New reports of corruption at the highest levels of government never fail to surprise, especially when cases of profiteering are coming from within a democratic, constitution-based administration. Still, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has pointed to official corruption as one of the biggest challenges his country faces since being elected in March. President Medvedev makes big talk about eliminating corruption from his government, but the most recent report out of Siberia illustrates exactly how pervasive systemic bribery is in Russia and how very much is yet to be done:
On December 9, director of the Siberian Federal District Office of the Russian Federal Service for Ecological, Technical and Atomic Supervision, Leonid Baklitsky, was arrested on extortion charges by the Novosibirsk FSB office as the result of an undercover investigation. The investigation revealed that Baklitsky had organized a racketeering system with directors of factories in Siberia that emit a lot of pollution. Baklitsky allegedly received a bribe in the amount of 465,000 rubles ($16,666) while sitting at his office desk (fittingly, December 9is International Anti-Corruption Day). The sum was handed over by the head of a government agency seeking to illegally acquire the right to conduct inspections and expert examinations that the institution is not licensed to do. Searches of the indicted official’s office uncovered undisclosed sums of cash and bank cards. The list of charges is long: an FSB investigator disclosed that during 2008 alone, Baklitsky received similar bribes from other organizations to for the illegal right to conduct technical examinations of buildings and equipment, inspections of dangerous industrial facilities, and to train and certify industrial safety specialists.
Among other things, Baklitsky was responsible for environmental regulation enforcement on the Boguchanskaya Hydroelectric Dam project that has been under construction in the Krasnoyarsk Krai for more than 20 years. In 2006, Ust-Ilismk city Duma deputies appealed to the President with the request to lower the dam’s height from 208 to 185 meters, citing that environmental expert reviews indicated a high likelihood that that the resultant reservoir would be contaminated by industrial runoff from facilities in the Irkutsk Region.
Baklitsky, however, protested this change. It is unknown whether his opposition to the measure was backed by actual scientific data or, perhaps, a different type of currency.