Valiantsin Stefanovich appeals court ruling in tax trial
On 19 January, deputy chair of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich lodged a complaint with Minsk City Court demanding to reverse an earlier decision of 16 December 2011 by Minsk Partyzanski District Court to exact 56 mln. rubles of fine for alleged tax violations.
The human rights defender believes that the court ruling is groundless and illegal, which should result in its reversal, as provided by Par. 1 and 2 Art. 401 of the Code for Civil Procedures.
In his appeal submitted to Minsk City Court, Valiantsin Stefanovich names the reasons sufficient for the reversal of the verdict. “In its ruling, the court concludes that the money received at my bank account in the Lithuanian AO SEB bank from sources outside the Republic of Belarus in 2009 and 2010 are liable for taxation. However, the court failed to take into account all the facts that can be considered as evidence in the case”, says Mr. Stefanovich, stressing two key issues mentioned in the judgment by Judge Veranika Abramovich.
Firstly, he emphasizes the existence of an official paper by the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice, which was adjourned to the case file:
“A copy of the paper was sealed by the Lithuanian Embassy to Belarus and signed by the plenipotentiary ambassador of the country. According to the paper, the information [on the flow of funds received at a Lithuanian bank account from sources outside the Republic of Belarus in 2009-2010] provided by the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice is false. Under Art. 193 of the Code for Civil Procedures, the paper is official, as it was issued by a body (the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice) in the framework of its authority. The claimant failed to disprove the data contained in the paper. Therefore, the content of the official paper is true (Art. 193 of the CCP)”.
During the court hearing, Mr. Stefanovich also requested that the court addressed the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice to receive explanations as to the exact parts of the submitted information that were considered false. Representatives of the tax inspection did not object to the motion either.
“The court dismissed the motion by its written order, saying that it was going to assess the paper during the pronouncement of judgment. However, the court ruling did not assess the evidence. Thus, the court abstained from examination and evaluation of the evidence which was crucial for a fair and unbiased consideration of the case and failed to take into account all the facts that could be considered as evidence in the case. Meanwhile, under Par. 1 Art. 214 of the CCP, the court assesses the evidence according to its own convictions based on full-scale and unbiased examination in a trial of all the facts that can be considered as evidence in the case, being guided by the law only”, says the appeal.
Secondly, the human rights defender notes that in her verdict the judge refers to accounting legislation, which is illegal:
“The court’s reference to the Accounting Code of 1994 is not right, since under Art. 1 of the Code it deals with legal entities registered in the territory of the Republic of Belarus, local branches and offices, including those of foreign organizations, economic groups, regular associations, state bodies, as well as individual entrepreneurs. I, as an individual, do not belong to either of the entities and the Code does not apply to me. It also does not apply to the foreign foundations that donated the resources, since they do not perform any activities nor have any registered representatives in the territory of Belarus. My relations with the foundations were of civil nature and their instructions concerning the transfer of money to third persons or the implementation of certain services for their benefit could be of any (including oral) kind”, says Mr. Stefanovich.