Supreme Court Upholds Fine to Lohvinau

10.02.2015 Source: Press service of the Belarusian Association of Journalists

On February 10, the Supreme Court of Belarus heard the appeal of Lohvinau against the decision to fine the bookstore for “illegal entrepreneur’s activities”.

The absence of the registration as a distributor of print products in 2014 ended up with a tax inspection at the end of the year. The tax inspectors sued Lohvinau in Economic Court, which ruled to fine the bookseller 30 basic amounts (5.4 million rubles) for work without registration and to confiscate profits of the year which was claimed to be 961 million rubles.

Lohvinau pleaded for public help to raise the funds to compensate the fine and confiscation. The bookseller said the sum of money was not the profit, but the annual turnover, and the bookstore would go bankrupt, and he might face personal criminal liability. The public and literary community are keeping a marathon of solidarity; almost fourth part of the fine has been collected by now. The bookstore keeps work under another legal entity.

Last year Lohvinau applied six times to get registered as a distributor of print products (BAJ note – the obligation to register as such was introduced with the new law on publishers and distributors of print products enacted on January 1, 2014; the registration should have been obtained within a year). The last of the refusals was due to incorrect postal code indicated in the application form. Lohvinau tried to dispute the last refusal of registration of his bookstore as a distributor of print products; however, the Supreme Court supported the standing of the registering body. On January 30, the Judge of the Supreme Court Aliaksandr Pautau supported the Ministry’s point of view.

Earlier, in 2013 the Ministry of Information terminated Lohvinau’s license as a publisher. The pretext for the sanction was decision of Ashmiany district court that the photo album Belarus Press Photo 2011, published by Lohvinau, contained extremist contents. The court decision on the photo album was denounced by reporters’ professional community. Lohvinau, in his turn, argued that he could not foresee a year before that the album could be claimed extremist, but this did not matter, and the Supreme Economic Court upheld the Ministry’s decision to rip the publisher off the publishing license. In February 2014, Lohinau registered an organization Literary House Lohvinau in Vilnius, as he hoped, temporarily.