Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Russian Siloviki Now Focusing on Money Transfers to Bring Extremism Charges

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 12 – Last year, more than 700 crimes of “a terrorist character” were registered in the Republic of Daghestan, “almost a third of all such crimes in the Russian Federation as a whole (kavkazr.com/a/31226856.html). Many of the charges were suspiciously similar and reflect a new focus by the siloviki on money transfers, Zaynab Abdullayeva says.

            The Kavkazr journalist points out that non-Russians and especially people in the North Caucasus frequently use money transfers to send money home to family members, contribute to charitable causes or purchase medicines not available locally (kavkazr.com/a/pytki-provokatsii-ugrozy-kak-fabrikuyut-dela-o-terrorizme-na-kavkaze/31408629.html).

            But such transfers are very easy for the Russian authorities to track and even easier to present as a kind of cover means of financing terrorist groups, all the more so because any transfer, even one as small as 100 rubles (less than two US dollars) can be presented by investigators and prosecutors as going to illegal groups.

            Worse, Abdullayeva says, it is very easy for the siloviki to arrange for provocations. Someone in Daghestan may present himself as collecting money for victims of conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and a Daghestani Muslim may agree to send money to help, only to discover that he will be charged with a crime and face a lengthy prison sentence.

            Such a focus by the authorities on money transfers has been reported before, but in Daghestan, it appears to have taken on an assembly line character, both because it is extremely easy for the authorities to track such transfers and even easier for them to present such transfers as having a criminal character.

            Doing so, Abdullayeva suggests, allows the police and prosecutors to look good to the powers that be by increasing the number of “crimes” they supposedly have solved. But as information about this process spreads, it is likely to have a chilling effect on legitimate transfers limiting the value of immigrant workers to their home areas and infuriating many.

            As such, this latest project by prosecutors may very well backfire if it spreads beyond Daghestan to the rest of the North Caucasus or other non-Russian regions. At the very least, it is yet another example of Russian officials’ illegitimate use of the law in the name of fighting extremism.  

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