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Mass. Man Stuck in Russian Red Tape

November 4, 2000

BOSTON (AP) _ A Massachusetts man working in Moscow is stuck in Russia after authorities there, citing a tax investigation, seized his visa.

Al Decie, of Newburyport, has been working for the last five years for a U.S.-funded project to promote grass-roots democracy in Siberia. He told The Boston Globe he believes the tax investigation is part of a harassment campaign by Russian officials who disapproved of his activities.

Decie’s legal troubles began July 3 when he was planning to leave Russia for the summer. He was summoned by the agency that issues visas to foreigners in Krasnoyarsk, the Siberian city in which he has lived since 1996.

An agency official took his visa, and another official from the local tax inspector’s office said he had to file income tax declarations from the past five years to get it back.

Decie thought he was tax-exempt in Russia under an agreement signed by the countries in 1992 that grants employees of nonprofit organizations that receive U.S. government funding a break from Russian taxes. The agreement was never ratified by Russian Parliament.

U.S. and Russian authorities have been operating under a series of ``good faith″ agreements to allow nonprofit aid workers like Decie to enjoy tax breaks.

Decie acknowledges violating the law by failing to file his tax declarations on time. But tax officials never told him to pay up.

Tax officials in Moscow and Krasnoyarsk refused to comment on Decie’s case.

Decie is staying at a friend’s Moscow apartment with his bags packed in case he gets permission to leave.

Aika Dzhakobayeva, a tax lawyer in Moscow who is helping Decie, said Decie is a test case for the ministry.

``He is the first person to get caught in this loophole,″ he told the Globe.

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