Judge upheld tax office’s suit against Human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich

On December 16, 2011 the Partyzanski District Tax Inspection of Minsk increased the sum of the claim to Valiantsin Stefanovich to 53 million rubles. A representative of the tax inspection stated that earlier information about Stefanovich’s account in the Lithuanian bank SEB, provided by the Lithuanian authorities, is incomplete, mustn’t be taken into account, because it wasn’t specified what is incomplete. Concerning the documents on financial transfers to his account provided by Amnesty International and the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the plaintiff thinks that they don’t contain any errands to Stefanovich, but just specify that Stefanovich received this money (more than 16,000 Euros).

In his testimony of December 2, Stefanovich claimed that he had spent means of the Danish Institute for Human Rights (16,900 Euros) and Amnesty International (1,400 Euro) on the campaign against the death penalty and preparation of a yearly review of human rights violations in Belarus. Stefanovich added that a part of this money had been passed to specialists for preparing a communication to the UN on behalf of relatives of the death convicts who had been executed in 2009. Valiantsin Stefanovich didn’t mention the surnames of these people. He also stated that he acted not on his own behalf, but as a representative of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, which was deprived of the state registration in 2003. The illegality of the liquidation of “Viasna” was officially confirmed by the UN, which stated that its members had the right to re-registration and compensation.

During the hearing, held on December 16, Valiantsin Stefanovich said that he was the deputy head of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” which rendered aid to victims of political repressions, prepared human rights reviews and participated in various campaigns, including the campaign against the death penalty. HRC “Viasna” concluded agreements with international human rights organizations in order to receive support for such activities. Bank accounts were opened in Lithuania for this purpose, and finances were transferred to them by Amnesty International and the Danish Institute for Human Rights. This is also confirmed by documents submitted by these organizations. Stefanovich again stated that he had never used this money as personal income.

Stefanovich also referred to the letter from the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice, where it was stated that the information that had been provided about his account, was invalid, and the court failed to disprove it. He also pointed out that the administrative case against him was directly related to the KGB pressure on “Viasna” and reminded about the letter of the head of the KGB Zaitsau to the deputy Prosecutor General Shved where it was stated that the opposition was financed through “Viasna”. Stefanovich refuted this saying that “Viasna” protected political prisoners and victims of repressions and will continue doing it. He added that tax inspectors held check-ups concerning him and his relatives every year and failed to find any discrepancies between profits and expenditures. That’s why he considered it as unlawful persecution and asked the court not to grant the lawsuit of the tax inspection.

However, the court granted the lawsuit of the tax inspectors and ruled that 54 million Belarusian rubles and also 2 more million rubles were to be exacted from Stefanovich. Human rights defender stated that he would appeal against this verdict.

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