Barely six months after Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an explicit invitation to Russian criminals hiding assets overseas to bring their cash home with no questions asked, he’s made it official. Before leaving Moscow to visit Italy and the Vatican this week, Putin signed a law officially granting amnesty from criminal, administrative, and tax liability to Russians who declare overseas property.
The deal has a few minor caveats. Whatever the violation is that the owner of the assets is seeking amnesty for must have been committed before January 1, 2015. The declaration must also be filed within the window between July 1 and the end of the year.
Russia Today, a state-run media outlet, reported, “The information in the document will be protected by tax secrecy regime and may not be used either for tests or for opening a criminal investigation, the law stipulates.”
Russia Today quoted Andrey Makarov, who chairs the State Duma’s budget committee, saying the new law will let Russians “turn the offshore page of the economy and start living from scratch not thinking that either racketeers or law enforcement will come after you.”
The new law has its origins in a promise Putin made last December in a speech to the nation. At the time, the Russian ruble was in near free fall, plummeting oil prices were hammering Russia’s state budget, and capital was fleeing Russian banks at an alarming rate. In his remarks, Putin was surprisingly explicit about his intention to grant amnesty to illegally obtained assets.
“I propose a full amnesty for capital returning to Russia. I stress -- full amnesty,” he said at the time.
“It means,” Marakov continued, “that if a person legalizes his holdings and property in Russia, he will receive firm legal guarantees that he will not be summoned to various agencies, including law enforcement agencies that they will not ‘put the squeeze’ on him. That he will not be asked about the sources of his capital and methods of its acquisition. That he will not be prosecuted or face administrative liability, and that he will not be questioned by the tax service or law enforcement agencies.
“We all understand that the sources of assets are different, that they were earned or acquired in various ways. However, I am confident that we should finally close, turn the ‘offshore page’ in the history of our economy and our country. It is very important and necessary to do this.”
Marakov renewed the call in March, reminding Russians with assets stashed overseas that increasingly tight international sanctions – particularly those imposed by the United States on Russia banks – were making it hard for some Russians with money overseas to move it between countries.
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