The main novelty of Law of December 19, 2020 No. 384-VI “On Amendments and Additions to Certain Legal Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Enhanced Protection of the Rights of Citizens in Criminal Proceedings and the Fight against Corruption”, which came into force on January 1, 2021, consists in the ban on releasing individuals convicted of serious and particularly serious corruption crimes on parole. An exception is made for pregnant women and those with small children, men bringing up small children alone, women over 58 and men over 63 years of age, disabled of the first and second groups who have fulfilled all the conditions of the procedural cooperation agreement.
However, some experts have already called the introduction of these norms irrational: despite the ban on parole, a corrupt official still has a chance to have the penalty in the form of imprisonment commuted to a fine or a penalty in the form of restriction of liberty. In this context it is highlighted that according to the general rules in the case of a serious crime the individual could count on being released on parole after having served half of the term, whilst he/she could apply for commutation of the sentence as soon as after having served a third of his/her term.
The adopted Law also provides for amendments to the corpus delicti of some corruption crimes, establishing a special procedure for administering the punishment of law enforcement officers, individuals holding important public positions in law enforcement bodies and judges. In particular, respective amendments are made to the articles:
- acceptance of a bribe: the commission of this act by a law enforcement official, or an individual holding an important public position in a law enforcement body, or a judge is punished by a fine ranging from 30 to 50 times the amount of the bribe or an imprisonment term of up to six years with confiscation of property and a lifetime ban on holding certain positions or engaging in certain activities;
- abuse of functions: in the event that the aforementioned crime is committed by a law enforcement officer, the latter is subject to a punishment in the form of a fine amounting to 4,000 monthly calculation indices (MCI, roughly $27,210), or penal labour in the same amount, or community service for a period of up to 1,000 hours, or restriction of liberty for up to four years, or an imprisonment for the same period of time with confiscation of property and a lifetime ban on holding certain positions or engaging in certain activities. The same act committed by and individual holding an important public position in a law enforcement body or a judge will be punished by restriction of liberty for up to seven years, or an imprisonment for the same period of time with confiscation of property and a lifetime ban on holding certain positions or engaging in certain activities.
Besides that, the Law introduces more severe penalties for:
- giving a bribe: a potential fine now ranges between 20 to 30 times the amount of the bribe (previously, from 10 to 20 times), a potential imprisonment term is increased from three to five years; the penalty for the payment of a considerable and large bribe, commission of a crime by a group of people and repeated commission of a crime is proportionally increased;
- mediation in bribery: a potential fine now ranges from ten to 20 times the amount of the bribe (previously, from five to ten times), a potential imprisonment term is increased from two to three years; the penalty for repeated commission of a crime, or by a group of people, or by an individual through an abuse of his/her functions is proportionally increased.
Finally, the adopted Law imposes a ban on opening and holding accounts (deposits) and keeping cash and valuables in foreign banks by individuals holding important public positions or mandated to perform public functions, as well as by judges and members of Parliament (except for the members of maslikhats, local representative bodies).
According to the Law, officials must close all accounts they hold in the banks outside the Kazakh jurisdiction by July 1, 2021. If an official inherits accounts, cash or valuables in foreign banks, he/she must close the accounts and stop keeping cash and valuables in the banks outside the Kazakh jurisdiction within six months from the date of the inheritance.
If an official is unable to close the account in due time for reasons beyond his/her control (for instance, because of the arrest of the account, natural disasters, military operations or a state of emergency), it is possible to close the account upon the termination of these circumstances but not later than within six months from the date of their termination also providing supporting documentation.
An official’s failure to comply with the obligation to close accounts in foreign banks within the established period of time will constitute the grounds for his/her dismissal. However, the individual is also entitled to file a letter of resignation.
At the same time, the spouses and children of officials are not subject to the ban provided for by the Law, which actually negates its practical benefits: officials can simply transfer the ownership of their accounts (deposits) to their spouses or other family members.