Businessman known for battles with IKEA appeals sentence for tax evasion, fraud attempt
MOSCOW, December 11 (RAPSI) – A long prison sentence given to businessman Konstantin Ponomarev known for his legal battles with IKEA for attempted fraud and tax evasion has been appealed, his defense lawyer Vladimir Postanyuk has told RAPSI.
The work is ongoing and a full complaint against the sentence is expected to be lodged later this month, he has added.
In December, a court in the Moscow Region’s town of Solnechnogorsk sentenced Ponomarev known to 10 years and 2 months in penal colony, fined him 900,000 rubles ($12,000) and forfeited the disputed diesel generators to the state.
The sentence was cumulated with a previous punishment given to the entrepreneur in a false denunciation case.
In early December, prosecutor Boris Neporozhny demanded 11 years and 2 months for the defendant.
Investigators claimed that after one of the victories in court against IKEA Ponomarev’s company received 25 billion rubles ($340 million) from the furniture corporation and the businessman transferred the money to his own bank account. In this situation, he was to pay income taxes and VAT but failed. Thus, the total amount of unpaid taxes was estimated as 9.7 billion rubles ($132 million), according to the investigation. Ponomarev and his defense insisted in turn that the company did not simply transfer the funds but transferred them in accordance with a custodial services contract. Therefore, an income tax must not be demanded by officials.
A second count was related to the lend lease of diesel generators for prime power organization in Crimea. Investigators claim that the entrepreneur demanded over 5.4 billion rubles in court from lease takers.
This is the second case against Ponomarev.
On July 9, 2019, a court in Lyubertsy, a town in the Moscow Region, found Ponomarev guilty of false denunciation and passed the sentence on him. His lawyer Maxim Zagorsky received 7 years and 8 months behind bars. He was also banned from practicing law for 3 years. A judge held that the defendants committed several crimes related to evidence simulation. The attorney was an organizer of the criminal group, the ruling read.
In mid-October 2019, the Moscow Regional Court recalculated the term of actual punishment given to Ponomarev and reduced it by 6.5 months. Actual punishment of Zagorsky in the case was also recalculated. The sentence came into force.
The trial of Ponomarev and Zagorsky began in December 2018. Investigators considered initiation of criminal proceedings by a private person on Ponomarev’s appeal as false denunciation. The defendants pleaded not guilty and insisted on acquittal.
Ponomarev was embroiled in a long-standing dispute with IKEA that opted to rent diesel generators to power its shopping malls in St. Petersburg. Five criminal cases were opened against the businessman at the request of the Swedish retailer. However, a probe over alleged fraud found nothing, and the cases were dropped.
The businessman believes that the false denunciation case was resulted from the conflict with IKEA. Ponomarev claims that the company thus wants to stretch the time and siphon assets in order to avoid paying a multibillion debt to him.