Stop Them

No other organisation apart from the Federal Tax Service will be allowed to start criminal investigations of tax evasion. This tiny amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure – the whole law does not even fill two pages – could make a significant change to the business climate in Russia. In all notable cases of prosecution for tax infringement, from Yukos to Sergey Magnitsky, taxmen did not start the trouble themselves but joined someone else’s show.

For instance, the police charged Platon Lebedev and Mikhail Khodorkovsky with tax evasion in July and October 2003, even though claims from the tax authorities had cropped up only a few months later at the end of December. The case against Sergey Magnitsky was also started by the police and this time documents from tax collectors did not emerge at all.

It is clear that an investigation against a company like Yukos would have probably been started no matter what. The idea behind Dmitry Medvedev’s law is to protect small and medium business from petty disturbances created by people who should be busy fighting crimes they understand. Yet Sergey Magnitsky died in detention. Perhaps we should take the word ‘petty’ back.

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