Investigative Committee of Russia finishes inspection of PenzaNews founder: no crimes detected
Penza, 26 June 2017. PenzaNews. The investigations department of the Pervomaysky area of Penza under the Investigations Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia in the Penza region finished inspection of the independent new agency PenzaNews – the LLC VolgaInterMedia, which lasted since the beginning of the year 2017: no so-called "tax-crimes" in activities of the organization were detected.
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Last week, the investigative authority passed a resolution to dismiss the criminal case under three articles of the Criminal Code of Russia – Art. 199 "Evasion of the payment of taxes and (or) other charges", Art. 199.1 "Breach of tax agent's duty", and Art. 174 "Laundering of money or other property acquired by other persons through crime".
Previously, similar dismissal of tax crime cases had been given twice – on February 9 and April 20, but then the resolutions were cancelled and the materials were returned for additional investigation.
Within the framework of the investigation, 15 former and current employees of the independent agency PenzaNews were interviewed.
The company's management provided the investigators with all necessary documents that categorically prove that activities of the organization, which had been successfully operating since 2007, are absolutely legitimate, honest, and transparent.
Moreover, the Federal Tax Service department in the Pervomaysky area of Penza reported that as a result of an office audit of the LLC VolgaInterMedia no violations were detected. In other words, the tax authorities had no reason for complaint.
The initiator of the month-long inspection of the PenzaNews founder was Alexander Tuzov, ex-officer of the Federal Security Service, member of the public council under the regional department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, owner of an Internet media. In the end of the year 2016, he filed a report about alleged "tax crimes" in the LLC VolgaInterMedia and submitted it to the police. At the same time, claimant's arguments contained no specific facts.
Despite this, the assumptions and conjectures of Alexander Tuzov were enough for Sergei Shestakov, deputy head of the police of the Penza department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, to come to an agreement with the Economic Crime Department to hold an inspection of the PenzaNews office, which according to its workers was more like a search. A video recording of all actions of the police officers is available to the agency.
In the absence of the president of the LLC VolgaInterMedia Ivan Malikov, workers of the police confiscated from his office personal records, which had nothing to do with accounting. At the same time, after the inspection, it was reported to Sergei Shestakov that the workers of the Economic Crime Department had confiscated documents that were supposedly an evidence of real financial and economic performance of the organization. However, the documents had no signatures of LLC VolgaInterMedia workers, and the sums were identical to the taxes paid to the budget.
In autumn 2016, on absolutely baseless grounds Alexander Tuzov wrote a statement for the police against the president of the LLC VolgaInterMedia Ivan Malikov, the editor-in-chief of the news agency PenzaNews Pavel Polosin, and the Penza notary Igor Schebunyaev. The claimant requested the authorities to hold these persons liable for fraud and falsification of evidence. During the investigation, which also lasted for half a year – up to the spring 2017, no crimes were detected.
On May 3, 2017, Alexander Tuzov wrote two more statements – to the head of the Federal Security Service in the Penza region Sergei Sizov, and the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs department in the Penza region Yuri Ruzlyaev. In this statements in the frame of new investigation materials – this time under Art. 174 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation "Laundering of money or other property acquired by other persons through crime" – he asked to check cash flows of the independent news agency, which supposedly promoted opposition to the Kremlin and personally to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, "advertised" leaders of "the organized crime group under the Communist Party" and even activists who supported Alexey Navalny.
In addition, the former security officer asked to pay special attention to the charity programme "Technology for the benefit", which had been implemented since 2009 on the PenzaNews initiative together with the "Civil Union" foundation headed by Oleg Sharipkov, because previously the non-profit organization had supposedly received money from foreign companies.
Troubles caused by the month-long inspections and the mess caused by the case dismissals with their subsequent denials were finally stopped when Natalia Kostenko, head of the Centre for Legal Support of Journalists, deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, who used to work in the mass media before, intervened in the situation.
In May 2017, she submitted three inquiries of the deputy: to Yuri Chaika, attorney general of Russia, Oleg Troshin, head of the regional Investigative Committee branch, and Yuri Ruzlyaev, head of the regional department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Natalia Kostenko asked them to personally control the situation as well as to inform her on the results.
According to officially unconfirmed data, after this, the situation got under supervision of the presidential plenipotentiary personnel in the Volga Federal District.
As a result of the six-month inspection, the investigators came to the conclusion: there were no legal grounds for initiating the criminal proceedings.
The management of the LLC VolgaInterMedia thinks that the series of the statements submitted by Alexander Tuzov, which contained false and groundless arguments, was an attempt to cause troubles with security officials to the successful company and by doing so to revenge himself for his failures in previous trials.
As it was reported before, about a year ago, Alexander Tuzov, who was also involved in the scandal over seizure of land in Akhuny in Penza, was forced by the court to pay the LLC VolgaInterMedia and personally Pavel Polosin a total of over 400,000 rubles on the claims of illegal use of photographs that he used as images to articles on his website.
At present, the organization prepares new actions on similar grounds against the offender: Alexander Tuzov failed to solve the issue in the pre-trial order.
In addition, lawyers of the LLC VolgaInterMedia are considering the possibility of holding the former security officer liable for the false accusation and slander, as well as his exclusion from the public council under the regional department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia.