RFE/RL Armenian Report – 07/10/2018

                                        Tuesday, 
Government Details First Results Of Crackdown On Tax Fraud
• Emil Danielyan
Armenia - Tax inspectors raid the offices of the GLG Project company linked to 
a brother of former President Serzh Sarkisian, 23 June 2018.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Tuesday that his government has 
recovered more than 20 billion drams ($42 million) of unpaid taxes in less than 
two months.
Pashinian attributed that to an ongoing “fight against corruption, abuses and 
the shadow economy.” “This is a very important indicator, and I think that we 
must keep up our efforts in this direction,” he said at a weekly cabinet 
meeting in Yerevan.
Davit Ananian, the head of the State Revenue Committee (SRC), specified that 
the sum equivalent to almost 1.8 percent of Armenia’s 2017 tax revenue was 
collected from 73 companies accused of tax evasion. They have been investigated 
by not only the SRC but also the National Security Service (NSS) and the 
police, he told cabinet members.
Ananian singled out a tax fraud case brought against a customs brokerage 
company reportedly linked to his predecessor, Vartan Harutiunian.
The NSS claimed in late May that the company, Norfolk Consulting, has evaded $7 
million in taxes since being set up last summer and obtaining exclusive rights 
to process imports from China, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey. Norfolk’s 
executive director, Armen Unanian, and two chief accountants were arrested at 
the time. They all were freed a week later after Unanian agreed to transfer the 
allegedly unpaid taxes to the state.
In mid-June, the SRC accused two other customs brokerage firms of failing to 
pay more than 2 billion drams in taxes.
Armenia’s leading food supermarkets have been the other major targets of the 
new government’s stated crackdown on tax evasion. They have agreed to pay hefty 
fines despite insisting that they stuck to taxation rules that were set by the 
previous government.
Ananian promised a tougher crackdown on companies and individuals 
underreporting their earnings when he was appointed as head of the SRC in late 
May. He said that the government’s tax revenue will be “substantially higher 
than planned” this year. It rose by more than 7 percent in 2017.
Pashinian said on Tuesday that the unpaid taxes detected by the law-enforcement 
authorities will be added to Armenia’s 2018 state budget. In particular, he 
said, the government will allocate 10 billion drams ($21 million) in additional 
subsidies to impoverished communities outside Yerevan.
The premier also stressed: “This figure [$42 million] doesn’t include illegal 
enrichment and embezzlement cases and cases involving other corrupt practices, 
which are also extremely large in scale. This process will definitely continue, 
and we will recover very serious sums and reverse damage inflicted on the 
state.”
The most high-profile probes of “illegal enrichment” launched to date involve 
former President Serzh Sarkisian’s former chief bodyguard, Vachagan Ghazarian, 
and brother Levon.
Ghazarian was arrested late last month after the NSS confiscated more than $2 
million worth of cash from him. According to the NSS, he claimed to have 
“forgotten” to add this and other money to his official income declarations.
Around the same time, the SRC discovered documents showing that Levon Sarkisian 
and his two children hold nearly $7 million in an Armenian bank. Sarkisian and 
his daughter are now facing prosecution for their failure to disclose these 
sums to a state anti-corruption body.
An Armenian court issued an arrest warrant for Levon Sarkisian on Saturday. He 
has still not been arrested, however, suggesting that he may have fled the 
country.
Investigators To Question Another General Over 2008 Violence
• Astghik Bedevian
Armenia - Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian (R) and chief of the Armenian army 
staff, General Yuri Khachaturov, at a meeting in Yerevan, 28May2015.
Armenia’s former top army general currently heading the Russian-led Collective 
Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has been summoned to Yerevan for 
interrogation in connection with the 2008 post-election violence in the country.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) said on Tuesday that Yuri Khachaturov 
will be questioned as a “witness” in its long-running inquiry into the deadly 
unrest. A spokeswoman for the SIS told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) 
that he has pledged to arrive in Yerevan and answer investigators’ questions at 
the end of this month.
The questions will likely revolve around the Armenian army’s alleged 
involvement in the March 2008 crackdown on opposition supporters who 
demonstrated in Yerevan in the wake of a disputed presidential election. Then 
President Robert Kocharian declared a state of emergency and ordered army units 
into the capital amid vicious clashes between security forces and protesters. 
Eight protesters and two police servicemen died as a result.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, who was a key speaker at the 2008 protests, 
told the SIS to finally solve the killings shortly after he swept to power in a 
popular uprising in May.
The law-enforcement body last week issued an arrest warrant for retired General 
Mikael Harutiunian, who was Armenia’s defense minister during the 2008 unrest. 
It charged Harutiunian with illegally using the armed forces against the 
protesters, saying that amounted to an “overthrow of constitutional order.”
Khachaturov was a deputy defense minister in March 2008. The newly elected 
President Serzh Sarkisian appointed him as chief of the army’s General Staff in 
April 2008. Khachaturov’s predecessor in that post, Seyran Ohanian, was named 
defense minister at the time.
Ohanian was personally involved in the enforcement of three-week emergency rule 
introduced by Kocharian. SIS investigators reportedly questioned him as a 
witness last week. They also sent a summons to Kocharian.
Khachaturov, 65, served as the army’s chief of staff from 2008-2016. Russia, 
Armenia and four other ex-Soviet states making up the CSTO appointed him as 
secretary general of the Russian-led defense pact in April 2017.
Pashinian Allies Want Fresh Elections In Yerevan
• Nane Sahakian
Armenia - Nikol Pashinian (C) and other leaders of the Yelk alliance lead a 
pre-election demonstration in Yerevan, 21Apr2017.
A senior representative of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Yelk alliance on 
Tuesday called for the conduct of fresh municipal elections in Yerevan 
following the resignation of Mayor Taron Markarian.
Markarian, who is a senior member of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s 
Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), stepped down on Monday after weeks of 
pressure from Pashinian and his allies.
Under Armenian law, Yerevan’s municipal council has to elect a new mayor within 
a month. Failure to do so would give the central government the right to 
disband the legislature and hold snap elections in the capital.
Representatives of the HHK, which holds 46 seats in the 63-member council, 
declined to say on Tuesday whether it will nominate a mayoral candidate. A 
senior Yelk councilor, Davit Khazhakian, was confident that the former ruling 
party will not do that.
“It is evident that there must be pre-term elections of the city council,” 
Khazhakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). The vote should be 
held in September, he said.
Yelk, which controls 14 council seats, consists of three political parties that 
were in opposition to Armenia’s former government. One of them, Civil Contract, 
is headed by Pashinian.
In Khazhakian’s words, it is not yet known whether the three Yelk parties would 
participate in the snap polls jointly or on their own. Nor have they discussed 
any candidacies for the vacant post of mayor so far, he said.
“I think such discussions will be held very soon,” added Khazhakian.
Yelk finished second in the last Yerevan elections held in May 2017. It claimed 
that the HHK won them through vote buying and abuse of administrative 
resources. Sarkisian’s party denied that.
Press Review
“Zhoghovurd” finds “interesting” the fact that Yerevan’s Mayor Taron Markarian 
gave no reason for his resignation which he announced on Monday. “It is not 
clear whether or not the resignation was agreed with Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian,” writes the paper. It notes that Pashinian effectively called for 
Markarian’s resignation shortly after he came to power. It describes Markarian 
as “one of the key figures of the former government who was not acceptable to 
the new authorities.”
“After the street-based regime change it was not hard to guess that joint work 
between the former regime’s representative Taron Markarian and the 
velvet-revolutionary government is impossible,” writes “Hayots Ashkhar.” This 
is why the mayor had no choice but to step down, says the paper.
“Zhamanak” reacts to former President Robert Kocharian’s latest comments on the 
2008 crackdown on opposition protesters which was ordered by him. The paper 
says that while defending his actions in February-March 2008 Kocharian is now 
trying to dodge responsibility for a secret order to the armed forces which was 
signed by then Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunian. Kocharian said that he did 
not have to agree to Harutiunian’s decision to deploy troops in and around 
Yerevan. Kocharian is thus “washing his hands on the issue of Mikael 
Harutiunian,” comments the paper. “What is more, he is indirectly holding Serzh 
Sarkisian responsible for that,” it claims.
“168 Zham” quotes a U.S. political analyst, Paul Stronski, as saying that U.S. 
President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are unlikely 
to discuss the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict when they meet in Helsinki 
this month. He notes that there Russia and the United States have had few 
differences on Karabakh.
(Tigran Avetisian)
Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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