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Tuesday, August 7, 2001 Yakovlev Decree Sets Sights on Corruption By Vladimir Kovalyev STAFF WRITER Governor Vladimir Yakovlev has given his Security Department new authority to root out corruption in City Hall, according to a decree signed last month. According to the decree, which Yakovlev signed on July 2, the Security Department is now "obliged to provide full and official investigations about the facts of abuses of power committed by [City Hall] officials." The decree also charges the security department with "the elaboration of administrative, legal and preventative measures to fight abuse of power among authorities." The decree has some observers believing that Yakovlev is now serious about rooting out any corruption that may exist within his administration. However, other analysts argue that the new powers merely represent an effort to deflect law enforcement bodies such as the City Prosecutors Office, the Federal Security Service and the police, which have been showing increased interest in City Hall lately. According to the decree, only members of the administration and the City Prosecutors Office can lodge corruption complaints with the head of the Security Department, Viktor Sudakov. Nonetheless, some lawmakers applauded the new decree. "The time to check on who works at City Hall and to find out if there are people with criminal records came long ago," said Legislative Assembly deputy Leonid Romankov in an interview last week. "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. People have been talking about it for some time now," he said. The administration has been the target of numerous corruption allegations, most recently against Vice Governor Valery Malyshev, head of the municipal Sports, Transport and Communications Committee. Malyshev, who will be on vacation until September and who has refused to comment on the allegations to The St. Petersburg Times, has been officially charged with taking bribes. Last month, the City Prosecutors Office announced that it was opening an investigation of top officials in the municipal Transportation Committee. Prosecutors suspect that 9 million rubles ($300,000) may have been misappropriated. City Prosecutor Ivan Sydoruk has already asked Yakovlev to take disciplinary measures against the committees chairman, Alexei Chumak. Sudakov - who was appointed to his post last October - recently ordered checks on the allegations against Malyshev. His department also looked into the Transportation Committee case. "We checked it and found that this was not even Chumak who signed the financial documents [which are being investigated by the City Prosecutors Office]," Sudakov commented in an interview last week. Alexander Shchelkanov, an independent Legislative Assembly lawmaker, said the security department was granted its new mandate in order to forestall the Prosecutors Offices moves against City Hall and to help Yakovlev cover himself. "I dont expect any coordination between City Hall and the Prosecutors Office, but rather a screening effect, provided by the Security Department," Shchelkanov said on Monday. "They would collect information for the governor so he would have time to clean up in case it looks like something is going to happen," he said. But Alexander Afanasyev, the governors spokesperson said that the decree is "just a routine change of City Hall structure." "They are not going to collect any files on City Hall officials. It is the polices business to investigate crime. This department, which existed before, was just restructured to operate under a different persons responsibility," Afanasyev said on Monday. Sudakov said that the departments primary goals at present are to combat terrorism in the city and to provide any information requested by the City Prosecutors Office if a City Hall official is charged with a crime. But he emphasized that it will not undertake investigations on its own. "We are not going to chase any officials," Sudakov said. "We are not going to do anything by our own initiative, but only after a prosecutors office inquiry." The City Prosecutors Office said it had had no dealings with the department recently. "At this moment we have no [criminal] cases open against City Hall authorities, so no inquiries have been sent to that structure recently," said Yelena Antonova, the St. Petersburg prosecutors office spokesperson, in a telephone interview on Friday. "As for that structure, it was set up not very long ago and has not been of any use for us [yet]," she said.
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