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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Tax Newspaper Spotlights Violators

First the former KGB came out with a monthly magazine. Now the guys who can really frighten in post-Soviet Russia -- the tax police -- have come up with their own publication.


Called simply "Tax Police," the new monthly newspaper is likely to appeal to the kind of people who in the West savor features on what restaurants have failed public health inspections.


The eight-page Tax Police tells readers that some of Russia's best-known companies are flagrant violators of tax laws. The following revelations appeared in the August issue:


?The Intourist Holding Company is being fined $19 million for improper accounting procedures involving hard currency, the paper said. That matter has been turned over to Russia's public prosecutor.


?Willowcorp Russian Limited, a partner in the popular Moscow disco Lis's, violated laws on hard currency operation and must pay a fine of $1,179,093 dollars and 85,331 German marks, Tax Police reported.


? The Tumba Golf Club was investigated at the request of the Central Bank. No violations were found.


The numbers certainly are savory. But is it seemly for the tax department to hang out its victims' dirty laundry in public?


"We, of course, are going to inform the public about the results of our work," said Nikolai Medvedev, head of the Tax Police's external relations department and editor of the newspaper. "It should be a lesson to others." The owner of Willowcorp felt differently.


"It's completely wrong; I think it is a commercial secret," said Darko Cengic. "It's like somebody looking at your underwear and you are not ready to show that."


Cengic added that he felt the tax penalty was unjust and that we would steadfastly fight against paying it. Medvedev replied that any company winning an appeal on back taxes would be mentioned in the following issue as having cleared their name.


At the Tumba Golf Club, which was not assessed a fine, another official said there was nothing wrong with publishing such information.


"I don't think our privacy was violated," said Alexander Yarunin, golf manager at Tumba. "They can publish anything they want if it corresponds to reality."


The exact bounds of the tax police are still being set, as the force was created just a year ago to oversee new capitalist business in Russia. Formed of mostly former police, KGB and other security officers, the force now consists of 18,000 officers nationwide, Medvedev said.


Even with the tax police's high profile role in the MMM case, many citizens know little about their activities, which is exactly why they have started their own newspaper.


"We want to, perhaps its the wrong word, enlighten the taxpayer as to their rights and obligations," said Medvedev, who formerly worked at the Red Army newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda. "Our goal is to have the number of tax evaders fall."


Despite the lofty goals, information in the Tax Police newspaper can also create misunderstandings. For example, the Intourist Holding Company listed as a tax violator is not related to VAO Intourist, the former Soviet tourism monopoly, according to Anatoly Yarochkin, who is Intourist's president. Officials at Intourist Holding Company did not return calls for comment.


Although concrete cases make up the core of the newspaper, which just published its second issue, it is not all hard facts and figures.


There is even a crossword on the back page, albeit one of dour economic clues such as: "The struggle between goods-producers for more favorable conditions of production and sale of goods to increase profit" (8 across).


Other features in the August issue include a diagram of MMM's many subcompanies offered under the headline "Details without sensations," and a map of Russia showing the regions with the highest number of tax violations. Both Moscow and St. Petersburg are in the maximum category.


"We are filling up an empty niche with this information," Medvedev said.


So far, circulation is low at 15,000, but it could become a cult favorite of entrepreneurs who both want to learn of other people's misery, and to stay out of trouble themselves.