Steelmaker owned by Ukraine's richest man complains of 'unlawful' tax probe searches

KYIV, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Ukraine’s largest steelmaker, Metinvest, said on Tuesday that law enforcement agencies were conducting searches on some of the group’s enterprises as part of an investigation into alleged tax violations.

“Searches are carried out unlawfully, computer equipment is confiscated without any legal grounds, pressure is exerted on employees of the enterprise, economic activity was partially paralysed,” it said in a statement.

The company, which is part of the business empire of Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, said that representatives of the State security service (SBU) and prosecutors were involved in the searches.

The SBU said all searches were legal and permitted by a court.

“According to the investigation, some officials of mining and processing enterprises deliberately underestimated tax liabilities for rent for subsoil use, which led to non-receipt of funds in the state budget of Ukraine in particularly large amounts,” the SBU said in a written comment to Reuters.

Rent for subsoil use is a tax that companies pay when they withdraw ore, oil, gas and other resources.

Metinvest says it has paid all taxes, and put almost 53 billion hryvnias ($1.86 billion) into the state and local budgets last year, 2.4 times more than in 2020.

“Metinvest Group is a conscientious Ukrainian taxpayer....The company conducts its business activities on the basis of law and order,” it said. ($1 = 28.4240 hryvnias) (Reporting by Natalia Zinets; editing by Matthias Williams and Leslie Adler)