MOSCOW, Russia – The amount of the average bribe in Russia has nearly doubled this year, reaching 208,000 rubles, as the country’s currency has shed value amid Western sanctions and an economic downturn, according to Interior Ministry estimates cited by pro-government Izvestia daily.
This compares to about 109,000 rubles Russians are believed to have been paying or receiving as an average bribe in 2014, though police concede that their estimates may not be completely accurate, the report said.
In dollars, that increase is substantially less significant: a little over $3,050 in 2014 vs. $3,315 at today’s rate. But in rubles, it isn’t pretty.
“Functionaries have grown used to taking bribes in dollars, or tying their amount to the Central Bank’s exchange rate,” a member of the Public Chamber, Dmitry Chugunov, was quoted by Izvestia as saying.
But the chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, Kirill Kabanov, said police estimates of an “average” bribe may not be worth much, Izvestia reported.
“My colleagues and I tried to make our own estimates, but then we realized that it’s just impossible, because this type of crime is latent, and so all calculations would be incorrect,” he was quoted as saying.
Roman Vernega, a lawyer, argued that bribery is essentially a victimless crime, benefiting the both parties in the transaction, so neither is likely to complain to the police.
But he conceded that police informants or undercover agent who help expose corruption also allow to record the amounts of bribes that change hands, according to the report.
A corruption perception index by Transparency International ranked Russia 136th last year. That’s just a bit better than Uganda and the African island nation of Comoros and a tie with Nigeria and Lebanon.
Ironically, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin seemed all too happy to sign into law a bill this spring slashing fines for giving and receiving bribes, after a Kremlin envoy, Garry Minkh, scoffed corruption penalties are rarely being honored anyway.