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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Over 31,000 Corruption Cases Opened From January to June

Police opened more than 31,000 investigations into state corruption in the first six months of this year, and about 500 officials have been arrested and charged, the Interior Ministry said Thursday.

Nikolai Ovchinnikov, head of the Interior Ministry's organized crime and terrorism department, said the 31,000 figure was an 70 percent increase from the first half of last year -- a possible reflection of a Kremlin-orchestrated drive to crack down on corruption.

Ovchinnikov told reporters that among the cases, a Natural Resources Ministry official had been charged with accepting a $270,000 bribe from a large organized group in Moscow that had used its "connections in several federal ministries" to obtain businesses in the coal-mining industry, Interfax reported.

Ovchinnikov also said the head of a district in the Novosibirsk region was arrested last week on suspicion of extorting a $300,000 bribe.

Bribes to bureaucrats, police, educators and doctors cost businesses and ordinary people $319 billion per year, according to a recent study by Indem, an anti-corruption think tank, and the Romir Monitoring polling agency.

Transparency International ranks Russia as the 90th-least corrupt country out of 145 nations included in its annual corruption index.

Kirill Kabanov, head of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, a nongovernmental organization, said corruption was "the most effective business" in Russia and that the 70 percent increase noted by the Interior Ministry provided no scope on the depth of the problem.

"He could have said 200 percent, and it wouldn't make things any different," Kabanov said. "It's just a way of imitating the job they're supposed to be doing."

Ovchinnikov also said police had uncovered about 20,000 crimes committed by organized crime groups in the first six months of this year, a 15 percent increase from last year.