In suspicion of tax avoidance, the Finance Police performed ten searches at Pica serviss departments around Latvia; around 300 people were interrogated.
Suspicion towards a possible case of tax avoidance increased after a statement of one of the viewers of Nekā Personīga television program. The statement contained information about a possible tax avoidance schemes at one of the largest catering enterprises in Liepaja.
One specific chain of businesses belongs to a well-known Liepaja businessman Aloizs Norkus, who uses the name of Čili Pica (popular in Riga) on a franchise basis. The trademark of Čili Pica belongs to a company registered in Lithuania, which has nothing to do with these events.
An experiment was carried out in order to check the information from the viewer. Three random pizzerias belonging to the company were chosen – Čili pizzeria at the Western Center mall, Čili pizzeria at the Sala XL supermarket and a restaurant at the very heart of Liepaja – Barons Bumbier’s on the Rose Square. After making their orders, NP journalists compared the bills at each restaurant, which turned out to be completely different.
VAT at Barons Bumbier’s was charged for carrot juice and coffee, but was not charged for dessert and coffee cups.
There was also no VAT stated on the bill for coffee and scones (costing 1.96 LVL) at the Western Center mall. The third experiment site (at Sala supermarket) also issued bills with not VAT.
Journalists carried out the same experiment at Riga departments of Čili pizzerias – for proper scientific comparison – where they received official bills with Vat included.
The experiment was repeated at Liepaja departments and the results were the same as they were in the first case.
Nekā Personīga turned this information to the Finance Police, which concluded that the results are genuine, and initiated a criminal investigation.
Director of Finance Police Department of the State Revenue Service of Latvia Kaspars Cerneckis believes that the searches performed at the company’s departments were «successful». A large amount of evidence was removed.
The search process lasted for at least six hours at each of ten departments. Some officers worked through the night. It was also reported that the police required specialist safe crackers to open up the ones they found at the firm’s bureau on Zemnieku Street.
Cerneckis claims that the company is being suspected of keeping a so called «back pocket», from which employees were being paid with envelope salaries.
One employee, who worked at the company, anonymously reported that this tax avoidance scheme has been active for a long time. Workers did not report this fact to law enforcement institutions because they were afraid to lose their jobs.
Since the search raid, company owner Aloizs Norkus has not been seen. It is only known that two former prosecutors, who, at the time, combated organized crime, are hired for his defence. Publicly available information states that Norkus is one of the most well-known Lieapaja businessmen. He was also an influential People’s Party member once. He stated in his official’s declaration for 2011 that he was employed as a consultant at the Pica serviss company.