Labor union's leader charged with felony tax evasion

Henadz Fyadynich, chairman of the Belarusian Union of Electronic Industry Workers, has been charged with felony tax evasion, according to the Investigative Committee of Belarus.

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Yuliya Hancharova, spokesperson for the Investigative Committee, said on Monday that Mr. Fyadynich was not in custody but was banned from leaving Belarus.

When reached by BelaPAN, Mr. Fyadynich said that he was charged on August 11. He gave no other details, explaining that he had signed a non-disclosure pledge.

On August 2, officers of the State Control Committee (SCC) raided the office of the labor union in Minsk and arrested Mr. Fyadynich and Chief Accountant Ihar Komlik on suspicion of tax evasion. Mr. Fyadynich was released the following day after questioning. Mr. Komlik was charged with tax evasion on August 10 and remains in custody.

The SCC said on August 2 that the union's chairman and chief accountant had opened accounts in foreign banks on behalf of the union.

According to the SCC's 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.

Mr. Fyadynich told reporters that he was suspected of dodging 22,000 pre-redenomination rubels in income tax.

Belarusian human rights groups have linked the criminal case against Messrs. Komlik and Fyadynich to the labor union's active campaign against a so-called parasite tax.

The Belarusian authorities have been urged to drop the criminal case against the labor union's leaders by IndustriALL Global Union, the International Trade Union Confederation, the International Federation for Human Rights, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, and the World Organization Against Torture.

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