Prosecutor General's Office orders inspections of dozens of NGOs, involving also tax and Ministry of Justice officials

6 March 2013

Source: (info

Moscow city & Moscow region Freedom of association

The Prosecutor General's Office has asked the Moscow Prosecutor's Office to carry out checks on non-profit organisations "in order to enforce existing legislation" and to involve specialists from the Federal Tax Service and the Ministry of Justice in the inspections. This news was announced by the Agora Human Rights Association, which the heads of several Russian NGOs contacted for assistance. 

In particular, the Moscow city prosecutor's office has asked the Moscow School of Political Studies (MSPS) to hand over all documents related to the NGO's activities from 2010 to 2012, including accounting records, agreements with donors and declarations under the simplified system of taxation. Prosecutors are asking for founding and charter documents, information about the founders, documents detailing the sources of funding and other property, as well as information about financial reporting with a note to be sent to the Justice Ministry confirming the NGO's accounts are up-to-date and complete. The prosecutors are interested in documents detailing expenditures of cash funds and the use of other property received to support the organisation's activities. They want to know which organisations and private individuals the money came from, its "nationality" and what the funds were spent on. Finally, the prosecutors want to know the total amount of cash revenues the organisation received in 2010, 2011 and the first two months of 2012. 

Today the Russian office of a foreign foundation was also included in the inspections. 

"We consider these inspections to be political orders affecting independent and successful Russian NGOs," said lawyer and legal analyst for the Agora Human Rights Association Ramil Akhmetgaliyev. "The orders themselves are illegal. The Prosecutor General's Office is bypassing the legislation on NGOs and the Tax Code, and trying to carry out tax inspections of Russian NGOs and unscheduled inspections by the Justice Ministry. Our advice is that if any members of inspection committees show up to call the Agora Association immediately on our telephone hotline: 8-800-777-01-01. Do not obstruct access to documents on the organisation's premises. All documents taken away by inspectors should only be handed over as part of a written inventory. It is better to avoid giving written explanations by managers and staff at this stage. In the inspection minutes you must include the following entry: "Under Article 51 of the Constitution, I decline to give evidence before having  received advice from my lawyers." 

At an FSB collegium on 14 February 2013 President Vladimir Putin said: "Today the regulations for the activities of NGOs have been laid down. This applies among other things to funding from abroad. These laws must be made use of. Any direct or indirect interference in our internal matters, any form of pressure on Russia, on our allies and partners, is unacceptable." Those attending the FSB collegium included Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and chair of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev. 

On 5 March an extended collegium of the Prosecutor General's Office was held. 

The last time that unannounced inspections by the public prosecutor of around 40 NGOs took place in Moscow was in autumn 2010. At that time they were initiated by the presidential administration. 

· Advice to NGOs on inspections by public prosecutors 

· Documents on inspections conducted in the Moscow School of Political Studies can be found here and here