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Fear takes over Russia’s businesses

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Claire Bigg and Kevin O’Flynn
Asia Times
July 21, 2010

MOSCOW – Vladimir Romanov looks forward to celebrating his company’s birthday this month. The small family start-up he created a decade ago has since grown into a sprawling business with more than 300 employees. Today, the firm provides mobile-phone services and leases payment terminals from a dozen offices across Russia.

Proud of his success, the 34-year-old Moscow entrepreneur never misses his company’s anniversary. This year, the festivities have taken on special significance.

“Thankfully, I can celebrate this 11th anniversary,” he says. “I spent my own birthday, on March 5, in the town of Mozhaisk – not

in a restaurant, but in pre-trial jail.”

Romanov is one of hundreds of Russian business owners who face prison each year for alleged financial misconduct. And like him, most accuse corrupt police and investigators of trumping up charges to extort money from them or to take over their businesses.

Not all are innocent. But the number of criminal cases against businesspeople has grown so sharply in recent years that entrepreneurs are now taking action to combat what they say is a vast campaign of racketeering by law-enforcement officials.

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This article was posted: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 9:10 am

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