Amoral Methods in Struggle Against Bribery

The investigation had been drawn out; the accused had been ill. Then a court date was fixed, but the main witness didn't appear. The date was postponed; again, he didn't show. Only after being threatened with contempt of court did he appear in the Moscow City Court: a tall, dark-haired man in a light jacket, dark glasses, with an appearance, as they would say in the theater, of the "lover boy" protagonist. He was 35. The woman in the dock, sitting in an iron cage, was 20 years older.

He was asked, "Why did you go to her home? Were you courting her?" "That's my job," he said. "I court people."

Anatoly Ivanovich speaks tersely about his job: He's a businessman. He couldn't appear in court before because of his numerous business trips.

At the time, he represented a foreign firm and was looking for a place in Moscow for an office. He went to the Culture Department in one of the city's districts. He got to know the department's chief, a thin, energetic woman; call her Natalya Petrovna. Now, tormented by disease, interrogations and the crowded conditions of Butyrka prison, she looks at him, steely-eyed, from the cage.

Their relationship developed in the standard way: He was insistent but courteous. He smiled in that promising, masculine way. He asked for a place for his office. Besieged by phone calls and petitioners, Natalya Petrovna suggested he come the next day. He came.

Their conversation was again interrupted by telephone calls. Anatoly Ivanovich said, "I'd like to talk about this in a quiet place, say, in a restaurant." Natalya Petrovna, a divorcee, agreed. "When will you be finished?" he asked. "At 6? I'll come by."

The phone rang again. It was Yelena Sem-yonovna; what was Natalya doing tonight? Natalya said she had been invited to a restaurant. Anatoly Ivanovich gallantly invited Yelena, too.

At 6, Natalya Petrovna looked out the door and saw that Anatoly, in a fashionable suit, looked exquisite: a New Russian, a man of style! The evening promised to be romantic.

Anatoly was in fine form. He treated them to Absolut vodka and Portuguese wine. He charmed them with his conversation. At times, he touched on business matters, talking about the conditions of his firm's agreement with the department.

But at times the New Russian started to get nervous. He would suddenly have to call somewhere and, leaving his jacket on the chair, he would go downstairs to make the call from the car, where he had a satellite phone. Or he left for the men's room, once again leaving his jacket on the chair.

The women didn't pay much attention to these incidents. They had no idea that Anatoly had left his jacket, which concealed a dictaphone, in hopes they might say something compromising in his absence. They were happy to be entertained. At midnight, when the car eased up to the entrance of the restaurant, Natalya suggested they go to her place.

So they went. They drank coffee. Yelena Sem-yonovna talked about a ballet festival in Yalta. At the time, it was an expensive venture, and Natalya noted that the average Muscovite couldn't afford it.

When Anatoly left and went down the stairs with Yelena to the car, he said that Natalya was an interesting woman and that he liked her. Yelena later told her friend about this conversation. And it hit the mark.

From documents in the case: "Anatoly Ivanovich M--ov ... took to the militia the money he was supposed to relay after signing the agreement. The serial numbers on the banknotes were written down."

Anatoly appeared at the department a week after his interlude with Natalya at the restaurant. "Tolya, I'm really busy today; let's do it another time." But Anatoly was insistent. So she asked him in. Natalya Petrovna signed the agreement. Once again, the phone was ringing; people were walking in and out. Others were waiting in the reception area. Anatoly, taking a copy of the agreement, walked out. She walked him out, returned and saw a packet of money on the table. Just what she would need for the Crimean trip, to go to the festival.

What should a woman attracted to a man think of such a present? Gather her colleagues and announce that she had found the money, incriminating someone close to her on suspicion of bribery? To answer his kindness with meanness? No. He would call this evening. And then ... But she couldn't take the money, and it couldn't lie around here.

Taking it from the desk, Natalya went out into the reception area and asked her secretary to take the money and put it in her wallet, saying, "We'll deal with this later." Seeing that Anatoly was near the entrance and returning, she said to her colleague, "Good, he's coming back."

Natalya Petrovna was standing at the entrance to her reception area when Anatoly appeared in the hallway. She tried to say something to him, but he was surrounded by people who came toward her.

Then he disappeared, like a ghost, and she was accused of taking bribes and taken to jail, like a dangerous criminal. For a long time during the investigation and during the first hearings, Anatoly didn't appear. Only later, in the courtroom, through a metal screen, Natalya Petrovna finally saw him.

When the militia took her in and asked to see her wallet, Natalya decided not to say anything incriminating about Anatoly. She was sure he had wanted to make her a present of the Crimean trip. But the militia thought otherwise. Not finding the money in Natalya's wallet, the investigators asked if she had received any money. "No," she said. They asked the secretary for her wallet, and, after finding the banknotes, they drew up an indictment.

When presented to the investigator in prison, Natalya, still hoping to save Anatoly, kept saying, "I don't know anything about the money." Only later, when she remembered some of the strange things about Anatoly's behavior and finally understood that he was provoking her into taking a bribe, did she say, "Anatoly Ivanovich put the money on my desk as I was leaving the office." But by then neither the investigators nor the court believed her.

Anatoly Ivanovich was not, while he was courting Natalya Petrovna, a representative of a foreign firm. He did not need a place for his office. He needed only to establish that she took bribes.

But this amoral trap, this lie, playing on the emotions of a lonely woman, didn't interest the court.

I'm not against using agents in the fight against bribery. It's difficult enough to catch criminals with hard evidence. I object not to an agent's catching someone in the act of taking bribes, but I do object to seducing someone to do so.

A few months after this incident, a new criminal code was passed and, according to Article 304, such provocations are outlawed. Under the new law, "lover boy" should have been the one sitting in the dock. But the law is not retroactive. Unfortunately.

Igor Gamayunov is a staff writer for Literaturnaya Gazeta. He contributed this essay to The Moscow Times.