Aleksandr Lukashenko holds session to discuss effectiveness of fight against corruption and economic crimes

    President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko urged to raise effectiveness of the fight against corruption. The head of state made the statement at the government session held on 1 August to discuss the effectiveness of the fight against corruption and economic crimes.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out the special importance of effective fight against corruption and economic crimes. “From my point of view these are the most important threats for our state. There is nothing scarier than these also because we handle other threats, one can say, successfully,” the head of state said.

    The President noted that certain positive changes had been secured thanks to the development of a system of measures to eradicate illegal phenomena in all forms and manifestations and analyze the performance of relevant government agencies in these areas.

    For the last years the number of corruption crimes and economic crimes in Belarus has been falling. “Whatever attitudes we may face in Western Europe, America, other countries, everyone unambiguously admits that in Belarus the authorities work hard to block any corruption crimes. There are no untouchables in Belarus. It is the opinion of Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, other nations, which are not neighbors of our country,” the President said.

    The international image of Belarus in this regard has improved. “It is confirmed by the effectiveness of the national-level measures that we take, particularly preventive ones. Nevertheless, fight against corruption is still on agenda. It requires constant attention and systemic work on behalf of law enforcement agencies and the entire society,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

    The President admitted that not everything has been done to suppress corruption and economic violations. In his words, Belarusian anticorruption laws meet international standards and do not require an overall reform at present.

    The President believes that the state has the right to expect better performance from the agencies in charge of suppressing corruption manifestations and economic crimes because the state spends fortunes on keeping these agencies.

    “The work of the authorized government agencies often lacks a systemic approach and is limited to detecting insignificant crimes. Municipal authorities are passive, too,” the head of state remarked.

    “It is obvious that self-complacence and the inertness of individual department heads of law enforcement and auditing agencies are the main reasons behind the current situation,” the head of state said. “Those, who sit at this table, are where the guilt lies, not the people, who get the blame. If you feel no internal conviction that it is a dreadful curse for the state that must be eradicated across the board, we will never defeat corruption”.

    “I want you to understand that I will dare any decisive action, including against the top officials,” said the President. He warned all the heads of government agencies, who were present at the session, that they will be held personally responsible for the state of affairs regarding the suppression of corruption and economic crimes. “Let me make it clear: it is not about waging campaigns, it is about constantly working on it every day,” the head of state said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko said he wanted the Prosecutor General’s Office to truly coordinate efforts of all the law enforcement agencies in the fight against crime and corruption. “The time to click heels is over. We need resolute fight against this evil,” the President said. “So far the Prosecutor General’s Office has failed to deliver”.

    “I notice that a little bit of conspiracy of silence has evolved at the level of district, town, and oblast administrations. They start living in line with their own laws while you may think about living in line with your own laws in the center. If you can govern, then govern the entire system. If you cannot, we’ll have to think about recruiting new people or changing the system,” the head of state said.

    “As a result, police, tax agencies, municipal authorities stew in their own juice, dealing only with highly specified tasks, while an environment conducive to wrongdoing has existed in corporations and institutions for years,” the President remarked.

    “The real fight against the gravest forms of corruption and economic crimes that cause massive material damage and harm the rights and legal interests of citizens should not be replaced by the race for statistics,” the President emphasized.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko said he regretted the lack of proper cooperation among law enforcement agencies. “It is also alarming that prosecutors have failed to take real measures to address the unproductive joint work of operational services and investigational units in assessing the evidence collected to prove economic crimes. Sometimes it is the reason for untimely criminal cases or unjustified termination of criminal cases,” the head of state said.

    He also remarked that the prosecution service substitutes effective coordination of joint work with make work and talks about statistical data. “You have promised you will put a stop to this excessive unnecessary paperwork,” Aleksandr Lukashenko told Prosecutor General Alexander Konyuk.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko criticized the Interior Ministry for poor effort in detection of economic crimes.

    “With huge potential and necessary resources, the department has taken a strange wait-and-see position,” the President noted.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko turned attention of Interior Minister Igor Shunevich to the protracted reorganization process of the main department countering organized crime and corruption. “Despite the fact that anticorruption measures has been made a priority for the department and that the issue was highlighted at the meeting on the reforms in the interior bodies, no decisions have been yet taken on their implementation,” the President said. “Moreover, I have been recently getting more information from the minister regarding certain corruption activities. This information, however, is still too small in comparison with the information I get from other agencies,” he added.

    According to the head of state, the main department countering economic crimes has lost its spearheading role. Despite a difficult situation in the sphere, the number of economic crimes detected by the interior bodies has reduced almost one third over the past three years. “Poor performance on the back of the biggest shortage in law-enforcement officers, which reaches almost 15% and unhealthy staff morale show that the activity of the department has dropped from the sight of both the minister and the heads of oblast departments as well as of the officials that should monitor these processes. I mean the heads of the State Secretariat and the General Prosecutor’s Office,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    “Have a close look into the situation, take necessary measures to rectify it. The leading department of the ministry should not sit out,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed addressing the Interior Minister.

    The President criticized the financial police, and the Financial Monitoring Department for the lack of due performance and financial activities.

