Kostin: Amnesty and unification of courts - response to public demand

Konstantin Kostin, head of the Foundation of Civil Society Development (FCSD) has commented on the important political and economic statements made by the Russian President at the recent International Economic Forum in St Petersburg. He said the decision to merge the Supreme Court of Arbitration and the Supreme Court was a response to public demand.

In interviews with the media, the former head of the Kremlin's Department of Domestic Policy also came out in support of the amnesty for first time offenders of economic crimes, adding that the potential of the All-Russian People's Front (APF) will create a unique platform for public control over state procurements.

In particular Kostin considered the arguments for bringing uniformity to judicial practice were 'convincing',pointing out that the idea of such a merger has been under discussion by experts for several years. 'I see Putin's proposal as a response to public demand' said the director of the FDCS. Commenting on the Russian President's idea for an economic amnesty (which he proposed at the Forum) the Foundation head noted that the amnesty envisages the release of businessmen who were sentenced for an economic crime either due to shortcomings in the judicial system or because of their own ignorance - but it would not extend to those who have committed a serious crime. Thus we would be 'killing two birds with one stone' because on the one hand the investment climate will improve and on the other, out and out criminals, fraudsters and 'raiders'(people who carry out illegal hostile corporate acquisitions) would not be set free.

'Of course there are people who have conducted illegal corporate acquisitions and criminal or semi criminal actions in their business dealings. Quite a few of them have done so more than once and of course this amnesty will not apply to them - as the President made very clear today' said Kostin. 'On the other hand we must understand that in the past 20 years our country has undergone a sea change in the economy and 20 years is a very short time. A great number of people who became entrepreneurs, especially those who set up small or medium sized companies on their own, usually went into business with no special qualifications. Back then there was no tried and trusted experience to rely on and no specially formulated legislation - that just evolved as they went along. They would make a mistake and then not have the relevant skills to keep pace with changing legislation which was a problem.

'It's one thing if we are talking about 'raiders' who use threats, intimidation and bullying tactics to take over someone else's business and have thus deliberately crossed the line of the law' explains the once high ranking Kremlin official. 'But if you take an individual entrepreneur who for one reason or another didn't quite come to grips with certain payments and thus broke the law, then he is clearly not as socially dangerous as a 'raider'. We need to restore a sense of justice here and show some humanity. This will improve the business climate in the country and act as a stimulus for the growth of small and medium sized businesses.' 

Touching on Vladimir Putin's proposal to establish public control over state procurement and also ensure that financial institutions observe the rights of borrowers, the Director of the FDCS commented that in Russia there are 'many activists and public organisations which already do this' but the fact that Putin has called on the ANF to take on this role 'will bring this activity to a whole new level.' According to the former head of the Russian Presidential Administration's Department of Domestic Policy, 'the People's Front is a serious political organisation with great intellectual potential which will become a unique platform for people who want to have their views heard in these areas..' Making sure that the rights of borrowers from banks are upheld is an extremely sensitive issue for modern day society which often uses credit. 'The ANF was created as a social movement' he said 'but its work of uniting people around the President's programmes is an extremely important additional role.'

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