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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Where to Look to Take Aim at Corruption

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No one disputes that corruption is rife in Russia. President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged the problem many times.

But whenever a foreigner raises concern, Putin bristles, responding that many countries, including those that criticize Russia, have their own problems.

The latest incident came Friday, when Putin replied to criticism from Spain's Joseph Borrell, the president of the European Parliament, by saying that all Spanish mayors were corrupt and in jail.

Putin is right in observing that other countries suffer from corruption. But it wouldn't hurt him to take a closer look at the scandals and court cases those foreign examples generate.

Take the Spanish case. Mayor Marisol Yague and Deputy Mayor Isabel Garcia Marcos, along with five other municipal officials, were arrested and ordered held without bail in a construction kickback scheme in the Mediterranean resort town of Marbella. They are now awaiting trial.

Compare this to the case of former Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov, who was arrested in Switzerland in 2005 on U.S. charges of stealing more than $9 million earmarked for improving the safety of Russian reactors. He was extradited to Moscow earlier this year after the Russian government argued that he should face corruption charges at home. But it remains unclear when his trial will start in earnest. A court recently sent back his case for further investigation, and Adamov is now free after promising not to leave town.

If the court thinks more investigation is needed in the Adamov case, it would be interesting to hear what it thinks about the activities of IT and Communications Minister Leonid Reiman. In May, a Zurich tribunal ruled that Reiman had abused his office by using his post to help a commercial group in which he was the sole beneficiary.

The commercial tribunal's ruling is not a confirmation of criminal activity, but it should have been enough to prompt an inquiry by Russian prosecutors.

Or how about Pavel Borodin, the former presidential property chief who was found guilty by a Geneva judge of laundering millions of dollars in kickback schemes from Swiss construction firms that refurbished the Kremlin? Far from facing jail time, Borodin still holds a government post as the state secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union, a position to which Putin appointed him.

None of this demonstrates much commitment from the Kremlin to fight state corruption. Even the president's anti-corruption council has been relatively quiet. It only made headlines when then-Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was tapped to chair it in 2003, and then early the next year when Mikhail Fradkov took over as head of both the council and the government.

It is hard to believe that much progress will be made against corruption as long as Putin is more interested in talking about Marbella than about Moscow.