By Karine Kalantarian
The chief of the Armenian customs, Armen Avetisian, accused Turkey on Wednesday of trying to sabotage collection of excise taxes in Armenia by printing and disseminating fake stamps that certify their payment.
Excise tax is a mandatory extra duty levied from sales of tobacco and alcohol, a major source of state revenues in Armenia. The authorities require businesses to buy and attach the stamps to cigarette packets or bottles of all alcoholic beverages other than beer. They say forgery of those stamps has become a serious problem in recent years.
It was among issues discussed on Tuesday by President Robert Kocharian and Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian. Hovsepian in turn raised it at a meeting the next day with senior prosecutors and other law-enforcement officials.
One of the prosecutors, Vladimir Grigorian, said forensic experts at the Armenian Justice Ministry identified about one million fake stamps in the past two years. Avetisian, who was also at the meeting, claimed that they are printed in Turkey and smuggled into Armenia via Georgia.
“This is my personal opinion,” he told RFE/RL. “I think so because they are printed in Turkey on an industrial scale, which suggests state involvement and sponsorship.”
“We first found excise stamps back in 1999 when I was working at the National Security Service. We proved at the time that they are printed at the same plant that prints the Turkish currency,” he added.