Press Club Belarus faces tax evasion charge, directors still behind bars

The detained representatives of the Press Club Belarus media organisation have been accused of tax evasion.

On December 21, Press Club Belarus founder Yuliya Slutskaya was met at the airport upon her arrival in Minsk and taken to the Department of Financial Investigations. Yet at the same time, the police searched the flats of Press Club Programming Director Ala Sharko and Director Syarhei Alsheuski. The officers also raided the home of Media Academy Program Director Syarhei Yakupau, the office of the independent organisation, and Slutskaya’s apartment in Minsk. On the same day, Slutskaya, Sharko, Alsheuski, Yakupau and Press Club cameraman Pyotr Slutski were placed in detention.

On Tuesday evening, the Department of Financial Investigations said they were running a check on the fact of alleged tax violations by Press Club Belarus. According to the press service, the case is linked to ‘receiving large sums of money from abroad’.

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Yuliya Slutskaya is now a suspect in a criminal case under Art. 243-2 of the Criminal Code (large-scale tax evasion). The rest are suspects under Art. 16-6 (complicity in a crime) and Art. 243-2.

Five Press club employees were not released when 72 hours of their detention expired; Belarus’ Prosecutor General’s Office has remanded them in custody, reports.

As reported earlier, Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey announced limiting the activities of a number of foundations in Belarus and reviewing their humanitarian, educational and cultural programs in the wake of the third package of sanctions imposed on Belarusian officials by the European Union. It is known that Press Club Belarus launched a number of its educational programs in cooperation with the embassies of several EU member states.

Press Club, Belarusian media workers’ meeting point and a venue for lectures and discussions on the current social and political situation in Belarus, is financed, inter alia, by EU countries.

Reporters Without Borders: Belarus is Europe’s most dangerous country for journalists