Russian TV investigates searches at senior tax official’s office, home


Text of report by privately owned Russian television channel REN TV on 6 April

[Presenter] Several tax offices in Moscow today were closed to ordinary visitors as they were receiving unusual ones: early this morning searches were conducted there, including in the Federal Tax Service central office. According to some reports, the searches were linked to an investigation into fraud with VAT refunds. Valentin Trushnin has more.

[Correspondent] Reports that a deputy head of the Moscow city directorate of the Federal Tax Service [Olga Chernichuk] may have been stealing, and stealing billions, did not come as a surprise to the country’s chief tax official, [Federal Tax Service head] Mikhail Mishustin. He knew of the impending searches in advance. Ordinary people were not shocked by this news either. It was probably only Olga Chernichuk who was surprised when investigators simultaneously appeared at her office, flat and dacha. At the Federal Tax Service’s Moscow directorate she was in charge of the most corruption-intensive area, that of VAT refunds.

[Yelena Panfilova, captioned as general director of a Centre of Anticorruption Studies] The problem here is that for the majority of private firms that do not have connections in the tax service it [getting VAT refunds] takes years and years. That is connected to exports and imports, to various types of production. It’s just that it is very complicated procedure. However, swindlers for some reason find it very easy [to get VAT refunds].

[Correspondent] Everybody was instantly reminded of the case of [Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergey] Magnitskiy [who died in a Moscow remand prison in 2009]. Before his death he described exactly this scheme of stealing money from the budget whereby people close to the tax service seize in a raid a company that has paid a lot of taxes and fill in papers saying that the firm has overpaid taxes and is now entitled to a refund, which immediately follows, for instance in the amount of five billion [presumably, roubles] in cash. It is clear that a scheme like that cannot be implemented single-handedly.

[Panfilova] I think it is quite a systemic story. Judging by the amount, it is a story that has happened more than once, that has been repeated. I think there was probably a group of individuals who operated together because there need to be lawyers who take care of all the papers, there need to be accountants who take care of all the procedures, there need to be ordinary tax inspectors who take care of the necessary papers.

[Correspondent] The leadership of the [Federal] Tax Service promptly announced that the Chernichuk case was not linked to the Magnitskiy case and the amounts involved are not five but so far only two billion [roubles]. As regards the question of how deep the investigators are digging, for the time being it has been announced that there are from three to five suspects.

[Presenter] They knew everything: the finance minister said today that these searches did not come as a surprise to him. According to Aleksey Kudrin, they were initiated by the security service of the Federal Tax Service itself, jointly with the law-enforcement agencies. The same was confirmed by the Federal Tax Service leadership.

[Interfax news agency, Moscow, in Russian 1047 gmt 6 Apr 11, quoted Kudrin as saying that Olga Chernichuk was not dealing with VAT matters.]
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