A business owner in Russia has a better chance of ending up in the penal colony system once known as the gulag than a common burglar does.
More than 110,000 people are serving time for what Russia calls “economic crimes,” out of a population of about three million self-employed people and owners of small and medium-size businesses. An additional 2,500 are in jails awaiting trial for this class of crimes that includes fraud, but can also include embezzlement, counterfeiting and tax evasion.
But with the Russian economy languishing, President Vladimir V. Putin has devised a plan for turning things around: offer amnesty to some of the imprisoned business people.
In 2010, the police investigated a total of 276,435 “economic crimes,” according to the Russian prosecutor general’s office, whose statistics show burglary and robbery are prosecuted less than economic crimes.
…Russia’s infamous penal colonies, rural camps swirled in barbed wire, appear today much as they did when Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote “The Gulag Archipelago” in the 1960s. But at least one of every 10 prisoners today is a white-collar convict.
And why are so many businessmen in prison?
…in Russia, the police benefit from arrests. They profit by soliciting a bribe from a rival to remove competition, by taking money from the family for release, or by selling seized goods. Promotion depends on an informal quota of arrests. Police officers who seize businesses became common enough to have earned the nickname “werewolves in epaulets.”
There is more here, interesting throughout.