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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tax Police Chief Will Be Tough but 'Enlightened'

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Mikhail Fradkov, the newly appointed head of the Tax Police, is a tough cookie like his ousted predecessor Vyacheslav Soltaganov. But he is unlikely to go after suspected tax evaders with heavy-handed tactics such as the armed raids ordered by Soltaganov.

And unlike Soltaganov, some analysts said, Fradkov has no ties to the Family, the group of Kremlin insiders who influenced government policy under President Boris Yeltsin.

Moon-faced and soft-spoken, Fradkov said Wednesday that he accepted his new duties without any doubts and regarded the appointment as a sign of trust in him by President Vladimir Putin.

"Our aim will be to create an efficient system of financial controls," Fradkov said in televised remarks. "A great deal of attention will be paid to the repatriation of capital and tougher control over the banking sector and insurance business."

Often described as a moderate liberal, Fradkov, 50, has been in government since the early 1970s. He started as a foreign trade official at the Soviet Embassy in India and served on the Soviet trade committee in the 1980s. After a brief stint as head of Ingosstrakh in 1998, he became trade minister. Since May, he'd been in charge of creating proposals to fight economic crimes like money laundering and capital flight as deputy head of the Security Council.

His new job as Tax Police chief gives him the means to implement those proposals. The Tax Police is a Cabinet-level body answering directly to President Vladimir Putin.

"He is known as a tough administrator," said Yaroslav Lissovolik, political analyst with the Renaissance Capital brokerage. "He will be a kind of enlightened tax policeman — a tough one, but also capable of delivering the right message to the masses and making sure Putin's reforms are understood by the electorate."

Former Tax Police chief Soltaganov, 51, took a lot of heat from the media last year after carrying out raids — complete with masked men toting automatic weapons — on leading companies like Media-MOST, ORT television and Tyumen Oil Co.

While Putin handed Fradkov's job on the Security Council to Soltaganov, the appointment was an obvious demotion, Andrei Ryabov of the Moscow Carnegie Center said Thursday.

Security Council head Sergei Ivanov was replaced Wednesday by Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, leaving the council a largely toothless organization, he said.

Soltaganov came from the infamous Soviet corruption-fighting agency known as OBKhSS, or the Department for Combating Theft of Socialist Property. He was appointed head of the Tax Police in March 1999.

As Tax Police chief, he pushed for the formation of a government task force to fight financial crimes. The fate of his proposed financial intelligence service was unclear Thursday.

Soltaganov also spoke out in favor of using anonymous tips to launch investigations, an approach that was probably too draconian for the Putin administration, Lissovolik said.

Ryabov said Soltaganov's dismissal was a significant step toward shedding the influence of the Family. Soltaganov has maintained close ties with members of Yeltsin's inner circle like oil magnate and Chukotka Governor Roman Abramovich, he said.

The Russian press has also linked Soltaganov and Abramovich. Last year, for example, Soltaganov summoned Chukotka's then-Governor Alexander Nazarov for a meeting during the gubernatorial race, press reports said. Nazarov withdrew his candidacy shortly afterward.

Whatever stance Fradkov adopts in his new job, he will always have the watchful eye of a trusted Putin ally behind him. In promoting Fradkov, Putin appointed Federal Security Service Lieutenant-General Sergei Veryovkin-Rokhalsky as deputy head of the Tax Police. Veryovkin-Rokhalsky is a career KGB and then FSB officer from the Leningrad region. Since 1993, he had headed the FSB offices in the Far East.