Ales Bialiatski ‘flayed’ again: No chance for early release
The Court of
Pershamaiski District of Minsk has ruled in a civil lawsuit to collect from
Ales Bialiatski over 140 million rubles of fine (nearly 12,700 Euro) for alleged
late payment of arrears. Meanwhile, the amount ordered by the sentence was paid
by the human rights defender in January and indexed for inflation, after which it
more than doubled.
The civil case was considered on March 29 by Judge Volha Bahamya with participation of representatives of the tax office of Pershamaiski District Mesdames Sobaleva, Todryk and Kartashova.
However, as Deputy Chairman of the HRC “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich said, neither Ales Bialiatski nor his colleagues or his family knew about this lawsuit.
“Ales Bialiatski sent the decision of the Court of Pershamaiski District of March 29, 2012 to his wife by mail,” says Stefanovich. “The trial was held in the absence of Bialiatski, and the judgment stated: “The defendant in the trial did not appear in the courtroom, he is currently in prison, the date and time of the court session was duly notified. Well, how could he appear, when he is in prison?”
Ales Bialiatski’s lawyer did not attend the trial either.
“Considering audit report No. 249 of 15.08.2011, on 29.09.2011 the Inspection released a decision No. 516 on the collection of income tax in the amount of 208,556,390 rubles and a fine on income tax in the amount of 120.615,402 rubles.
Since the defendant has failed to voluntarily pay the amount owed, we requested to recover from Bialiatski a debt of 497,366,764 rubles, which consists of income tax in the amount of 352,274,362 rubles and a fine amounting to 145,092,402 rubles.
At the hearing, representatives of the plaintiff clarified their claims and requested to collect from Bialiatski a fine in the amount of 140,366,151 rubles for the period from May 16, 2008 to January 19, 2012,” says the decision on the consideration the civil case by Judge Volha Bahamiya.
In this situation, the question arises: on what basis the Court of Pershamaiski District of Minsk carried out so-called indexation of the amount of damage, as reflected in the sentence? The question was sought to be understood by the lawyers of the HRC “Viasna”. After obtaining the judgment in a civil case to recover the fine, Valiantsin Stefanovich and Natallia Pinchuk visited Pershamaiski district tax office.
“There was a conversation on this subject there,” says Stefanovich. “The Inspection representatives with whom we spoke said that they had explained it to “them” (I asked who is “them”, they replied – “the Prosecutor’s Office”) that the amount should not be indexed. And they said that this is the Inspection’s approach to the case, but it was not heard.”
During the criminal trial at Pershamaiski District Court, the Prosecutor's Office requested to collect from Ales Bialiatski “the damage to the state in the form of unpaid income tax” in the amount of 352,274,360 rubles (plus state duty), having indexed it for inflation. And the court did that. But in its complaint the prosecution did not refer to any general rules of law, which could enable it to assume that the amount should be indexed. It is not clear what rates were used in this case, either.
“The court has “miraculously” indexed the amount, and it evolved from some 350 mln in more than 750 million rubles,” says Valiantsin Stefanovich. “Naturally, neither Ales’s defender nor we agreed that the amount was indexed, as the Tax Code does not provide for any indexing. The tax legislation provides for only one kind of “modernizing” the debt – a fine that is calculated on the basis of refinancing rates.”
However, representatives of the civil society came to the conclusion that it was necessary to conduct a campaign to raise funds and pay the amount – for the liberation of Ales Bialiatski. The entire amount – indexed! – has been paid.
“And now there appears this action to recover penalties for late payment of the debt, which is calculated from the date of receipt of payments on Ales Bialiatski’s accounts in 2008 until Natallia Pinchuk transferred the money on the account of the court in 2012 – more than 140 million rubles,” says Stefanovich. – “That is, it turns out that the penalty is recovered from the amount of debt, which, after being indexed, increases more than twofold. It is absolutely non-legal approach to this situation. After all, the amount of debt should be some 350 million, plus penalties – some 140 million. And the total, thus, would have to be about 500 million. And now it turns out that it reaches 900 million.”
Back at the stage of appealing the sentence, Ales Bialiatski’s lawyer Dzmitry Laeuski pointed to the illegality of the indexation of the amount of “damage”, but the board of the Minsk City Court did not give any comments. Subsequently, the counsel raised this issue in a supervisory complaint, filed in the name of the chairman of the City Court.
According to the human rights defenders, an appeal against the decision of the court in the civil case to recover penalties will be filed. A supplement to the supervisory appeal will also be referred by the counsel to the chairman of Minsk City Court, where besides the requirements to reverse the sentence in the criminal case of Ales Bialatski, there will be his comments on the absolutely unlawful approaches by the prosecution.
According to the human rights defenders, this fact only emphasizes the motive of the purely political case of Ales Bialiatski. According to the lawyer of the HRC “Viasna” Uladzimir Labkovich, the authorities now have a new “trump card”.
“Before there appeared a claim for recovery of penalties, the current regime had all the legal grounds to grant a pardon to Bialiatski, and he could have also been released. But now, in an absolutely political way, there have been created an artificial barrier to the application of the legal procedure of pardon – the new financial claims against him,” said Labkovich. “We believe that this is done in order to have something to explain the inability to use any form of mitigating Bialiatski’s sentence – parole, amnesty, or pardon.”
The human rights center “Viasna” considers this political decision to establish a formal reason to prevent the release of Ales Bialiatski as an element of violence against him and the pressure on his associates.