The trial of Khural newspaper chief editor Avaz Zeynalli was reopened in the Baku Grave Crimes Court on February 6th. Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva presided over the hearing. Justice Ministry expert Farzikhan Jafarov, who was invited to testify as a witness regarding the tax evasion charge filed against Zeynalli, said that he had examined the results of the tax audit carried out by the Ministry of Taxes in the office of the Khural newspaper. In response to the questions of defendant and his lawyers, Jafarov said that tax audit was not implemented correctly. According to the expert, while calculating tax evasion of the newspaper for three years (from 2008 until 2011), the Ministry of Taxes assumed a net 100 per cent sale of all copies of the newspaper. The expert also noted that although the price of the newspaper was 30 kopecks in 2008, the Ministry of Taxes calculated it as 40 kopeck per copy, and as a result the tax debt of AvazZeynalli amounted to 7,250 AZN, but in fact it is 4,076 AZN. According to Jafarov, he invited the Tax Ministry official who had conducted Khural’s tax audit to discuss this issue, but he avoided meeting.
In his turn, Avaz Zeynalli said that the tax evasion charge brought against him was completely fabricated, adding that the Ministry of Taxes exaggerated the figures of newspaper’s circulation and sale. As a proof, Zeynalli presented a document obtained from the Ekspress-servis printing company, where the Khural was printed. According to Zeynalli, the sale percentage of Khural was 39% on average, and also, despite the fact that retail price of the newspaper was 40 kopecks, 35-40% of this amount was deducted by sales points in commission. “If you do calculations considering all these nuances, you’ll see that no tax evasion was the case” said Zeynalli.
Then the case file of Zeynalli was analyzed. Lawyer Elchin Sadigov stated that while reading the case documents, he discovered that different documents presented different information about the title, size and kind of the disc containing the voice recording (presented by Gular Ahmadova), which means that someone made changes to them.
Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva completed the investigation upon mutual agreement of the parties. The next hearing is scheduled for February 13, 2:30pm, where public prosecutor Ramazan Hadiyev will make his speech.
Background: Avaz Zeynalli, was arrested on October 28, 2011 following a lawsuit brought by MP Gular Ahmadova on October 19, 2011. The Anti-Corruption Office launched a criminal case against Zeynalli under article 311.3.3 (taking a large bribe) and article 311.3.4 (extortion). Later he was charged under article 306 (contempt of court) and article 213.1 (tax evasion). A large number of local and international human rights organizations strongly believe that the charges against Avaz Zeynalli are trumped-up and that he was arrested for his articles criticizing high-ranking state officials.