The SPBILF session discussed the balance of powers in economic crimes trials.
The discussion was moderated by Aleksandr Kalinin, President of OPORA RUSSIA, All-Russian Non-governmental Organization of Small and Medium Business. It brought together Dmitrii Petrovichev, Head of Bureau for the Protection of the Rights of Enterpreneurs and Investors Under OPORA RUSSIA; Aleksey Zakharov, Deputy Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation; Natalya Pavlova, Judge of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation; Vadim Fedorov, Stats Secretary and Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation; Aleksandr Avdeyko, Head of legal Department at Ministry of internal Affairs of the Russian Federation; Aleksandr Varvarin, Vice-President for Legal Regulation and Enforcement at Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs; Vladislav Grib, Russian Federal Bar Vice President; Vladimir Gruzdev, Chairman of the Executive Board at Association of Lawyers of Russia; and Alexey Akanyev, legal practitioner from Vladivostok.
In his opening remarks, Aleksandr Kalinin noted that the balance of court’s powers, prosecutor’s office, investigation and advocacy is a challenge for any legal system. He explained it by saying that: "In many ways people, businessmen, and public administrators understand whether the legal system of a country is fair or not."
Dmitrii Petrovichev, Head of Bureau for the Protection of the Rights of Enterpreneurs and Investors Under OPORA RUSSIA, presented statistics on the protection of entrepreneurs' rights in the criminal and administrative fields. "About 30% of the claims we receive from entrepreneurs are related to illegal criminal prosecution," he said. According to Petrovichev, between 2017 and 2018 the number of criminal cases grew considerably. For example, last year there was a 51,4% surge in claims related to unlabelled products manufacturing, a 39,7% increase in money laundering claims, and a 14,6% rise in claims associated with illegal entrepreneurship.
In his speech, Aleksey Zakharov, Deputy Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, stressed that the Prosecutor's Office of Russia is committed to improving business climate and relations between government and business. "Following the president's order, sweeping measures are to be taken in the near future. They are meant to revise the entire regulatory framework that establishes mandatory business requirements, and to considerably scale down existing administrative barriers," he said.
Vadim Fedorov, Stats Secretary and Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation spoke about the policy being developed by the Ministry of Justice. It is related to business and advocacy, interaction of the Ministry of Justice and the judicial system, and legislation novelties. He noted: "To make sure the business community achieves the goals it has set, we need effective administrative and legal mechanisms, since they don't allow prosecution to be used as a means of putting pressure on business and they help to protect entrepreneurs from being illegally prosecuted for failing to fulfill their contractual obligations, especially when prosecution is associated with ordinary business risks," the expert explained. According to Fedorov, Russian legal system has been significantly modernized over the past few years, with a number of federal laws being adopted to promote transparency of the judicial system.
Natalya Pavlova, Judge of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, said that court's strategic task today lies in ensuring sound judicial practice that would meet entrepreneurs' expectations and be clear to them. She said: "All of us are committed to ensuring proper and fair business regulation."
Aleksandr Avdeyko, Head of Legal Department at Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, mentioned that in order to ensure balance of court’s powers, prosecutor’s office, investigation and advocacy, each of the actors needs to thoroughly execute their tasks. He also noted that since 2016 Russia has been committed to humanizing economic crimes legislation.
Aleksandr Varvarin, Vice-President for Legal Regulation and Enforcement at Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, raised the issue of applying penalties for violations of operational investigation legislation, following the example of a similar practice in control and supervision.
According to Vladislav Grib, Russian Federal Bar Vice President, electing courts chairs and appointing investigative judges may well promote the balance of powers. "We need to thoroughly revise crime-related policies and decriminalize dozens of articles," he added.
Vladimir Gruzdev, Chairman of the Executive Board at Association of Lawyers of Russia, underlined that the number of imprisoned individuals has lowered: 560,000 as of January 1, 2019 against over a million people as of January 1, 2000. He said: "President's political will is clearly aimed at taking good care of people and bringing down the number of imprisoned persons."
Alexey Akanyev, legal practitioner from Vladivostok, believes that prosecutors need to be granted powers in order to do their job well. "I am sure that prosecutors should be able to cancel decisions of investigating officers and heads of investigating agencies, as well as be able to make legally binding orders," said Akanyev. Moreover, he believes prosecutors' involvement is essential at its pre-trial stage.
In his summary of the discussion, the moderator said economic crimes legislation should be further improved and brought up to date by joint efforts. He stressed that this can only be achieved if all law enforcement and legislation actors make a substantive contribution.
The St. Petersburg International Legal Forum takes place on May 14–18 in the Eastern wing of the General Staff Building of the State Hermitage. SPBILF is organized under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation.