LEGAL AND ILLEGAL MONEY TRANSFERS AS RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY INSTRUMENTS

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1 LEGAL AND ILLEGAL MONEY TRANSFERS AS RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY INSTRUMENTS FATIH OZBAY SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER ON FOREIGN POLICY AND SECURITY, HASEN FATIH OZBAY 128

2 Migrants who are mostly coming from former Soviet republics are one of the most important challenges for Russia. It is indicated that there are approximately million migrants in Russia. Migrants who are mostly coming from former Soviet republics are one of the most important challenges for Russia. It is indicated that there are approximately million migrants in Russia. Most of them come from Caucasian and Central Asian republics. Russia takes tougher decisions about migrants every day; increases the requirements, rules and controls. Russia Federal Migration Service officials announced that the number of foreigners who are forbidden to enter the country is 435 thousand in It has serious humanitarian, psychological and political impacts as well as crucial economic consequences both for Russia and other related countries. Migrants who are forbidden to enter Russia are mostly coming from Southern Caucasian and Central Asian republics. The number of illegal migrants is expected to further increase in When such increasing number of migrants is prohibited to enter the country, CIS countries will be badly affected as they have foreign exchange earnings via migrants. Sometimes serious protests arise against migrants due to their SOMETIMES SERIOUS PROTESTS ARISE AGAINST MIGRANTS DUE TO THEIR ADAPTATION PROBLEMS TO RUSSIA AND BEING INVOLVED IN CRIME AS WELL AS RACIST ATTITUDES AND XENOPHOBIA. adaptation problems to Russia and being involved in crime as well as racist attitudes and xenophobia. A large part of these migrants comes to Russia mostly from former Soviet Republics with the aim of being employed and sending money to their families. Money transfers by migrants in Russia are a great source of income for their countries. It is similar to the importance of foreign currency that is regularly sent by Turkish workers in Europe for the Turkish economy. Russia is disturbed by these millions of migrants; but it is also aware of its advantage for the country. It sometimes oppresses these countries by threatening them with prohibiting their entrance, deporting them, obstructing money transfers, etc. Countries which are economically dependent on foreign currencies sent by their citizens working in Russia may be forced to retreat against Moscow s oppressions. According to the January-September 2013 data published by Russian Central Bank, the amount of le- 129 CASPIAN REPORT, WINTER 2014

3 FATIH OZBAY 130 A LARGE PART OF THESE MIGRANTS COMES TO RUSSIA MOSTLY FROM FORMER SOVIET REPUBLICS WITH THE AIM OF BEING EMPLOYED AND SENDING MONEY TO THEIR FAMILIES. gal money transfer from Russia to CIS countries is $15 billion. Among these countries, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Georgia are the most prominent, followed by Other Central Asian and Caucasian countries. For example, money transfer from Russia to Uzbekistan is $5 billion, to Tajikistan is $3 billion in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan follow these countries. Actually numbers can describe it the best. The amount of money transferred to Tajikistan corresponds to 46.4% of the Gross Domestic Product of Tajikistan! Other countries are not much different than Tajikistan. With this perspective, we can better understand how Russia holds this power against those countries and how fragile this issue is. Russia, which is highly aware of this advantage and what may happen if it uses this advantage, does not hesitate to directly or indirectly remind that leverage to related countries when appropriate, and even use it when necessary. This attitude causes problems, disputes and even crises between Russia and the related country/countries. Georgia experienced it after the August 2008 War. Recently other countries were also oppressed due to their relations with the EU. This leverage is particularly useful for convincing former Soviet Republics to be a part of Russian projects such as Customs Union and Eurasian Union which are economic in appearance but political in reality. For these countries, Moscow acts as if it has set a time limit to make a decision until One of the answers to the question why Russia is very influential on former Soviet Republics lies behind this reality. The results of the recent Gallup poll about the Soviet Union with the citizens of 11 former Soviet Republics is highly relevant to our subject. One of the questions asked in this poll was whether the dissolution of the Soviet Union was beneficial for your country or not. The rate of people who said that the dissolution of USSR was destructive for their country is 66% in Armenia, 61% in Kyrgyzstan, 56% in Ukraine, and 52% in Tajikistan. The rate of migrants coming to Russia is also the highest in these countries which are the most dependent on money transfers from their citizens in Russia. Again, these rates indicate that Russia s leverage is highly strong. So far we have discussed the legal money transfers from Russia. On the other side of the coin, there are illegal money transfers from Russia. Russia manages to use this issue as a successful foreign policy instrument. Illegal money transfers from a country are called Illicit Financial Outflows. Shortly, it is used for the money which is exported from a country via crime, corruption or tax evasion and which never comes back to that country. With Illicit Financial Outflows, money is exported from a country in unrecorded, illegal ways. Global Financial Integrity (GFI) organization in Washington examines illicit financial flows every

