The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Putin Yawns as Criminals Loot the Country

A well organized group of powerful interests in Russia shipped $50 billion of the state’s revenues abroad in 2012, according to the widely respected and straight-shooting head of Russia’s central bank. The disclosure is another indicator of the rampant corruption in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Reuters has the story:

“You get the impression that they are all controlled by one well organized group of people,” [Sergei] Ignatyev, 65, told Vedomosti newspaper in a front-page interview after the study found that more than half the flows involved firms linked to each other.

“With a serious concentration of efforts by law enforcement agencies, I think it is possible to find these people.”

Putin doesn’t seem to think this is interesting or important news. Nor does the Russian government. During a hearing with the Russian parliament, lawmakers did not ask Ignatyev about his comments, and he did not bring them up himself. Later, when asked by journalists to elaborate, he declined to specify who the “organized group of people” involved in spiriting away all this money. And publication of the study backing up Ignatyev’s claims, initially set to be published on the central bank’s website yesterday, has been delayed.

Fifty billion dollars is 2.5 percent of Russia’s GDP. This is a sum that would touch off an enormous scandal in any other country in the world. In Russia, it’s worth a shrug.

Published on February 21, 2013 1:39 pm