Back in April 2013, Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff Sergei Ivanov held a rare Kremlin news conference to announce measures related to a drive to “de-offshore” the Russian economy – a term used by Putin in his state of the nation speech in 2012. In February 2013, the chief of Russia’s central bank said that almost US$50 billion was sent abroad illegally in 2012. In a first step, Russia introduced fines on transactions made by Russian nationals who send money to overseas bank accounts without going through a Russian bank account. Then Putin signed two decrees barring many officials and state company executives from holding overseas bank accounts, shares and other financial instruments at all, and giving them three month’s notice to comply.
The law came into force on 19 August 2013, and any officials who wish to keep hold of their overseas assets will have to resign or be sacked. Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea football club, has already resigned as chair of the local parliament in the Chukotka region, as has Dennis Sverdlov, deputy minister for communications and mass media. And, thanks to the law of unintended consequences, there has been a sudden increase in the divorce rate for state officials – perhaps a ploy to keep both assets and public office, as the new law permits foreign accounts to be held by a divorced partner. Now colour me cynical, but didn’t the Putins announce their own impending divorce on 16 June 2013?