    “What efficiency can we talk about if, for example, we do not take necessary measures to bring back foreign currency from abroad, and this is tens of billions of Belarusian rubles taken from the economic turnover of the country,” the President stressed.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko instructed the Chairman of the State Control Committee to look into the issues related to strengthening the management and analysis capabilities of the financial monitoring department. “This department has already proved efficient, but today it is almost swamped with serving requests,” the President said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that state security bodies should be also involved in this work. In his words, keeping in mind the specific character of their activity it is imperative to focus the efforts on enhancing the quality of the monitoring of the operational situation and timely detection of emerging risks, challenges and threats in the fight against corruption and economic crimes.

    The President said that pseudo-entrepreneurship should be eliminated in Belarus.

    “We need to acknowledge that the measures taken by the law enforcement and supervisory bodies of the country have so far failed to fully suppress pseudo-entrepreneurship and, above all, to eliminate it as a highly profitable form of criminal business. This must be done immediately,” the head of state stressed.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the analysis of the detected crimes shows that transactions made with pseudo-business organizations constitute the bulk of the criminal cases in taxation. According to the President, the annual damage to the state has been increasing, while the number of investigated cases has been steadily falling. Because of the sluggishness of supervisory bodies the country’s economy lost more than Br700 billion last year alone.

    “Law enforcement and supervisory authorities often identify such organizations in the final stages of their criminal activities, when the bulk of fictitious transactions had been completed and the funds withdrawn from non-cash circulation,” the head of state said.

    The President noted that the financial investigation bodies give legal evaluation of the actions of the founders or directors of these pseudo-organizations. "But neither the Prosecutor’s Office nor the internal affairs bodies give the legal evaluation of the actions of government officials who register a patently shell company. They also fail to identify the real people behind the business schemes and the actual people who actually run these types of frauds. In fact the so-called scapegoats are brought to justice,” the president said.

    The President instructed the State Control Committee, the General Prosecutor’s Office, the National Center of Legislation and Legal Research to work on the issues concerning the legal framework in counteracting delinquency in payment of debts by making the use of false bankruptcy.

    According to the head of state, the size of the overall overdue accounts of the debtors that undergo bankruptcy proceedings is on a constant rise and has already exceeded Br18 trillion this year. “We should take a careful look into the bankruptcy issue. It is inadmissible that no supervisory authority in the country is responsible for inquiring into falseness or intentionality of bankruptcy and into the cover-up of bankruptcy and resistance to compensate the losses to the creditor,” the President said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko said that the government agencies authorized to inquire into criminal bankruptcy are the interior bodies and the Financial Investigation Department. However, according to the President, the work to identify such crimes should be comprehensive and should involve investigation and verification activities and analysis of financial and economic activities.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko urges the government and the Ministry of Taxes and Duties to bring order to the retail sector.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that, despite an increase of facilities using cash register equipment, there had been no radical progress in taking the revenue out of shady turnover. The head of state believes that the technology used in the cash register equipment today is not perfect. The amount of violations increases every year. At the same time, it is estimated that, by ensuring even a 5% increase in retail with the control system will increase the annual voluntary tax revenue.

    “We must ensure the unconditional fulfillment of tax obligations by all market participants and, jointly with the parties concerned, implement a range of measures, including economic ones, to prevent illegal movement of goods via the state border,” the President emphasized.

    “No agency, no scope of activity must escape the attention of law enforcement and auditing agencies, particularly the areas that affect strategic interests of the state and draw the highest interest of citizens,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

    He drew attention of the Council of Ministers, the State Control Committee to the need to continue working to improve auditing agencies. “At present there is no auditing agency in Belarus, which is tasked with auditing the corporations outside departmental control. The matter needs thinking about but I would like to warn you that the government machine that has just been optimized should not be inflated. The number of civil servants should not be inflated,” the head of state noted.

    “Quality is the overriding concern, not quantity. Belarusians are savvy, particularly self-employed businessmen. If we pulled one, two, three perpetrators at a time in specific areas, they would understand what we want of them. But since there is no systemic fight, since we respond to outbreaks only, things stay like that,” the President said.

    The Belarus President added: “I constantly hear the words ‘room for mistake’. But there are differences between mistakes. We don’t want mistakes to become a system, with money flowing from the public purse to individual ones. Mistakes should be corrected and criminals should be punished. Law enforcement agencies should clearly differentiate between mistakes and crimes”.

    “No innocents must be made responsible. People must not be made responsible for economic crimes and corruption selectively, as it often happens. Something along the lines: these are my friends, even if they have violated something, we will turn a blind eye and replace punishment with a quiet warning in a bathhouse, on a picnic, during a party, while hunting or fishing. And those are some unknown people or they want too much, let’s wring their heads off. I want to tell you something: if such things are attempted, those, who indulge in it, will have their heads wrung off. Overriding justice must be at the base! If you are guilty, you will face punishment whoever you are!” the head of state said.

    Addressing the Prosecutor General and the Chairman of the Investigation Committee, the President noted they were personally responsible for observing the law during the investigation of criminal cases, particularly economic crimes. “Those, who commit a crime, must repair the damage in full and then face the punishment they deserve. You should constantly keep an eye on it. The money stolen from the state and the society must be repaid threefold or fivefold,” the President stressed.

    “I emphasize it again: without an effective economy, without the smoothly running state apparatus not infected with a virus of corruption, we will not be able to solve the tasks of modernization and dynamic development of our country,” the President said.