Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 172

The former chairman of Russia’s Central Bank, Sergei Dubinin, has denied allegations that loans provided by the IMF were embezzled or wasted. Last week, Russia’s prosecutor general opened a criminal investigation into the allegations. Yesterday, Russia’s chief state auditor, Venyamin Sokolov, told the BBC that he had proof that billions of dollars of IMF loans were either misused or stolen. “We have checked a fair proportion of the loans and I’m ashamed to say that several billion dollars were not used for their intended purpose and some of it was simply stolen,” he claimed. Sokolov urged the West not to lend Russia more money until better supervisory measures are in place (BBC, Reuters, September 19 and 20). Sokolov’s allegations grabbed headlines at a moment when the IMF is considering whether to disburse the latest US$4.5 billion tranche of its previously agreed loan to Russia. The allegations are not new. Sokolov has made them several times before, but they provide an example of the “inflation of crime statistics” described in a paper delivered to a conference on economic crime held in Cambridge, England, last weekend. Johan Baeckman, a research fellow of the National Research Institute of Legal Policy within Finland’s Justice Ministry, told the conference that, on the basis of extensive interviews with Russian and Western officials and business people, he had concluded that statistics about economic crime in Russia are often inflated. Baeckman said he would not deny that corruption exists in Russia and is a serious problem. He said, however, that its threat is often exaggerated for political purposes: both by those who are opposed to market reforms, and by the security forces in their search for increased funding. He said also that the task of those who oppose market reforms is facilitated by the existence in Russian society of strong traditional antipathy to entrepreneurial activity and the profit motive. Baeckman said that there was a strong danger of human rights violations arising from the efforts of the Russian police to crack down on economic crime. A Monitor correspondent attended the conference.