4 Kremlin Palace, Russia. year. GFI s report Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: has been recently published. According to the report, illicit cash flow from developing countries between 2002 and 2011 was $5.9 trillion. In 2011 a total of $946.7 billion was exported to other countries/ places illegally from source countries and never came back. As stated, the amount of illicit financial flows in China between 2002 and 2011 is $1.08 trillion, which is the highest among others. The second highest ACCORDING TO THE JANUARY-SEPTEMBER 2013 DATA PUBLISHED BY RUSSIAN CENTRAL BANK, THE AMOUNT OF LEGAL MONEY TRANSFER FROM RUSSIA TO CIS COUNTRIES IS $15 BILLION. amount is $881 billion in Russia. As indicated in the report, already high illegal dollar flow from Russia increased incrementally from 2002 to Russia needs to take measures against illicit financial flows. Head of State V. Putin signed the law for preventing illicit financial flows in July The aim of this law is to prevent financing of international terror with unrecorded money and also prevent money laundering. At this point, we need to mention about illicit money. Illicit money is defined as all kinds of economic interests, assets and revenues obtained with criminal activities. Money laundering can be described as concealing the source of illicit income and make it look like it is obtained from a legal source. Illicit money is strictly monitored at the national and international level as it is the source of threats such as terror, international organized crimes, drug trafficking, corruption, etc. Financial Action Task Force (FATF) should be discussed at this point. FATF was established with the aim of preventing money laundering in 1989 under the leadership of G-7 states. Today, FATF has 36 members in total; 34 states and 2 organizations. Russia became 131 CASPIAN REPORT, WINTER 2014

5 Cathedral of Saint Vasily, Russia. FATIH OZBAY 132 a full member of FATF in It not only became a full member but also gained ground in its fight against money laundering and assumed the term presidency of FATF between July 2013 and July Russia wants to show the world its determination to turn a new page in financial terms. Putin s signing of the law for preventing illicit financial flows in July 2013 is remarkable in this regard. FATF monitors previously convicted countries under two different lists as black list and grey list in terms of money laundering. As of 2013, there are 17 countries in FATF s black list. Term president Russia was included in the black list until There are 22 countries in the grey list. Moreover, the Eurasian Group (EAG) which was established in 2004 with Russia s initiative is a part of FATF. As the sub-unit of FATF, EAG s aim can be summarized as fighting against money laundering and terror financing in Eurasia. Russia is highly active here. After becoming a FATF member, Russia is intensely working on

6 removing CIS countries from black and grey lists. It even achieved this; now there is not a single CIS country in the black list as of 2013 thanks to Russia s efforts. Today, only Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are included in the grey list. Turkmenistan was the last country to be removed from the grey list in June Russia even gives support to CIS countries in order prevent them from being added to those lists. As it can be observed, Putin s Russia has utilised different financial tools as foreign policy instruments. 133 CASPIAN REPORT, WINTER 2014

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