There is one very common mistake in assessing the motives for persecuting people. Many lawyers, judges, migration officials and almost all the inhabitants believe that the motive for persecuting a person is determined by his actions. If this person fought on the barricades with the political regime or criticized it in the press, then the motives for persecution are, of course, political. And in all other cases, “there is no policy.” This narrowing is a dangerous mistake. It robs many people who are persecuted for political reasons of their chances of protection. These people were not politically active. They did not fight on the barricades, did not go to rallies, did not write exposing articles, did not even give money to the opposition. And yet, they became victims of politically motivated criminal prosecution.
I will explain how this happens using the example of an apolitical Russian banker. More precisely, several bankers, whom I combined into one collective image. I have made some expert opinions in which the main storylines are very similar. These clients of mine were Russians. But such cases are possible in any totalitarian, authoritarian state, in a primitive democracy, and even in a developed democracy. The frequency of such cases in different political regimes will be different (in developed democracies they will be much less), but the essence is very similar.
The head of the bank and he, one of the shareholders of this bank, became a defendant in a criminal case after the Central Bank of the Russian Federation revoked the license from his bank. Option – a criminal case was initiated after the transfer of the bank under the control of the state.
The investigator brought charges under several articles of the Criminal Code at once: forgery of bank documents, abuse of office, embezzlement of bank money, and fraud. All accusations are obviously false. These crimes simply did not exist. There is no motive for the crime, there is no damage from this crime. And the event itself, which the investigator calls a crime, is the usual performance of official duties of the head of the bank. Accused of confusion: “This is obvious stupidity! You just need to explain everything to the investigation.” But the investigator does not want to hear anything and still calls white black. The banker understands the seriousness of the problem and goes abroad. As it soon turns out, this was the right decision.
The real motive of the state in this matter was political. Namely, the preservation of power by strengthening control over the banking sector. And in such cases, the Russian regime will never admit its guilt.
In 2014, the Putin regime annexed Crimea and launched a war in the Donbas. Almost all the democratic countries of our planet have imposed sanctions against the Russian Federation in response. The Russian authorities then began the nationalization of several strategically important sectors of the economy. The new “cold war” with the West demanded complete control over key sectors of the economy. These sectors were frankly named by the former head of the Federal Antimonopoly Service at a meeting with representatives of the Association of European Businesses in May 2019. He said that the nationalization of the economy is going on in all sectors, but first of all in the following three: the banking sector, the defense industry, and information technology.
In the banking sector, the strengthening of state control proceeded in two ways. The first is through the deprivation of licenses for private banks. This is how this process looks in dynamics by years: In 2012, the Bank of Russia revoked licenses from 28 banks, in 2013 – from 45, in 2014 – from 95, in 2015 – from 104, in 2016 – from 112, in 2017 – from 63 , in 2018 – 78, in 2019 – 43, in 2020 – 38 banks . As a result, there were fewer banks, and the share of the state and its influence among the rest increased. The second way is through the Banking Sector Consolidation Fund. In the spring of 2017, an instrument for the nationalization of the banking sector was adopted – Federal Law No. 84-FZ of May 1, 2017 “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation”. This law allowed the Bank of Russia to “rehabilitate” banks, bypassing the Deposit Insurance Agency, by lending to these banks through the Banking Sector Consolidation Fund. Such a sanation mechanism greatly simplified the scheme for the nationalization of the banks needed by the state. This option was used by the Russian authorities to nationalize large banks, which it was decided to keep.
The liquidation of banks or their nationalization took place with numerous violations. That is why falsified criminal cases against the former heads of these banks were needed. Criminal prosecution effectively deprived these people of the opportunity to prove their case in the media and fight for their property in the courts. As Stalin wrote (and his students learned this lesson well): “There is no person – there is no problem.”
Such expert opinions are objectively complex. The history of the liquidation or nationalization of each bank is unique, despite the similarity of the main storylines. But in all cases, the search for evidence of political motives for persecution should begin with the study of falsification of criminal cases. Such falsification is the first and very important sign of the presence of political motivation.
The Russian regime is increasing its influence not only in the banking sector. Many businessmen from other sectors are being prosecuted in the same way.