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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Unit to Provide Police Backup to Antitrust Raids

The Interior Ministry has set up a new unit to support the work of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service in the fight against price-fixing cartels, Vedomosti reported Friday.

The new unit gives the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service police backup, which should allow it to secure the information it needs for its investigations.

"This is a young structure, but in a while it will turn into a serious organization -- the likes of the antitrust division within the U.S. Department of Justice, which has huge authority," Igor Artemyev, head of the federal watchdog, told the newspaper.

"Our employees come to companies, but they do not have the authority to check their computers, their archives. Yet when we come with a policeman, they cannot turn us down," service spokesman Konstantin Dorokhin said by telephone on Friday.

Raids on companies will now be conducted without warning, Dorokhin said, as is the case in most Western countries.

He declined to comment on phone tapping, which currently requires a court ruling.

The Interior Ministry, which set up the anti-monopoly unit a few months ago, did not return repeated requests for comment Friday.

While some experts admitted such a service was necessary, they said that in a country as corrupt as Russia it could do more harm than good.

Russia is often rated as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

The new unit may end up being used for economic or political pressure, agreed Kirill Kabanov, chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Committee.

"The idea is good, but this efficient mechanism being thrown into a cesspool will be wasted," he said.

He added that phone tapping would be useless because businessmen are unlikely to discuss such things by telephone.