Miami Property Disclosure Forces Russian Lawmaker to Quit

A senior member of Russia’s lower house of parliament resigned a week after bloggers published documents showing he owned luxury property in Florida.

Vladimir Pekhtin, a lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party who also quit last week as chairman of the State Duma’s ethics committee, voluntarily surrendered his seat, according to an e-mailed transcript of Pekhtin’s speech in parliament.

“I’ve made a very difficult decision to resign as a State Duma deputy,” Pekhtin said today, according to the transcript. “I won’t let unscrupulous political opponents slander United Russia’s reputation.”

Russian officials are coming under greater scrutiny after President Vladimir Putin embarked on the most far-reaching campaign against corruption of his 13-year rule, submitting a draft bill last week that would ban officials from owning foreign bank deposits and securities. Speaking in his state-of-the-nation address in December, Putin threw his support behind efforts by allied lawmakers to repatriate as much as $1 trillion in capital held by high-ranking officials and companies abroad.

Bloggers including Alexey Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and opposition leader, published documents last week that showed Pekhtin as the owner of a luxury apartment in South Beach, part of Miami Beach, and other properties. His official income and property declaration on the State Duma’s website didn’t include real estate outside Russia.

Miami Peace

“He can finally move to Miami and live in peace, without hearing any complaints,” Navalny said on his LiveJournal blog.

Another ruling-party lawmaker, billionaire Anatoly Lomakin, has tendered his resignation, with his request set to be reviewed in two days after it gained committee approval, according to a draft document published on the Duma’s website. Lomakin was ranked Russia’s 79th-richest person last year by Forbes magazine, with a fortune estimated at $1.2 billion.

Putin ousted Anatoly Serdyukov as defense minister in November, the most senior official felled over graft allegations. In December, the president ordered Cabinet members and their families to file personal-spending declarations, tightening earnings and spending by officials in Russia, the most corrupt member of the Group of 20 advanced economies in Berlin-based Transparency International’s ranking.

Pekhtin has said in television interviews that the properties belonged to his son. Russia doesn’t ban ownership of foreign real estate by state officials.

‘Public Opinion’

“I’m very happy that public opinion is becoming a tool of influence on political personnel decisions,” Dmitry Gudkov, a lawmaker from the Just Russia opposition party whose father and fellow Duma deputy Gennady Gudkov was expelled from the Duma in September, said on his Twitter Inc. account.

Last July, Navalny published documents on his website alleging the country’s top investigator, Alexander Bastrykin, held Czech residency from 2007 to 2009 and bought property in the country, raising concern foreign agents may exert influence over his work.

Russians spent $12 billion on foreign property in 2011, including $6 billion in the European Union, compared with $5.5 billion a year in 2007 and 2008, according to central bank Chairman Sergey Ignatiev. Russia had net private capital outflows of $56.8 billion last year, according to central bank data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s down from $80.5 billion in 2011.

$49 Billion

Speaking in an interview with Vedomosti published today, Ignatiev said $49 billion was transferred from Russia illegally last year. His comments were confirmed by the central bank.

Illicit capital outflows from Russia reached as much as $211.5 billion between 1994 and 2011, Global Financial Integrity, a group that studies financial flows, said in a report released Feb. 13. Including legal outflows, the total amount that has left Russia over the period is $782.5 billion, or an average of about $43.5 billion a year, according to the report. Illicit outflows average about $11.8 billion annually.