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4 Dec 2017

OSCE keen to enhance cooperation with Belarus in combating financial crime

MINSK, 4 December (BelTA) - The OSCE would like to enhance cooperation with Belarus in combating corruption and financial crimes, Andrei Muntean, Senior Economic Affairs Officer, Head of the Economic Governance Unit, Office of the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, said during a roundtable in Minsk, BelTA has learned.

Andrei Muntean noted that this is the first such event organized with Belarusian colleagues. “But we look forward to further activities, in Minsk or other locations. If necessary, we will help involve other countries, other partners and experts. We stand ready to further expand cooperation with Belarus in this part. We are interested in this,” he said.

According to the OSCE representative, discussing such topics as combating corruption and financial crime is very important. “We are pleased to be in Belarus, because earlier we did not work here. We are pleased that we have partners here because the OSCE cannot work independently in some supranational space when it comes to specific themes. It should be noted that although this is the first step, our cooperation is much more efficient than it could have been,” Andrei Muntean said.

He drew attention to the fact that the OSCE is not trying to impose a certain policy on partner countries. “Our task is to organize the expert dialogue on topics that are of interest to a particular state, to invite experts and major international players. But the choice of topics for discussion is up to the state,” Andrei Muntean said.

Deputy Head of the Financial Investigations Department at the Belarusian State Control Committee Alexander Prakopenko stressed the importance of such expert dialogue for Belarus. “Thanks to the information technology, criminals can now open, in a matter of minutes, businesses and run them from anywhere in the world. The scandals of recent years have shown this. For example, thanks to the Panama papers the whole world learned about the real owners of offshore companies. We understand perfectly well that big money goes through offshore companies. The presence of such companies make it difficult to investigate financial crimes. Crime has no borders, but law enforcement authorities are limited by the legislative requirements when communicating with each other. As financial crime is transnational in nature, we are interested to learn more about the experience of foreign colleagues,” he said.

Alexander Prakopenko also spoke about some of the results gained by the Financial Investigation Department in the fight against corruption. In his words, before 2015 the department was not authorized to conduct corruption-related inspections. “We dealt with economic crimes only. If there was a corruption case, we had to hand the materials over to other law enforcement agencies. We were given this opportunity in 2015. Over the time we have detected 553 corruption crimes. We have also detected 1247 cases of tax evasion and 72 cases of criminal bankruptcy since 2015. Eighteen criminal cases were opened concerning offences related to money laundering,” the representative of the State Control Committee said.

According to him, corruption schemes are changing in Belarus. "The current schemes are primarily related to the opening of offshore companies abroad, with corruption proceeds transferred there. If we talk about the corruption, when someone is caught red-handed, such cases are becoming fewer. Schemes of obtaining bribes through offshore firms are gaining pace today. This leads to the legalization of criminal proceeds, and these funds can be used to purchase real estate, do business, etc. This is a complex financial crime,” noted Alexander Prakopenko.

Minsk is hosting a panel discussion on international cooperation against corruption and financial crimes on 4-5 December. The event has been organized by the Financial Investigation Department of the State Control Committee and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Taking part in the event are representatives of the State Control Committee, the Prosecutor General's Office, the Investigative Committee, the Academy of the Interior Ministry, and also OSCE experts from the European Union, Russia and Moldova.

The main goal of the event is to share experience and knowledge in the field of combating corruption and financial crimes, and also to develop the relevant lines for interagency and international cooperation in the area. The participants are also considering the use of effective analytical IT tools aimed at early detection of potential criminal activities in the area, and practical aspects of setting up joint teams to investigate and analyze the risks in the fight against corruption and financial crimes.

 

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