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30 July 2021, 16:05

Lukashenko: Some businesses underpaid taxes to finance protests in Belarus

MINSK, 30 July (BelTA) – Law enforcement has identified a network of large and small firms that financed anti-government actions at the expense of the national budget, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with senior local government officials to discuss topical social and political issues in Minsk on 30 July, BelTA has learned.

According to the head of state, some commercial organizations have harnessed the tactics of NGOs. Law enforcement has identified an entire network of large and small firms that financed anti-government actions at the expense of the national budget, the president said. "The state that they have ripped off through illegal schemes of enrichment and tax evasion, including through salaries in envelopes,” he said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko urged to deal with this plague. "We are looking for pennies to feed people, meanwhile huge sums are whisked away in tax evasion. Therefore, the tax inspectorate, the government, the State Control Committee, law enforcement agencies, but above all you, local governments, need to strangle this hydra. And then we will see an inflow of taxes," the head of state is convinced.

He noted that the heads of these enterprises actively participated in unsanctioned protests and produced protest symbols, paid people for taking to the streets, called for illegal actions, such as damaging law enforcement vehicles. They even dared to deny prosecutors access to CCTV footage while providing the protest footage to destructive Telegram channels.

“Most importantly, all these ‘regime fighters' are ordinary criminals. They all were charged with criminal offenses: from tax evasion to large-scale fraud,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

To illustrate his point, he cited operational information about the amount of damage caused to the state: Beltyazhmash - Br6.5 million, TUT BY MEDIA - Br2.5 million, Modum Our Cosmetics - Br650,000, 21vek - at least Br850,000. “All in all, within just a year, from August 2020 to June 2021, these and other private companies stole about Br30 million from the state,” the president informed.

“We will also assess the work of the tax authorities; where were they? Thousands of people work in the tax administration and they overlooked it. This money was generously used to pay for participation in unauthorized rallies,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

According to the investigators, one of members of the so-called Coordination Council sent over Br1.5 million from his British account to protesters in Belarus. More than 750 people received approximately Br2,000 each for organizing protest actions.

For example, it was established that the pensioners' marches were paid for: the Yurkevich spouses (Yurkas and Door Leader companies) registered their employees as individual entrepreneurs. The money saved on taxes was used to teach pensioners to work with destructive channels and to buy tablets for them for these purposes.

According to the president, among those involved in financing the protest activities was the owner of PandaDoc, Mikita Mikado, who lives in Los Angeles, USA. “He has no idea what is going on in our country. He'd better take a look at the things that happen there – people are simply shot dead in the street. He could open an account there to finance those who are ready to give up their police badge as a sign of disagreement (they tried to persuade [Interior Affairs Minister Ivan] Kubrakov [who was head of the Minsk police department until October 2020] to do this). If Mikita Mikado had done the things he did in Belarus in the United States, he would have been arrested immediately,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Another example, cited by the head of the state, is the activity of Onishchenko, director of Beltyazhmash Company. Some 23kg of gold, 15kg of silver and $1.5 million were found in his depository. More than $115,000, €7,000, Br25,000 were found during the search of the apartment owned by the Modum - Our Cosmetics executives Petrenko, Labkovich, and Skuratovich.

The company, which owns the Online Hypermarket 21 Vek trademark, failed to pay Br850,000 in taxes over the past five years and transferred almost $3 million in dividends to its owners in Cyprus. “We must close this loophole. The National Bank and the government need to take a close look at our IT companies. They opened subsidiaries here and transfered money, mainly, in cryptocurrency,” the president said.

“We should devise definitive rules that would regulate their activities. This should be done by the end of the year,” the head of state said.

Head of companies that attracted interest of the authorities investigating economic and criminal offences, have built successful businesses in the country that, according to them, violates their rights, Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out. “It is clear that our findings are just the tip of the iceberg. They wanted to seize power and reduce everything to nothing. I want you to understand the true nature of those people and the changes they advocated,” he noted.

Many of those, who were held accountable for their activities, have admitted their guilt, repented, and said that they are ready to take part in state and public initiatives. “What about their position? They had one, didn't they? How could they come to [Press Secretary of the Belarus President] Natalya Eismont or to [Head of the ONT TV channel] Marat Markov and say they are sorry? Where is their position, their readiness to fight for the idea until the end? There was nothing of a kind. They have only one idea in mind – profit. At the expense of the country, at the expense of honest workers who are paid from the budget. These are the people who were striving for power. Draw your own conclusions,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

“This is the essence and the main tactics of the hybrid war against Belarus. Nothing has worked out, but it is not the time to let our guards down. Everyone should understand that the situation we have been mending for the past half a year mostly is the result of failures of some officials in the regions and in the capital,” the president noted.

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