Lohvinau Bookstore Fined

09.01.2015 Source: Press service of the Belarusian Association of Journalists

If the court decision comes into legal force, the bookstore will go bankrupt.

On January 9, the Economic Court in Minsk imposed a fine of 5 million rubles and confiscation of 961 million rubles from Lohvinau bookstore.

The suit was filed by the Information Ministry in December. The bookstore was charged with selling books without Registration of the Information Ministry.

Here we should remind that amendments to the law on publishing and distribution of print products (came into legal force since January 1, 2014) obliged all distributors of print products to publish with the Information Ministry in a special register. The titles of the distributors are supposed to be published on the website of the Ministry. The distributors had to do it within a year.

Lohvinau bookstore failed to do so. They had applied for registration eight times. All applications ended with refusals. The official papers explained the reasons: the applicants violated requirements of both form and contents of the application (January 24); the private unitary enterprise Lohvinau … located at Minsk, Nezalezhnasti ave. 37-a … for inexact indication of the place of registration of the legal entity (February 28); the size of the state duty for registration does not correspond to legal requirements (June 12); the electronic payment order provided does not meet the requirements of article 251, part 2 of the Code on Taxes (August 29); the type of premises was not indicated in the application form as required by a ruling of the Information Ministry (October 10); the incorrect information on postal code was provided (November 25).

Now the books-seller has to pay a fine for that he is an unregistered book-seller, the sum equivalent to around 363 USD for the time being. But, the state also wants a compensation of 961 million rubles of the “illegal profit”, which is around 70,000 EURO for the time being.

Lohvinau says the state bodies mistaken about the sum of the profit, as this is the money of the total sales for the year. The defendant made a motion to attach financial documents proving it to the case materials, but the judge dismissed the motion.

Now, he has ten days to appeal against the court decision.

The bookstore keeps work under another legal entity since the start of the year.

We remind that at first Lohvinau’s license as a publisher was withdrawn. The grounds for the decision was that the publishing house Lohvinau had been the publisher of the Belarus Press Photo 2011 album. The photo album was acknowledged extremist by the Ashmiany district court in 2012, and neither cassation appeal nor public indignation managed to overturn this decision. BAJ do not consider that the album was at least a bit extremist, moreover it was absurd to withdraw a publishing license on the basis of this dubious case.

Meanwhile, Belarusian legislation was amended a little, substituting publishing license by registration of publishers, and also of distributors of print products, which brings even more law and order, but also, as we see it now, brings the whole Lohvinau enterprise to an end. The Belarusian law on publishing activities was criticized by PEN.

Lohvinau was awarded with IPA Freedom to Publish Prize.

The Lohvinau’s publishing house, according to latest information, was temporarily organized in Lithuania.