By Emil Danielyan
Prosecutors pressed on Thursday fraud charges against Armenia’s largest, Indian-owned gold company, in a move that will likely speed up its takeover by another foreign investor.
The Office of the Prosecutor-General said it has formally asked the country’s Economic Court to strip the Ararat Gold Recovery Company (AGRC) of all operating licenses and fine it almost $22 million for tax fraud and other violations of the law.
The development follows a criminal investigation that has forced AGRC’s owner, Vedanta Resources, to put the company up for sale. The company, which develops Armenia’s largest gold deposits, has stood idle ever since prosecutors raided its offices last January.
AGRC’s Indian top executives have rejected the charges as baseless and accused the Armenian government of illegally forcing Vedanta to leave the country. Vedanta is already looking for buyers for its Armenian subsidiary, which it had purchased in 2002. The Russian financial-industrial group Promyshlennye Investory is reportedly close to gaining ownership of AGRC.
It is not clear if the takeover can be formalized before a court ruling on the lawsuit brought by the prosecutors. The latter also want the Economic Court to freeze AGRC assets worth the amount of the demanded compensatory damages pending a verdict on the case.