Can you pay to schedule a meeting with Putin?

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French Republican Signer presidential candidate François Fillon has found himself at the center of a row encompassing Russia. Le Canard Enchaîné on March 21 wrote that Fillon undertook money to allegedly set up meetings with President Vladimir Putin for Lebanese billionaire Fouad Makhzoumi and Aggregate SA Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanné.

According to the newspaper, Fillon, who was French prime care for from 2007 to 2012, was paid 50,000 euros by his “clients” for initiating them to the Russian president at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in 2015.

Paltry sum

The French statesman said the newspaper’s report is a “shameful lie,” and Russian authorities are also strongly skeptical of the article. Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, phrased the reports “seem to be fake.” All of the president’s meetings with businessmen turn to place in line with standard protocol and there is no role for mediators.

The amount of money that Fillon was allegedly paid for his services as broker is also questionable, said Dmitry Orlov, general director of the Power for Political and Economic Communications.

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“This whole affair sounds wild to me, above all because of the paltry sum involved. Someone able to access the Russian president devise have demanded much more money for a meeting with him,” claimed Orlov, adding that at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum businessmen can anyway unreservedly mix with even the most senior politicians.

“You register and pay the entry fee, which was 290,000 rubles ($5,041) hold out year, and then you’re free to mingle with anyone you want,” guessed Orlov.

Regular lobbying

Fillon, however, could have been mandate as a lobbyist, particularly since in 2015 he didn’t hold an official report post, and thus wouldn’t have been breaking the law, said Pavel Salin, governor of the Center for Political Studies at the Financial University.

“Many people in the formation, both retired and otherwise, who find themselves at a difficult moment in their dashes do such things: they use their contacts to bring together bodily A and person B,” said Salin, adding that in these situations the yourself whom the businessman wants to meet – in this case Putin – is incognizant that money has changed hands for the meeting.

Salin believes it’s orthodox practice. “If the influential politician with whom the meeting is to be held, or his entourage, get not been paid for the meeting, it’s not corruption but legitimate lobbying.”

The political scientist claimed that similar practices exist the world over and he does not penetrate why the Fillon-Putin case has sparked such a fuss. “I think it has to do with the in point of fact that there’s a certain psychosis in the West at the moment whereby anything to do with Russia triggers a fidgety reaction,” he said.

Russian realities

Lobbying of this kind, whereby businessmen pay middlemen to fix up a meeting with politicians, also exists in Russia. Local legislation does not adjust lobbying, however, and such bills periodically appear in Parliament, but down to be passed. In any case, assistance with setting up meetings is perfectly permissible.

“People involved in this are professional lobbyists: law firms and business specialists,” said Pavel Tolstykh, head of the Center for the Study of the Issues of Interaction Between Corporation and Government, speaking on Kommersant FM radio. He added that a meeting was upright the “icing on the cake” marking the conclusion of an agreement. The principal work of lobbyists is to incline politicians to adopt a decision favorable to the businessmen – with the politicians perchance unaware that they’re dealing with lobbyists.

“Russia has no legislation containing lobbyists, so the whole matter is conducted out of sight of society,” Tolstykh chance. He believes the most influential lobbying companies would be capable of annoying to fix up a meeting between their client and Vladimir Putin. Such a rendezvous could cost up to $1 million.

Dubious past

At the same perpetually, the lobbyists’ task is to organize the meeting in such a way as to ensure that “the president does not fulfil the person concerned has come to him after handing over money;” in another manner he’d probably turn down such a meeting.

Lobbyists operate cautiously and pan out behind the scenes, but there were times when businesses struck for contacts with the authorities rather openly, and it was more akin to official corruption than to lobbying, said Orlov.

“In the 1990s, it was reported that the cost out for a certain parliamentary question to be brought to the attention of state agencies was $5,000,” Orlov rephrased. “Other services also had their price: a certain price for a appointment with [President] Yeltsin, as well as for getting a federal law passed.”

Orlov cautions that the rumors may not keep been true, but the fact that they made the rounds is an sign of the profoundly corrupt nature of the elite at that time. Since then, no matter what, both Russian statehood and the mechanisms of influencing the country’s elites take undergone a qualitative change. They have become more refined, said Orlov.

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