Considering the status of today's global financial situation, reforming criminal legislation pertaining to the economic sphere of Russian law is critical, according to experts from the Center for Legal and Economic Studies. At a 4 November 2010 panel discussion, leading Russian economic and legal specialists extrapolated on potential reforms that could be made to the Russian criminal code, including Vladimir Radchenko, Chief Scientist and Leading Expert, Center for Legal and Economic Studies, and former First Deputy Chairman, Supreme Court of the Russian Federation; Viktor Zhuykov, Leading Expert, Center for Legal and Economic Studies, and former Deputy Chairman, Supreme Court of the Russian Federation; Elena Novikova, Scientific Leader, Center for Legal and Economic Studies; and Leonid Grigoriev, Leading Expert, Center for Legal and Economic Studies; President, Institute for Energy and Finance; and former Deputy Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation.
The panel speakers explained that there are two major problems with the criminal law as applied to economic activity: excessive repressiveness and artificial criminalization. Leonid Grigoriev argued that Russian law regulates the financial arena in such a way that criminalizes economic transactions that may not necessarily require "criminal repression on the part of the state." Furthermore, the legal codes in place employ vague vocabulary that provides Russian law enforcement the chance to interpret the legislation as needed. This combination of factors threatens the Russian economic sphere's ability to exist legally and actually thrive simultaneously; as Grigoriev noted, "normal businesses live under the fear of prosecution."
The panelists elucidated that, in order to ameliorate the issues this legal context imposes on the Russian financial arena, it is imperative that the Russian government reforms existing legislation. Editing the legal codes to contain more specfic vocabulary would significantly impact the economic sphere's functionality. If the legal codes specifically explained which acts the government considers criminal, commercial bodies operating in the Russian Federation would be confident in the legality of their business practices. Vladimir Radchenko highlighted that increasing the specificity of the language in the legal codes would also improve business practices: "the more clearly defined the laws are… the less corruption there is."
Elena Novikova addressed the existing challenges to reforming the economic legal codes, whose foundations, she explained, are contradictory to the Russian state's needs: the laws should exist to protect those who utilize "liberal ideas," not to criminalize entrepreneurial activity in such a young country. "This movement of people in law represents a changing country," Grigoriev concluded, adding that the Russian Federation is "trying to find a new stable structure" for the people.
By Amy Shannon Liedy
Blair Ruble, Director, Kennan Institute