MIKULÁŠ Vareha, nicknamed the Lord of Zemplín, will spend 11 years in prison and pay a €100,000 fine after the senate of the Specialised Criminal Court in Banská Bystrica found him guilty of VAT and other forms of tax and insurance fraud. The court thus upheld the original verdict, which had been overturned by the Supreme Court in November 2013.

The ruling however is not valid yet, as Vareha or his lawyer can still appeal, the SITA newswire reported on January 23.

Vareha, 51, was arrested by police on March 1, 2011. At the time he had been in business for 12 years and acted as the authorised representative of more than 70 firms trading in a wide variety of goods and commodities, including bark beetles, cowshed compost and wooden gates. Between 2007 and 2010, the state refunded €32,729,204 in VAT to the businessman, state officials said at the time of his arrest.

He was convicted of committing tax evasion between 2008 and 2011, mainly in the Trebišov district in eastern Slovakia, where he claimed to have traded 55.3 million tree grafts and 414.2 million bark beetles, according to the Special Prosecutor’s Office. In November 2012 Vareha claimed the bark beetles, which are normally regarded as a major tree parasite, were used as food for pheasants.

The Specialised Criminal Court sentenced Vareha in April 2013 to 11 years in prison for VAT and other forms of tax and insurance payment evasion that deprived the state of €58.1 million in revenue. The court also imposed a personal €100,000 fine on Vareha. Vareha appealed the verdict, claiming he was innocent.

The Supreme Court accepted Vareha’s complaint in November 2013, calling it “partially founded”, and returned the case to the Specialised Criminal Court. The Supreme Court questioned several steps the court had made, for example, criticising it for using evidence “which was not in compliance with the law”. Moreover, the Specialised Court allegedly broke the law when it forced Vareha’s lawyers to be present when reading the verdict, even though Vareha had dismissed them a few days before it was issued, as reported by Etrend.sk website.

The Supreme Court also said that the Specialised Court judges did not allow Vareha’s new lawyer to make a closing argument, the website wrote.

Vareha said in his closing statement that he is innocent and the whole case was made up with the aim of covering up Slovakia’s dysfunctional tax system. He is convinced that his business was legal and in accordance with Slovak laws, as reported by SITA.

Source: SITA, Etrend.sk

For more information about this story please see: Vareha's case returns to start

Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports

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