Five Different Shades of Legal Nihilism

It’s easy to admire Yana Yakovleva.  There aren’t many business people who are able to escape from 7 months of bogus pre-trial detenion, and then actually stick around to do something about it.  Her work at Business Solidarity deserves attention and support.

This is from her latest article in The Moscow Times, which also ran in Vedomosti, on the perversity of the Russian justice system as an instrument for business and corruption:

Generally speaking, there are several clear categories of people ordering raids and actually conducting them. The people ordering the raids are, as a rule: a) monopolistic companies that seize ownership of independent businesses to swallow up their assets and neutralize any nascent competition; b) officials seeking property at practically no cost, which they then register in the name of a wife or other relative; c) former business partners who, lacking a legal tradition of civilized asset splits, opt to “eliminate their opponent”; or d) law enforcement agents who open criminal proceedings against businesspeople to coerce them into a forced takeover or as a means of confiscating goods or property that can be resold on the market.

State officials also go after entrepreneurs to punish them for notcooperating in corrupt schemes, which could mean interfering in thebusiness or even initiating trumped-up criminal proceedings against theindividual who refused to “cooperate.” Falsified evidence is widely usedby the state to make its case, which is possible because of thecomplete absence of an independent judiciary. As a rule, judges at alllevels side with the prosecution.

In many cases, rulings by corrupt judges are used to expropriateproperty and serve as the basis for future criminal proceedings againstthe targeted individual or company. The authorities conduct surprisesearches of corporate offices and seize records for a criminal case inwhich the results are rigged in advance. Employees are interrogated andthreatened with criminal charges unless they sign off on fabricatedtestimony to be used against their employer.