Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Freedom of Information - An Alternative View

My extensive network of informers tells me that many of you (You know who you are. So do I...) believe that your secretive and sneaky Pedant-General is keeping files on you all. Paranoia being a useful state in which to keep the citizenry, I am certainly not going to give you the satisfaction of confirming your worst nightmares. Suffice to say the your furtive Pedant-General mutters darkly every time the words "Freedom of Information" waft towards his "shell-like".

With this in mind, consider this missive received via the electric pigeon at the Grace and Favour Apartment this morning from a chum of the P-G:


With only 6 weeks of family time left in Sydney as bub three grows big and strong, our thoughts are already shifting to the place that is currently 30 degrees colder [Russia that is - keep up at the back there] .... where, it turns out, everyone's tax records are for sale again.

For the last couple of years, this database has included everyone's personal, financial and tax details - [Chum's Name deleted to protect the innocent. Oh come on - who am I kidding: he's in it up to neck...], Khordorkovsky and Putin included.... and it is the reason a lot of expats only give their office address to state bodies. This from the tax office that currently demands that all personal tax payments come from a personal account in the name of the taxpayer - your company can't pay your tax for you.

Hope you are well

Black Marketeers Peddle '04 Taxpayer Database

Moscow Times, November 7th

By Anastasiya Lebedev
Staff Writer
The black market has a hot new item for sale -- a database listing Moscow taxpayers' 2004 incomes along with contact information, Vedomosti reported on Tuesday. Available both online and in disc form for as little as 1,400 rubles ($49), the database contains last year's tax data leaked from the Federal Tax Service, the report said. It is the third such list of sensitive information to go on sale since November 2004.

Uncovered at a kiosk at Savyolovsky market in Moscow by reporters -- who were able to verify their own incomes -- the appearance of the newest, 2004 version of the database highlights a lack of official action in dealing with the issue. Federal Tax Service spokeswoman Yelena Tolgskaya was unable to confirm a leak, adding she was confident the service's information protection system was secure. But an outside party should handle any investigation into the matter, she said.

Law firm Pepeliaev, Goltsblat & Partners advises complaints be directed to the Prosecutor General's Office, said Yelena Ovcharova, a senior lawyer at the firm, confirming the disclosure of tax information is a criminal offense in Russia.The prosecutor's office would have to take action if people registered their complaints, leading possibly to a criminal investigation and charges against the tax officials behind the leak, she said. "The problem is that people frequently just give up and don't complain," Ovcharova said.

The Prosecutor General's Office could not immediately provide information on how often it received such complaints. A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police force, said ministry officials were too busy with preparations for this Thursday's Police Day holiday to comment.


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