Leader of labor union, two more persons facing tax evasion charge

Henadz Fyadynich, chairman of the Belarusian Union of Electronic Industry Workers, the union`s chief accountant Ihar Komlik and Natallya Pichuzhkina, a former editor of the union`s website praca-by.info, may be charged with tax evasion, the organization confirmed on Wednesday.

The State Control Committee (SCC)`s officers raided the union`s office in Minsk on Wednesday, seizing computers and financial documents. On the same day searches were conducted at the homes of the three suspects.

Mr. Fyadynich and Ms. Pichuzhkina were arrested and questioned on August 2. The whereabouts of Mr. Komlik remained unknown on Wednesday evening, with the union saying that he had not been arrested so far.

On Wednesday, the SCC said that it had opened a tax evasion case against a labor union`s leaders.

In a statement posted on its website, the SCC said that the union`s chairman and chief accountant had opened accounts in foreign banks on behalf of the union. According to the statement, funds totaling hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars were accumulated on the accounts.

The suspects violated regulations that require individuals to obtain permission from the National Bank of Belarus for opening an account in a foreign bank, said the SCC. "Thereby they tried to conceal income that they received abroad and evade tax on this income," said the statement.

The SCC said that the suspects had repeatedly traveled abroad to withdraw money from the accounts and bring it into Belarus.

The two suspects are facing a charge of large-scale tax evasion under Article 243 of the Criminal Code.

On the same day SCC officers raided the central office of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union in Salihorsk, Minsk region. BITU Chairman Mikalay Zimin signed a statement pledging not to disclose information about the raid.

The case appears to be similar to the criminal case against Ales Byalyatski, chairman of the Vyasna Human Rights Center, who was sentenced in 2011 to four and a half years in prison on a charge of large-scale tax evasion. The charge stemmed from information about his bank accounts abroad, which was provided by authorities in Lithuania and Poland under interstate legal assistance agreements. During his trial, Mr. Byalyatski insisted that the money transferred by various foundations to his bank accounts abroad had been intended to finance Vyasna`s activities and therefore could not be viewed as his income subject to taxation.
Mr. Byalyatski was released in June 2014.