Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 233

The circumstances surrounding the raids by tax police last week on the homes and offices of businessman Sergei Lisovsky and several of his associates became murkier Tuesday (December 15), when Lisovsky’s lawyer was severely beaten. Anatoly Kucharena was hospitalized with a concussion, skull fracture and broken ribs after the late night attack, which took place near his office. The following day, the lawyer was to present a complaint to Russia’s prosecutor general and the tax police concerning last Friday’s tax police raids, which were made in connection with Lisovsky’s alleged nonpayment of taxes. Lisovsky and his lawyer are currently challenging the tax authorities in court over the claim that Lisovsky failed to pay 240,000 rubles (a bit more than US$10,000) in personal income tax. Kucharena was also supposed to be present yesterday when the tax police questioned Lisovsky. Because of the beating, the questioning did not take place (Russian agencies, December 16).

Employees in some of the firms which were targets of the raids complained Wednesday (December 16) that they were beaten and strip searched, and that the masked police officials did not follow established guidelines for searches. Tax police officials, meanwhile, expressed condolences over the attack on Kucharena but defended their raids. Valery Leskov, head of the tax polices’ investigation department, denied that anyone was intimidated during the raids and said there can be no “untouchables” when it comes to tax evasion. He and other tax police officials reported that during the raids, they seized US$240,000 from the office of Vladimir Zhechkov, who runs Premier SV, an advertising agency owned by Lisovsky. They also seized a host of valuables, including icons, gold chains and watches from the various offices and homes (Russian agencies, December 16). One newspaper reported that investigators found four cars–including an armored Mercedes–and 50 televisions at Lisovsky’s four-story dacha (Obshchaya gazeta, December 17-23).

Various media continued to analyze the possible “versions” of the raid on Lisovsky’s business empire. Some pointed to the fact that Premier SV, which has had monopoly control over advertising on the ORT television channel, has hit hard times and owes ORT, which itself is threatened with bankruptcy, US$50 million. One newspaper elaborated on another theory–that Lisovsky is still suspected of having participated in the 1995 contract murder of Vladislav Listiev, the ORT director who announced an advertising moratorium on the channel in order to clean up shady advertising deals. The paper quoted Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov as saying that he received documents from Switzerland involving the commercial activities of some ORT officials which could “shed light” on the motive for Listiev’s murder. The newspaper said Lisovsky’s name was among a list of suspects in the Listiev case which Skuratov gave to Yeltsin in March of this year (Obshchaya gazeta, December 17-23).