Remarks by Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov at the International Conference on Safeguarding Sport from Corruption, Vienna, June 5, 2018

Tuesday, 05 June 2018 23:35

Mr Deputy Secretary-General,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to greet you at the International Conference on Safeguarding Sport from Corruption.

I would like to thank the UN Office for Drugs and Crime for its willingness to hold this event pursuant to the resolution on corruption in sport passed by the states parties to the UN Convention Against Corruption. We appreciate the efforts of our BRICS partners who have co-sponsored this conference. It is heartening that the invitation to attend the forum has also been accepted by other UN member states, the International Olympic Committee and sports organisations – the International Federation of Association Football, the Union of European Football Associations, the Asian Football Confederation and many others. This attests to the relevance of the conference theme as well as to the interest of the international community in creating more effective tools to prevent corruption in sport.

We have decided to time this forum for what is arguably the most significant sporting event of the year, the FIFA World Cup. The representatives of other sport federations may not agree with me. However, statistics show that football, which has more than 3.5 million fans across the world, is firmly in the lead.

Russia has been preparing to host the championship for more than seven years. But we have waited for it for much longer, for our country will be hosting a FIFA World Cup for the first time. Over the past years, a large amount of work has been done to renovate the old and build new sports and infrastructure facilities. Matches will be played in 11 cities at 12 stadiums that meet all the FIFA standards, including environmental ones. The Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee estimates that at least 600,000 fans will come to this country. Already more than half of all the tickets to the matches have been bought by the citizens of foreign countries, above all the US, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Mexico and Argentina. More than 3.5 billion people are expected to watch the tournament on television. Being the host of such a major event and its high public status confer a great honour as well as a huge responsibility.

Russia, of course, has experience preventing corruption when organising international sporting competitions. This is recognised, for example, in the handbook The United Nations Against Corruption: A Strategy for Safeguarding Against Corruption in Major Public Events developed in 2013 by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and financed by the Russian Federation. Our two-day forum is expected to follow the main structure of this handbook.

Particular attention is paid in the handbook to the practice of preparing the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan and the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. It provides for the participation of several supervisory, auditing and investigative agencies in regular monitoring of the preparation and holding of events, analysis of planning and the distribution of financial resources. This approach to corruption prevention made it possible to reveal and understand the corruption risks and their effective management.

The authors of the handbook stress that Russia has formed a fairly broad legislative base that ensures the functioning of long-term mechanisms to regulate and guide the organisation of major events with due account of corruption risks. It comprises the federal laws On Counteracting Corruption of 2008, On Anti-Corruption Expertise of Normative Legal Acts and Draft Normative Legal Acts of 2009, the resolution of the Government of the Russian Federation On Anti-Corruption Screening of Normative Legal Acts and Draft Normative Legal Acts, and the National Anti-Corruption Strategy of 2010. Our country has also enacted various measures to ensure openness of the activities of public bodies, including those responsible for major events. Under the federal law On Placing Orders for the Supply of Goods and the Performance of Work and Rendering of Services for State and Municipal Needs of 2005, web sites are operating with information on all types of procurement activities and registration of agreements in a special register which enables effective monitoring and control to be carried out.

It is also important to point out that the handbook cites numerous examples of advanced practices of preventing corruption risks of our BRICS partners, notably China during the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008 and Brazil during the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. We would appreciate it if the representatives of these countries shared their experience during the course of this conference.  

Russia is party to a number of international legal agreements on the prevention of corruption in sport, including the 1999 Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, and the 2016 Council of Europe Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events. In accordance with the plan approved by the Russian Government, competent national agencies are preparing for the ratification of the 2014 Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions.

Evidence of corruption in sports, including the practice of match fixing, may be classified according to several provisions of the Russian Criminal Code, specifically, Article 184 “Exerting unlawful influence on the outcome of official sports competitions or entertaining commercial contests,” Article 204 “Commercial bribery” and Article 290 “Bribe-taking.” The acts covered by these articles are punishable by a fine of up to 1 million roubles (about $17,000), community work, or a prison term of up to seven years as well as a temporary ban on holding particular positions or engaging in certain types of activities. During 2015-2017, one crime under Article 184 of the Criminal Code was registered in Russia. There have also been cases where individuals and legal entities were brought to justice for other corruption-related offences and crimes in sports, including bribe-taking and abuse of power.

Russian law contains provisions against illegal and improper betting. Thus, Article 26.2 “Preventing unlawful influence on the outcome of official sports competitions and combating the same” of the 2007 Federal Law On Physical Culture and Sports in the Russian Federation envisages a ban on placing bets on official sports competitions in bookmaker offices and betting houses for certain categories of athletes, coaches, sports team managers and sports agencies, as well as the use of sanctions by sports federations (including disqualification of athletes) for violating it.

The World Cup is expected to have a major impact on the bookmaking market in Russia. Experts predict an average 50-percent increase in stakes during the championship. According to 2017 data, the total of all the stakes made by gamblers and legal bookmaking companies amounted to 403 billion roubles ($6.6 billion). The legal sector accounts for 60 percent although estimates vary. The growing interest in virtual games must also be taken into account. In 2016, that segment of the market in Russia stood at between 80 million and 1.2 billion roubles (between $5 million and $20 million) while globally it was as high as $6 billion to $8 billion, including real and virtual money. In recent years, many big bookmaking companies in Russia have moved into the legal segment due to the amendments introduced in 2014 to the 2006 Federal Law On State Regulation of Gambling. A ban was imposed on betting on the websites of companies which are not licensed in Russia and are not operating with the Interactive Betting Accounting Centre.

In April 2017, the rules on promotion of betting services were substantially loosened for the market participants. By the same token, the operators were now obliged to pay 5 percent of their income for development of sports to the federations for which competitions they placed bets.  

To prevent corruption in sport, prosecution bodies conduct anti-corruption screening of the legislation that regulates relations in sport. Thus, after a protest by the Mordovian Prosecutor’s Office, the procedure for granting subsidies for the organisation of transit during the 2018 World Cup in Saransk, which could be potentially corrupt, was brought in compliance with the federal law.

Competent national bodies are working to raise public awareness of corruption in sports. Ahead of the World Cup, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Sport prepared a respective memorandum intended for a wide audience.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office also interacts with the relevant authorities in foreign states, providing legal assistance in criminal cases involving corruption in sport. Russia is currently cooperating on two cases with France, Switzerland, the United States, Germany, Canada and Monaco. In one of these cases, Russia received a request from the French Ministry of Justice which it is fulfilling right now.

Overall, the modest figures attest to a high level of discretion in corruption-related crimes in sport. In this regard, we consider it necessary to step up the efforts of national law enforcement bodies in uncovering such crimes and also to continue the work on strengthening international cooperation on the prevention of corruption in sports.

I am sure that during the course of the two-day discussions, exchanging opinions and sharing best practices we will be able to make our humble contribution to achieving that goal.

Thank you. 

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