Politically Motivated Anticorruption Enforcement: What Russia Can Show Us

The recent focus on the unchecked corruption in the Sochi Olympics made me reflect on what Russia can teach us about the costs and benefits of politically-motivated corruption prosecution, discussed in Matthew’s February 18 post. Businesspeople with close ties to Putin won and abused lucrative Olympic contracts with no repercussions from the state. Ironically, opposition blogger Alexei Navalny, who publicly exposed the rampant corruption in Olympic construction projects, was the target of a fabricated corruption prosecution in July of last year, and placed under house arrest (allegedly for violating the terms of his earlier suspended sentence) just last week–perhaps not coincidentally, right after the conclusion of the Sochi Olympics.

Navalny’s prosecution is just one example of the fraught landscape of corruption prosecution in Russia. In a 2008 paper entitled “Law as Politics: The Russian Procuracy and its Investigative Committee,” Ethan Burger and Mary Holland provide excellent background on the politicization of the Russian Procuracy, as well as the vivid examples of the Procuracy’s politically motivated activities described in this post. The Russian experience demonstrates that the costs of targeted corruption prosecutions may be higher and the benefits much more elusive than Matthew suggests. Continue reading