With the recent apparent contract killing of Andrei Kozlov - a respected (if disliked) first deputy chairman of the Central Bank - Russia has returned to the 1990s. In those years, killing of anti-corruption officials was more common. It is a horrible development when someone who appears to be a legitimate caretaker of Russia rules of law is quickly and brutally murdered on the streets. From the Reuters news article:
His murder plunged Russia's financial establishment into shock. With his department closing banks at the rate of two or three a week, Kozlov had no shortage of enemies and his colleagues said he had paid the ultimate price for his zeal.Further commentary from RIA Novosti (opinion column):
"He was at the cutting edge of the battle against financial crime. He was a very brave and honest man and through his activity he repeatedly encroached on the interests of unprincipled financiers," Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said in a tribute.
Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, leading a minute's silence at a cabinet meeting, said Kozlov's death was a great loss.
Anatoly Chubais, chief executive of Russia's electricity monopoly, described the murder as an "impudent challenge" to Russia's political class. "The response of the authorities must be tough, prompt and pitiless," he said.
Russia has about 1,200 banks. Many of them are tiny outfits with little capital and banking experts say allegations of malpractice are common.
"They assassinated Kozlov because he withdrew bank licenses. It is horrible that these attacks still happen in Russia. The government must find the killers," Vladislav Reznik, chairman of the State Duma (parliament)'s financial committee, told Reuters.
Andrei Kozlov was not well liked in the banking community, although his high level of professionalism was generally acknowledged. One Central Bank colleague of his recalled that during the summer crisis of 2004, when several banks had their licenses withdrawn, a caged goat was driven in an open Gazel van before the windows of the Moscow City branch of the Central Bank (not even where Kozlov's office was situated) - giving a clear hint [Kozlov's name calls to mind a goat in Russian] to the functionary who spoiled the lives of many an unscrupulous banker. But deep down everybody understood: the Central Bank, through Andrei Kozlov, was only laying down the ground rules. Perhaps they were rough-edged, but Russia's banking system needed to be civilized, purged of crime, and made stable and transparent. In effect everything was being done for the good of the ordinary client and customer.One of the most discouraging things about this murder is its reminder that life can be very cheap in Russia. For all the decency that I have seen in people in my travels in Russia, there is also a dark side, all too well known by Russians.
Specialists say that nearly half the requests for opening criminal cases against money laundering came from the Bank of Russia, with the rest furnished by the Federal Financial Monitoring Service. And someone got his revenge.
The outcome of the Kozlov murder is likely to be minimal. Financial markets will remain intact. Someone may be arrested and even tried for the murder. But that person will only be the one who pulled the trigger and not the real parties responsible for such injustices.
Real criminals have no fear of being touched in Russia. And while there will be shock and sadness over Kozlov's murder - will there be the anger or determination to do anything about it?