Posted 23 марта 2023,, 07:00

Published 23 марта 2023,, 07:00

Modified 23 марта 2023,, 08:26

Updated 23 марта 2023,, 08:26

We are not guilty... Russian business asks for decriminalization of 10 more articles of the Criminal Code

We are not guilty... Russian business asks for decriminalization of 10 more articles of the Criminal Code

23 марта 2023, 07:00
The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs has sent proposals to the Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor General's Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Duma to reduce criminal and administrative pressure on business. In the appeal - a request to decriminalize a dozen articles of the Criminal Code of Russia. What will it change – for business and for all of us?

Irina Mishina

The more crimes, the fewer punishments?


Amazing news is coming from the economic fronts. More recently, deputies have pleased entrepreneurs with a new draft law No. 253849-8 "On Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation". The document introduces a whole armful of concessions for businessmen accused of economic crimes. There is a limitation of the terms of arrests, and the priority of "another preventive measure that allows you to continue doing business," and other measures aimed at "excluding excessive criminal legal impact on entrepreneurs." But it didn't seem enough to entrepreneurs, and they proposed to cancel – no less – as many as 10 articles of the Criminal Code.

In fairness, it should be noted that the RSPP does not propose to cancel the articles of the Criminal Code until the foundation, without offering anything in return. According to the logic of entrepreneurs, crimes can be translated into the format of offenses, reclassifying them into administrative ones. Liability under such articles, as you know, is no more than a fine.

At the same time, the statistics of economic offenses, frankly speaking, are not encouraging. There are no data for 2022 yet, but the damage from economic crimes in Russia in 2021 amounted to 641.9 billion rubles, having doubled in a year, the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs reports. This is the maximum value since 2009, when the damage to the economy from illegal actions exceeded 1 trillion rubles. Among the most frequent crimes are counterfeiting of money and securities, theft and fraud, bribery, as well as tax offenses. The press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs explains that the growth of these sad indicators is associated with the spread of remote methods of committing economic atrocities.

The lawyers interviewed by NI confirmed this sad trend. In their opinion, criminal cases are most often initiated against businessmen for fraud, tax evasion and money laundering. This is confirmed by official statistics: almost 33% of economic crimes are committed against state and private property. The courts handed down the most sentences for "illegal entrepreneurship, banking and pseudo-entrepreneurship", - another 550 people were tried for fraud.

Why is the question of decriminalization of business raised at the same time?

The President has spoken many times with the call "stop making business a nightmare". The last time he did this was during an address to the Federal Assembly, stating literally the following: "It is necessary to revise the norms of the Criminal Code and decriminalize economic crimes".

However, soon after that, Russia was shocked by the news about the tax crimes of bloggers Lerchek and Alexandra Mitroshina.

They were registered as individual entrepreneurs and used a simplified taxation system, avoiding paying hundreds of millions of rubles. In the case of Mitroshina, it was about the amount of over 120 million rubles.

"And something can be tightened"

The RSPP proposed to decriminalize a total of 10 articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, including those providing for punishment for illegal entrepreneurship (Article 171), transfer of foreign currency or the currency of the Russian Federation to the accounts of non-residents using forged documents (Article 193.1), theft of other people's property by deception or abuse of trust without causing significant damage (Part 1 of Article 159), illegal use of inventions, making currency transactions for the transfer of funds in foreign currency or the currency of Russia to the accounts of non-residents using forged documents (Article 193.1); violation of the rules for the release of pollutants into the atmosphere (Part 1 of Article 251).

In addition to decriminalizing certain articles, the RSPP proposed to raise the thresholds of major and especially major damage for crimes in the field of economic activity. The last time they changed was in 2016 — during this period, inflation was almost 48%, which means that the level of damage does not correspond to economic conditions and requires an increase of at least 50%, according to the RSPP.

The business community reacted to this news with skepticism.

"The position of the RSPP is clear. Parallel imports intersect with smuggling. Today, all businesses import technologies related to critical infrastructure. It works, but there is a possibility that they may be imprisoned. You can pull up anything here: equipment, software, a number of industries related to the defense industry, raw materials and materials. Otherwise, nothing will be imported to Russia. Copyright is clearly being violated, but if the state violates them, what can we talk about?", - Dmitry Potapenko, entrepreneur, economist, CEO of MDG LLC, believes.

Lawyers treat the proposals of the RSPP in two ways.

In their opinion, some articles of the Criminal Code can indeed be decriminalized, the cancellation of others raises questions.

"I am categorically against the decriminalization of Article 238 of the Criminal Code (provision of services that do not meet safety requirements). Everyone remembers the fire in the Perm nightclub "Lame Horse" - the largest fire in Russia in terms of the number of victims, when 155 people died. But everything happened because of non-compliance with fire safety rules. Six months ago, there was a fire in the hostel, where the bars were not removed from the windows, as a result, people could not escape. Penalties for such violations should be tightened on the contrary. I am also against the decriminalization of Article 193.1 on the transfer of foreign currency or the currency of the Russian Federation to the accounts of non-residents using forged documents. I would leave this article in the criminal plane, now the situation in the country is not the same, and there are statistics that huge sums continue to be withdrawn abroad. But if a person fully compensated for the damage caused to the state, in such cases I would transfer the punishment to the administrative plane", - Professor of the Department of Internal Affairs of the International Law Institute, retired Major General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Mansur Yusupov told NI.Lawyers have been discussing the legality of punishments under Article 159 (fraud) for a long time.

This article is probably the most heated debate due to sometimes unlawful refusals to initiate criminal proceedings.

"How can there be a refusal to initiate and decriminalization, when, for example, one of the partners did not deliver products under the contract and withdrew money offshore? You should be punished for this. In the current situation, I also consider the withdrawal of money to other states to be a crime that cannot be decriminalized in any way. Those who do this are, in fact, the 5th column today. That is, some articles can be decriminalized, and some, on the contrary, should be tightened",- says Lieutenant General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Alexander Mikhailov.

Business and court "by concepts"


The State Duma reacted nervously to the initiative of the RSPP. Mikhail Delyagin, deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Economic Policy, generally drew attention to the fact that law enforcement agencies have recently been engaged in open racketeering.

"The oligarchs want to allow crimes to be committed, but at the same time, the fact that the security forces are squeezing business from entrepreneurs remains without attention. Instead of real criminal cases and punishments for causing harm and damage to business, its representatives say: "And let's allow crimes to be committed." Criminal offenses essentially become administrative offenses. Probably, this practice is not a problem for representatives of the RSPP", - State Duma deputy, economist Mikhail Delyagin told NI.

In his opinion, since the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs wants to get permission for businesses to commit certain crimes, those who are interested in impunity will meet them halfway. At the same time, Mr. Delyagin did not name specific persons who are interested in this.

Lieutenant-General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Alexander Mikhailov agreed with Delyagin: "Indeed, many representatives of law enforcement agencies distribute among themselves the business that they "protect". Some representatives of law enforcement agencies work in this way so that they can then come to the structure where they earned a gesheft. And it's hard to sort it out, it's become a system".

It is not yet known how the appeal of the RSPP regarding decriminalization will end.

They say the government has been thinking hard. But the captains of Russian business are skeptical about everything.

"The appeal of the RSPP is not a breakthrough, but purely technical. After all, we have a "conceptual" business, - says entrepreneur, economist Dmitry Potapenko. - The official will always act on the principle of "everything is in my will", and when initiating cases of economic crimes, anyone will be in limbo, depending on the specific circumstances and people".