By Atom Markarian
Armenian tax authorities destroyed on Monday more than two thousand bottles of alcohol which they said were either smuggled into the country or produced by the shadow sector of its economy.
The heavily publicized action followed harsh criticism directed by President Robert Kocharian at the ministry for state revenues and Armenian customs. Kocharian blamed them last week for what he described as a recent rise in smuggling.
Ministry officials announced a sweeping crackdown on illegal business practices as plastic and glass bottles filled with vodka, wine and brandy ended up on a sprawling rubbish dump just outside Yerevan. Local journalists were invited to watch the destruction.
“This is going to be a continuous process, not a temporary one,” Deputy Minister for State Revenues Manvel Yeganian assured them. “We will step up our campaign to eliminate illegal activities in this sphere.”
Yeganian said the alcohol was confiscated from more than a hundred traders in various retail markets of the city. He said many of the bottles were found to be produced clandestinely because they had no excise tax stamps, while many others were imported into Armenia illegally.
According to Yeganian, the smuggling mostly involves low-quality alcoholic drinks and cigarettes. Under Armenian law they are subject to destruction after confiscation.
Also widespread is the smuggling of food and cheap clothing. They are mostly sold in the open-air markets where tax evasion is believed to be rampant.