Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Friday, 6 June 2008 18:12 UK

Russian corruption skims billions

Wad of dollars
Corruption is described as a disease in Russian society

Corrupt Russian officials are creaming off about $120bn (61bn) a year - the equivalent of a third of the national budget, a senior prosecutor has said.

The country's new President, Dmitry Medvedev, has pledged to tackle the problem - although correspondents say few expect things will change quickly.

Russia's investigations committee has opened more than 1,000 corruption cases involving officials in 10 months.

The committee's chairman said the extent of corruption was much wider.

Alexander Bastrykin said the results of the investigations "do not yet equal the scope of bribery and corruption in bureaucracy", state news agency Itar-Tass reports.

"Practice shows that modern corrupt officials, as a rule, are well-trained and backed up by resources of biased media outlets and legal advice of highly-paid professional lawyers," he added.

Modern disease

The BBC's James Rodgers, in Moscow, says corruption is like a disease which affects almost every part of Russian life. Russians were resigned to bribe-taking officials and business kickbacks worth billions, he said.

The committee heard that investigations included criminal cases against 13 judges, a former regional minister and district prosecutors, Itar-Tass reports.

One of the committee's senior prosecutors, Vasily Piskaryov, said the income of corrupt officials reached more than a third of the national budget.

He said data provided by the non governmental Indem Foundation, suggested "business people spend $33.5bn on bribes for officials, while low-level corruption is estimated to be worth $3bn".

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