BGP Litigation attorney Georgy Baganov speaks with about the criminal risks borne by lawyers and attorneys

"It can happen that an attorney submits evidence in court which has been given to him by his client, explains Baganov. If that evidence turns out to be false, the attorney will be liable (if the original source fails to prove otherwise). Therefore, in such instances Baganov recommends not to overlook the use of transfer and acceptance certificates.

"When questioned, an "ordinary" lawyer loses his regalia and must give evidence in the course of an investigation or preliminary enquiries, which can affect dozens or hundreds of in-house specialists, warns BGP Litigation attorney Georgy Baganov. Therefore, he says, corporate clients should complement their legal departments with "external" legal counsel (since hiring an attorney for an in-house role is not a possibility). 

Summoning an attorney for questioning can be an attempt to get rid of him, notes Baganov. If an inexperienced specialist turns up (even if he doesn't say anything), he will then be considered an interviewed witness and will no longer be able to work for the defense".

Expanding on his earlier comments, Georgy Baganov noted that no prosecutor or officer of the law has the right to gain access in any form to an attorney's materials and documents without the sanction of a court. An attorney cannot be questioned about information a client has conveyed to him. 

But "legal consultants" enjoy no such privilege, says Georgy Baganov: the Russian Criminal Procedure Code does not address their status at the stages of investigation of a criminal case or preliminary enquiries. If a prosecutor or officer of the law were to approach a "consultant" (not an attorney) in connection with a criminal investigation or preliminary enquiries in relation to a client, the consultant would not have any legal grounds to oppose them. If he were to do so, he himself could be held criminally liable. So the risks are much higher for "ordinary" lawyers.

Georgy Baganov added that providing tax advice or legal advice to a person that is subsequently declared bankrupt generally does not constitute a crime (provided there has been no active complicity in falsifying contracts or preparing corporate stamps of shell companies). The same is true as regards the use of offshore structures. But every legal consultant should understand that if a client's actions come under the scrutiny of law enforcement, that consultant will likely be questioned at the very minimum.  

The full article (in Russian) is available here: "Уголовные риски для юристов: как консультанту не стать соучастником".