Kruuda feels state flex muscles

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Photo: Toomas Huik

On Tuesday, about a dozen armed tax policemen burst into Tere offices at Pärnu Highway. For hours, they digged into documents and hauled off computers. The initial public procedure regarding a secret criminal investigation underway for a year.

A bit over a year ago, Tax and Customs Board investigators arrived at the conclusion that the dairy businessman may have created a fraudulent scheme to cheat the state. The criminal procedure that followed included eavesdropping of Tere management telephones. Now, opting to move, they searched not the office only but also the homes of those concerned.

The prosecutor’s office suspects Oliver Kruuda, his company Tere and five related individuals in filing false data to tax Board thus robbing the state of about €376,000 of income tax and VAT revenue.

According to data acquired by Postimees, cash has been systematically been taken out of the company.

The VAT on question is input value added tax i.e. transactions where a company buys something and uses the purchase to lower VAT obligations. From such transactions, VAT is refunded and, allegedly, Tere asked VAT back citing fictitious invoices.

At that – the alleged fraud amounting to €376,000 – even competitors who despise Oliver Kuuda are asking if this is not a show trial by the state, the sum being insignificant as compared to the innumerable transactions by Mr Kuuda pointed out previously by competitors and creditors of Mr Kruuda.

«He is getting his due, but on the other hand the criminal procedure is an example of the weakness of our democracy,» said a dairy market player.

«€376,000 is nothing to jail people for, the account can be arrested and the money seized. This is like a show trial. Mr Kruuda has annoyed many, failed to pay and always gotten away with it, but now they are trying to show we have everything under control in Estonia. But our rule of law is arbitrary.»

The investigators refute this and cite systemic schemes of which the Kruuda case is an example. They say they are just doing their job.

Though detained yesterday, Mr Kruuda was released last night.


The Tere suspicion

AS Tere owner Oliver Kruuda, chairman and jurist Allan Viirma, Tere services director Rein Lepasson, Mr Kruuda’s financial manager Hjalmar Konno, a finance staff member and head accountant are suspected in filing false data to Tax Board depriving the state of €376,000.

Commercial Register says Tere owes the state a total of €1,241,344 in tax arrears, plus interests amounting to €9,282.