A business owner in Russia has a better chance of ending up in the penal colony system than a burglar does.
Now, in an attempt to stimulate the stagnant economy, officials are offering amnesty to some 'economic criminals.'
Most of the imprisoned are not there for any political reason. Their incarceration has to do with the nature of Russian corruption.
Run-of-the-mill bribery schemes, practiced from China to Mexico, usually involve the police, fire inspectors or other regulators asking for payments on the side to allow a business to operate. In these instances, the interests of the business owners and corrupt officials are aligned — both ultimately want the enterprise to succeed.
But in Russia, the police benefit from arrests. They profit by soliciting a bribe from a rival to remove competition, by taking money from the family for release, or by selling seized goods. Promotion depends on an informal quota of arrests. Police officers who seize businesses became common enough to have earned the nickname “werewolves in epaulets.”