border, costing the state hundreds of millions of US dollars, the Russian prime minister admitted Feb 20.

"It takes our western colleagues six minutes to clear avehicle at the same border crossing points where we take sixhours. What's the problem? Bribery, corruption - insolent,barefaced," Russian news agency Interfax quoted VictorZubkov as saying.

"At talks with neighboring western countries we keephearing justified criticism because of numerous traffic jamsat our border checkpoints," the premier said.

"The new management of the federal customs service isapplying measures - replacing managers, opening criminalcases. But the prosecution and other law enforcement bodieskeep delaying judgements."

Zubkov underlined that border corruption causes economic losses of hundreds of millions dollars, adding thatinvestigation materials on more than 300 such cases havebeen amassed.

"The picture with the handling of shipments in our ports is similar. Containers could be detained there fordays unless a bribe is received. There can be no talk aboutthe development of business if such rules prevail," the headof government said.

Lines of vehicles waiting to be cleared for entry intoRussia began to form on the eastern borders of Finland,Estonia and Latvia in summer 2006. In August and November ofthat year more than 500 vehicles were queued up at Narva,the only road checkpoint in northeastern Estonia, whichtranslated into a wait of more than a week, and truckers staged protests then.

Queues developed even after President Vladimir Putin demanded more efficient work from the customs and Russianofficers started to check incoming vehicles more thoroughly.Growing freight flows and outdated border facilitiesaggravated the problem.

The Estonian and Finnish press have also pointed out that the long waiting lines have become a source of easymoney for dishonest Russian customs officials. At the sametime Latvian customs officers too have taken advantage ofthe situation in their own interests. The Latvian policedetained a large group of customs officials last year onsuspicion of corruption.

The border jams have attracted the attention of both the international press and the European Union. The EuropeanParliament passed a critical resolution last year and theissue was raised at several high-level EU-Russia meetings,but Moscow has not been able to solve the problem.