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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Corrupt Police Come Under Scrutiny

MTProsecutors are looking to create a web of informers to battle bribe-taking traffic police, long the bane of motorists.
Prosecutors opened a criminal probe into bribe-taking by traffic police and the government may create a network of informants to battle graft as President Vladimir Putin enters his last year in power.

"The instances of traffic police being involved in bribery, abuse of office and exceeding their powers, as well as illegal fines and extortion, have become more frequent," the Prosecutor General's Office said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday.

The State Traffic Safety Inspectorate, or GIBDD, issues licenses, road permits and imposes fines, which are often paid in cash and at the scene of the infraction.

The Economic Development and Trade Ministry is working on a comprehensive anti-corruption program that includes establishing a network of informants throughout the government and installing cameras in offices where bureaucrats meet businessmen, Vedomosti reported Wednesday.

The Federal Customs Service, which collects 42 percent of state revenue, has its own program, which includes paying informants and spying on officers.

Almost half of all Russians, 48 percent, consider traffic cops corrupt, a poll by the Levada Center showed last month. A Public Opinion Foundation survey two years earlier found that 85 percent of Russians "wouldn't be surprised to hear that traffic police were involved in the theft and sale of foreign cars."

The Interior Ministry, which oversees the traffic police, refused to say how many officers are in the GIBDD and declined to comment on the investigation. Nobody answered the phone at the GIBDD's news service when Bloomberg called for comment.

Corruption has increased over the past few years as the state strengthens its hold over the economy, according to organizations such as Moscow-based Indem, which tracks graft. Putin, who must step down next year after two consecutive terms, has called corruption one of the most acute problems facing the country.

The Public Chamber, an advisory body of leading members of society appointed by Putin, this month called it "a national security threat."

Putin created a new anti-corruption body this month to bring the country into line with United Nations and Council of Europe norms. Putin appointed Kremlin aide Viktor Ivanov, a fellow former KGB agent, head of the new body.

The country ranked No. 126 in Berlin-based Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index, alongside with Niger and Sierra Leone.