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Belarus - Corruption

Lukashenko remains in power by offering lucrative positions in state companies to nomenclature and their families, allowing them to steal from the state in exchange for their support. The opposition cannot offer such valuable positions, and therefore would not be able to attract the support of the nomenclature.

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, reports indicated that officials continued to engage in corrupt practices. The World Bankís Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a serious problem in the country. According to former prosecutor general Ryhor Vasilevich, the majority of the corruption cases involved accepting and soliciting bribes, fraud, and abuse of power, often by government officials. The absence of an independent judicial system, professional law enforcement, separation of powers, and an independent press made it virtually impossible to gauge the scale of corruption.

The deputy prosecutor general reported that during 2011 authorities registered 2,416 corruption crimes, down 33.6 percent from the previous year, mainly because the following offenses were removed from the corruption category: forgery by an official, smuggling, receipt of illegal compensation, and financing terrorist activities. Bribery accounted for 54.7 percent of cases, fraud for 5.8 percent, and embezzlement through abuse of office for 35.7 percent. The highest corruption rates were registered in the industrial, agricultural, and construction sectors. According to a senior official in the Prosecutor Generalís Office, an average bribe was $300 and the highest bribe was $500,000.

During 2011 officials of agencies responsible for maintaining state security, including financial intelligence, Defense Ministry, customs and border agencies, committed 116 corruption-related crimes, down from 252 crimes in 2010, or 4.8 percent of all corruption crimes. The Military Prosecutorís Office investigated and filed in court 11 cases of corruption and reimbursed more than 60 million rubles ($7,250) in damages resulting from corruption during the year.

There were numerous corruption prosecutions during 2011; however, prosecutions remained selective and appeared in some cases politically motivated. Apparent attempts to tackle corruption ended with the arrest of a leading prosecutor. For example, on August 2, the Supreme Court sentenced former senior investigator of the prosecutor generalís office Svyatlana Baykova to two years of partial house arrest on minor charges of exceeding her authority. Charges of pressuring a suspect to give a statement, ordering unjustified detention, and bringing charges against a knowingly innocent person, as well as extensive abuse of authority were dropped. KGB officers arrested Baykova in February 2010 and charged her with illegally dropping criminal charges and abusing her office. The trial started on March 10 and was held behind closed doors because the case reportedly covered classified information. In June Baykova appealed to Lukashenka, seeking to ensure her prompt release and committing to further curb corruption among officials.

Baykova was the chief investigator in a high-profile criminal case against an alleged smuggling ring that included former senior customs officials and KGB and state control committee officers. On 15 November 2011, the Belarusian Military Court acquitted 36 suspected members of this criminal group in closed hearings that commenced in May 2010. Thirty-six individuals charged with corruption and facilitating evasion of more than 30 billion rubles ($3.6 million) in custom duties included Anatol Hramovich, a former director of the financial intelligence department under the State Control Committee, and Yauhen Selivanau, a former deputy head of the Brest customs agency. The court ruled that the statute of limitations had expired in relation to a number of crimes allegedly committed by them. In addition, most of the suspects reimbursed damages of more than 450 million rubles ($54,350) in illegal foreign currency proceeds to the state during pretrial investigations. Hramovich was arrested in January 2009 on charges of bribery, abuse of office, and establishing a criminal group.

On 26 December 2011, KGB head Vadzim Zaytsau reported that his agency opened more than 50 cases to investigate corruption in addition to 80 cases initiated by other law enforcement agencies. He claimed that of 44 persons convicted of corruption, 33 were state officials, including those at the senior level.

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Page last modified: 25-09-2012 17:58:51 ZULU