The Armenian tax authorities have started a financial inspection of a think-tank founded by Vartan Oskanian following the controversial launch of criminal proceedings against the former foreign minister critical of the government.
The Civilitas Foundation announced on Friday that officials from the State Revenue Committee (SRC) visited its offices to request “financial documentation since the Foundation’s establishment in May 2008.”
Oskanian confirmed the information on Monday, linking the tax audit with a criminal case opened against him and Civilitas by the National Security Service (NSS). “I think the investigation by the tax agency could be useful for us and they will see that everything was done at Civilitas in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law,” he told reporters.
Oskanian, who is a senior member of the opposition-leaning Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), spoke outside the NSS headquarters in downtown Yerevan following his third interrogation in the ongoing criminal investigation into money laundering alleged by the feared security agency. He said he again refused to give formal testimony to NSS investigators.
The NSS chief, Gorik Hakobian, last week condemned Oskanian’s refusal to testify. Hakobian said that if the former minister indeed considers himself innocent then he must “explain, yell, write, and tell everyone that he is honest.”
“One does not have to prove innocence, one has to prove guilt,” countered Tigran Atanesian, Oskanian’s lawyer. “Let them try to do that.”
The case stems from a nearly $2 million donation which Civilitas received from two U.S. companies last year. The NSS claims that Civilitas failed to declare the donation to tax authorities. Oskanian, who resigned as chairman of Civilitas’s governing board earlier this year, denies that and says the case is politically motivated.
The criminal case was opened on May 25, the day after the BHK announced its decision to pull out of the country’s ruling coalition. Oskanian strongly backed that decision.