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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'We need bribes to survive' traffic cop says

A roadside "fine" paid to traffic inspectors is such an everyday Moscow occurrence that the line between a legitimate fine and a bribe has become hopelessly blurred. One GAI officer, under conditions of anonymity, gave this surprising interview to correspondent Martine Painchaud about the problems that have created this situation.


- Do you take bribes?


-Yes, I do.


-Why?


- You understand, in order not to take bribes you have to earn a normal salary. A salary that enables you to live decently so you don't have to wrack your brain about how you're going to feed your family.


Sometimes, when it was difficult to find food, instead of money I would ask them to give me their potatoes or tomatoes just bought at the market. That's what we are reduced to because our salary is minimal. The medical workers went on strike and they were right to do so. Unfortunately, in the militia we have no trade union; it's forbidden. If we had a union, we would have been on strike too. All the normal people with whom I talk, they say: To risk your life for so little money is ridiculous.


- Is it true that GAI inspectors in general take bribes?


- Yes, it's true. How much an inspector takes simply depends on what post he occupies. A simple inspector on the road will take small change from a driver for running a traffic light or violating a road sign. The higher the GAI's position, the more money he will take. For example, the inspector responsible for technical inspection (laughing), he has the power to make a lot of problems for you if he decides your car is not in order, so he is in a position to ask for a lot more money from the driver.


- How many take bribes?


- The majority take bribes. Of course, there are . . . GAI who work honestly, but not many. In general, they do take bribes. It also depends on the mood of the militiaman. If he is in a good mood he will take a bribe, but if he got up on the wrong side of the bed he may just write a "protocol" and take your licence away without wanting to make a deal.


- How do you feel about the fact that militiamen, whose responsibility it is to keep law and order on the streets of Moscow, can be bought?


- It's bad, but I cannot condemn them. If I received a normal salary I wouldn't take bribes. Right now, without bribes I wouldn't be able to feed my wife who is pregnant.


- What about a foreign driver?


- Oh yes, (laughing) if they come across foreigners they take dollars and gifts.


- Do you talk about bribetaking amongst yourselves?


- No, in principle nobody discusses this. Everyone keeps to himself unless it's a very close friend, then you can boast about the souvenirs you got from a foreigner for example.


We take bribes in order to survive. We are not doing it so we can play at the casino or buy ourselves a house or a car. For most of us it's a matter of survival. I take bribes so I will have enough money to feed my family until the next pay check.