пятница, 18 марта 2011 г.

Low-tax Beverages


It became known yesterday that the police department of the Moscow region initiated a criminal case on ZAO OST-Aqua "(a subsidiary group of companies OST) for tax evasion in especially large amount; the company is producing soft drinks under the brand name "Drinks from Chernogolovka”. It happened after the taxmen claimed against "OST-Aqua" for a sum exceeding 600 million rubles. The company filed a lawsuit to arbitration on its own bankruptcy, and its owners including the principal one- a State Duma deputy Vladimir Pekarev began to prepare the output of assets. It possible that the state is still trying to force the company and its owners to pay the public debt through this criminal case.

the Central Investigation Department of the Moscow area instituted a criminal case under the Part 2 of Article 199 of the Criminal Code (large-scale tax evasion by an organization, the maximum sentence - six years of imprisonment) in respect of ZAO OST-Acqua officers. "Employees of Tax Crimes Department of the Moscow police department in Chernogolovka, Noginsky area examined the financial and economic activities of the organization - producer of low-alcohol drinks and mineral water", said the Head of Information and Public Relations of the regional police department, Eugene Gildeev. According to him, during the operational search policemen established that the company evaded taxes for about 400 million rubles. No prosecution case has been presented.

According to information from the investigating authorities, the prime suspect in the criminal case is the former general director of JSC "OST-Aqua" Dmitry Gusev, who resigned from the company two years ago. However, investigators assume that other officials of the company can also be brought to a trial.

Director of Marketing and Strategic Development JSC "OST-Aqua" Alexander Anfinogenov told that "the company has not received any official documents confirming the information on the criminal case opening."

At the same time, he acknowledged that they can guess about the contents of the case, explaining that "the current management of the company does not have anything to do with the incident, hence considers it unethical to give any comments and ratings."

Problems with "OST-Aqua", the manufacturer of popular soft drinks, mineral water, and low-alcohol cocktails began in July 2008. Then the Russian Federal Tax Service Inspectorate of Noginsk, Moscow area revealed that the company had underpaid taxes amounting to about 399.3 million rubles, including incomplete payment of excise tax amounting to about 294 million rubles, Taxes on profit - 29.33 million, VAT - 75, 8 million rubles. Together with the fines and penalties the total tax claim against the company grew to 624.2 million rubles. The taxmen claims were connected with the activities of contracting company - based in Kabardino-Balkaria, LLC "Alco-Prom. To produce its low-alcohol cocktails “Jet Plus" the company "OST-Aqua" bought spirited infusions from “Alco-Prom"LLC, which supposedly had already paid the entire tax of the produced products. In addition, the audit found out that the Kabardino-Balkarian LLC actually did not receive any payments and did not even have a license for the distilled spirits production in a form of infusions. ZAO OST-Aqua "tried to challenge the taxmen claims in the Court, but in August 2009 the Tenth Arbitration Appeal Court upheld their legality, and recognized the company to be a party of illegal excise taxes compensation.

The company was unable to settle the budget; as a result in October 2009 it had to apply to the Arbitration Court of the Moscow region with a claim for their bankruptcy. "We are obliged to apply for bankruptcy by law, because our assets are less than liabilities," explained the current CEO of the company, Almaz Shukurov. This lawsuit is still pending.

Simultaneously, the founder of the group OST and its principal owner, a State Duma deputy Vladimir Pekarev created ”Aqualife” LLC, into which , by his own admission, he was planning to withdraw the bulk assets of "OST-Aqua" (see "Komersant" for the September 10, 2009). According to Mr. Pekarev, reorganization of OST-Aqua has been performed on demand "of potential investors” who are interested in brands OST, but can not or do not want to invest in companies associated with alcohol production.

However, experts believe that the willingness to find investors may be not the only reason for creating " Aqualife”. "As a rule, such reorganizations are made in order to leave the debts on the old company", suggested in an interview with Kommersant Denis Uzoykin, lawyer of the Moscow Region Bar Association. In her turn, the CEO of OST, which includes "OST-Aqua", Iraida Shankova doubted that the assets could be withdrawn to another company. “"OST-Aqua” is in process of bankruptcy, so the assets withdrawal is impossible by the law," said Mrs. Shankova to Kommersant yesterday.

If the company "OST-Aqua" is recognized to be bankrupt and its assets are going to be withdrawn to another company by the time, then there will be no one actually to pay tax debts to the budget. As one of the investigation participants explained to Kommersant, that fact became the main reason for prosecution. As the criminal case initiators consider, the threat of criminal responsibility to specific officials of the company will help repay the tax debt: "Criminal case is a good way to remind the decision makers that debts should be paid."

ZAO “OST-Aqua” was established in July 1997 in the town of Chernogolovka, Noginsky district of the Moscow region. It produces low-alcohol and soft drinks, mineral and drinking water. The most famous brand - "Drinks from Chernogolovka”. There are artesian wells at its disposal, the average annual production capacity is more than 32 million decalitres. In 2008 the company's share of non-alcoholic beverages amounted to 4,1%. According to “SPARK-Interfax”, 60.78% belong to the group OST by Vladimir Pekarev, the remaining 39,22% - to Igor Bryntsalov (nephew of the founder of the pharmaceutical group “Ferein”, Vladimir Bryntsalov), and Alexander Gorlov. In 2008 the company's revenues totaled 2.1 billion rubles, net profit - 2.8 million rubles.

In July 2009 the Tenth Arbitration Appeal Court confirmed the legality of tax claims against the company "OST-Aqua" to 624.2 million rubles. In November 2009 Arbitration Court of the Moscow region introduced observation into the company due to its statement of the bankruptcy procedure.

Source: "Kommersant» № 35 (4335) on 02/03/2010

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