May 30, 2007
NGO's Funds Are Frozen
By David Nowak
The Federal Tax Service has frozen the bank accounts of the Educated Media Foundation in what the nongovernmental organization's head said Tuesday appeared to be part of a coordinated effort to shut down the group.
Tax authorities froze the group's Russian bank accounts last Wednesday, citing incorrectly filed value added tax reports in the previous quarter, the organization's director, Manana Aslamazian, said by telephone from Paris.
The Educated Media Foundation -- the legal successor of Internews, which trains journalists and works with many media outlets -- had already effectively halted all of its activities after Interior Ministry officers confiscated documents and computers from its office in April.
Aslamazian said police were linking the search to her detention at Sheremetyevo Airport in January for failing to declare excess cash. "I can't understand who does not want us to be in the country," Aslamazian said.
Moscow's Tax Inspectorate No. 3, which froze the accounts, could not be reached for comment, and a spokeswoman at the Federal Tax Service declined to comment.
Aslamazian denied there were any irregularities in the organization's tax documents. "We have actually over-paid our taxes and have proof of that," she said.
The NGO is challenging the freezing of the accounts, Aslamazian said.
Aslamazian said she was vacationing in Paris and hoped to return to Moscow by the end of June. But her decision to return depends on whether the organization can resume its activities, she said.
The Savyolovsky District Court was to rule Tuesday evening on the legality of the April raid, in which 20 officers locked themselves in the organization's office for nearly 11 hours.