British Council almost cleared of charges

The court in Russia has declared void the largest part – amounting to around 130 million roubles (around $US 3.7 million) – of alleged tax violations by the British Council, brought up by Russia’s tax police.

The decision has been carried out by the Ninth Arbitrary Court of Appeal. In late December the court cancelled the decision by the Moscow Arbitrary Court which ruled alleged tax violations amounting to 200 million roubles (almost $US 5.8 million) invalid.

According to the British Council press service in London: in May 2008 the organisation got a tax receipt from the Russian tax police. Though the non-governmental body considered some of the tax claims incorrect, it paid the bill. Then it filed a suit to appeal against some points in it.

In December 2007 the Russian Foreign Ministry ordered the Council to halt its activities in all regions except Moscow from January 1, 2008. The Ministry said the organisation had no international or domestic legal basis for operating in the country and had violated tax laws. The UK denied the accusations.

In early January last year the regional offices of the body to promote British culture were also closed. However, the Saint Petersburg and Yekaterinburg offices reopened the same month for some time despite the ban by the Russian authorities. By now both of them are closed and only the Moscow department continues its work.

Relations between Moscow and London have worsened since the poisoning of former security services officer Aleksandr Litvinenko in London in 2006. Russia's refusal to hand over Andrey Lugovoy, who Britain has accused of the murder, led to a number of tit-for-tat measures between the two countries.