Russian parliament views exempting religious bodies from financial oversight


Interfax-Religiia, 11 January 2021


The State Duma Committee on the Financial Market supported the draft bill that grants banks, insurance companies, and other organizations that work with monetary funds the right not to identify the benefactors of religious organizations, but it warns of possible risks of the use of the proposed rules by extremist organizations and its requests additional materials.


The committee's conclusions about the government's draft law were published in parliament's electronic data base.


In its review, the committee notes that religious organizations are not considered by a sectional assessment of risk to be organizations having a high risk for laundering income and financing terrorism, and so the committee supports the concept of the draft law.


"At the same time, the committee expresses its concern about the possibility of the use of the proposed rules by extremist religious organizations. Therefore we consider it worthwhile to request additional analytical materials concerning the assessment of the consequences of adopting the proposed regulations," the review states.


As was reported, the draft law was introduced into the State Duma by the government in late November.


The amendments are being inserted into the law on combating the laundering of financial resources. According to article 7 of this law, banks must make reasonable and affordable efforts to identify the benefactors of their customers. Identification of the benefactors of customers is not necessary if the customer is a governmental agency, governmental corporation, or a state company with a state share of more than 50 percent or a publicly traded company. It is proposed to include religious organizations among the exclusions as well as legal entities that produce or sell items with a religious purpose and religious literature, if their only shareholder is a religious organization.


The authors note that the criteria of a benefactor are usually not applicable to religious organizations and the risk of laundering of funds is low.


In the event of its adoption, the law will take effect as of the day of its official publication.


According to data of the Ministry of Justice, there are 31,630 religious organizations of various confessions (Orthodoxy, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and others) registered in Russia.


The draft law is scheduled for consideration on first reading at the State Duma plenary session on 19 January. (tr. by PDS, posted 11 January 2021)

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