Russian taxman to crack down on tycoons

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MOSCOW, Sept 24 (Reuters) Russia's tax authorities plan to crack down on tax evasion by the country's richest people through the creation of a new unit to scrutinise their financial activities, news agency RIA Novosti reported on Monday.

With 43 dollar billionaires, according to the Forbes rich list, an elite class of ultra-wealthy Russians controls a large chunk of the post-Soviet economy.

''This inspectorate is being created to control the oligarchs,'' a source in Russia's tax authority told RIA Novosti.

Tax officials were unavailable for comment.

Some of Russia's billionaires, often described as oligarchs, have flaunted their wealth ostentatiously both in Russia and abroad while the average Russian salary stands at just over 0 per month.

The order to create the inter-regional tax inspectorate, number 11, will be signed in the next few days, RIA said.

The new unit will also look at celebrities, such as pop stars and sportsmen, a second source told the news agency.

''Abroad, there are inspectorates monitoring the bohemian world, and so the issue of having something similar here has long been in the works,'' the source was quoted as saying.

Unlike other directorates, which look at companies, this one will focus specifically on individuals.

Only one high profile Russian billionaire, oil tycoon Mikhail Khordorkovsky has been prosecuted for tax evasion, in a case which liberals criticised for scapegoating one individual who had meddled in politics, while ignoring other rich Russians.

Khordorkovsky and a second executive at former oil major Yukos are serving eight-year jail terms in Siberia for fraud and tax evasion.

REUTERS PBB HS1712

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