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Tuesday 20.02.2018 | Name days: Smuidra, Vitauts, Smuidris
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NP: SRS director to explain why Finance Police ended VAT scam case with Šlesers home

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThe oligarch case viewed with new eyes forces questions not only about Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s and prosecutors’ ability to prove corruption, but also the efficiency of work performed by State Revenue Service’s Finance Police, Nekā personīga programme notes.

At the same time, the programme reports that the section of the oligarch case revolving around possible tax manipulations with the construction of former politician Ainārs Šlesers’ home has been revived and sent to investigators for repeated review.

«Ex-politician and businessman Ainārs Šlesers visited his house on the coast of the sea in Melluži this week. Gates of the fenced-off territory remain closed. Šlesers does not come out. The only thing he says on the phone is that he is a private individual and is therefore not obligated to speak with the press,» journalists detail their observations.

Journalists also mention that seven years ago, Šlesers, as Vice-Mayor of Riga, organized a meeting with journalists in that exact place. He was forced to do that because nature activists opposed chopping down trees in the protected area the politician picked as the spot for his family home, NP reports.

According to information from Nekā personīga, SRS did turn against Šlesers family’s owned company Avadel, requesting a payment of EUR 225,280 in VAT. SRS launched an audit in the company because there were suspicions about Šlesers, possibly, not paying all taxes during the construction of his private home.

Journalists also say that SRS officials were certain the company in question has no rights for VAT returns because ownership of the building belongs to Šlesers family, not the company. SRS also calculated the fine for the company. However, SRS Director General Nellija Jezdakova decided to end the case in November 2010. She cancelled the decision made by inspectors because be important documents surfaced. This allowed Avadel recover the entire VAT amount from the state budget.

It should be said that Ridzene talks have breathed new life into the case. There are also rumours of new contracts being in development for Šlesers family to lease houses from Avadel and, possibly, purchase them in the future. KNAB investigators think those contracts were signed retroactively.

Talks recorded by KNAB in Ridzene Hotel reveal that all cases were settled by SRS. Šlesers and Avadel board member Ivars Gulbis met at Ridzene Hotel in November 2010 – exactly when the unfavourable SRS’ decision was still in force. Šlesers and Gulbis agreed to look for a person who would resolve problems with SRS. It was mentioned in talks that a purchase intention contract was necessary. This contract would provide Šlesers family with the right to purchase the house after its completion, journalists say.

«Those documents surfaced in SRS at the last moment, creating suspicion that someone may have consulted them from the inside. The tax expert could not recall if any decisions regarding future intention documents were cancelled as part of the VAT case,» Nekā personīga reports.

In a conversation with Nekā personīga, tax consultant Ainis Dābols commented: «I’ll be honest, in more than 20 years of my career, SRS inspectors have never considered such contracts. The question is why this information was not available during the audit.»

It is also mentioned that KNAB sent a separated case involving Šlesers and Gulbis to Finance Police. An investigation was commenced regarding the possible tax avoidance by Avadel officials. Unfortunately, this case was ended abruptly on 30 December 2015.

The programme also presented an archive containing comments from former SRS Finance Police Chief Kaspars Podiņš: «The company was bought while the investigation was underway. The company that sold the house transferred more than EUR 300,000 to the state budget. This means no damage was done to the state budget.»

The tax expert interviewed by NP says that the end of the administrative case does not provide any reason to end the criminal case. This is because the criminal case assesses one’s responsibility for any fraud attempt that may have taken place.

Dābols: «It is definitely cannot be considered a good reason for ending a criminal process. That’s my opinion, at least. A similar example is when a thief steals a jar and returns it filled with jam – this does not mean he is not a thief.»

Journalists are unable to check if the company truly sold the house in 2015. Avadel’s annual accounts do not offer a full picture. But Šlesers family’s house does not have an extended construction permit. It has yet to be commissioned. Because of that, this property is not registered with the land book. Because of that, there is no need to report the deal.

SRS Director General Ilze Cirule told the programme: «If the analysis shows that there is room to uncover new facts, we are prepared to perform an audit for the past three years. We do that in critical situations.»

When asked if there is a reason to request such an audit now, Cirule said: «Right now I do not have a reason».

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