By Astghik Bedevian
Armenia’s prominent millionaire businessman and parliament deputy on Monday defied what he called retribution from the state for his pro-opposition political views and said he would remain “next to [ex-president] Levon Ter-Petrosian” with whom he shares “a common ideological ground.”
Khachatur Sukiasian, who is also known for his criticism of corrupt practices in Armenia’s customs, linked the recent inspections by tax officials of his businesses with his being “the bearer of the ideas conceived by Ter-Petrosian” and a person who is among “the supporters and participants” of the rising opposition movement in support of the ex-president’s election bid.
More than 40 representatives of Armenia’s State Taxation Body launched inspection of the Bjni Company belonging to the Sukiasian family today. Sukiasian says these tax inspections are an excuse to disguise the political persecution that was launched by the state after he was seen next to the ex-president.
Sukiasian accompanied Ter-Petrosian to a police station late last month to negotiate the release of a dozen loyalists who were arrested while urging citizens to take part in an upcoming opposition rally.
“I have chosen this direction realizing that well. I realize well that all hints, all conversations, the whole information that reaches me from different bodies is connected with this process. But that will not change anything. I will always be next to him [Ter-Petrosian], because I share the concerns that he raises,” Sukiasian told RFE/RL.
“I think this is something that the government doesn’t like. But I have my own approaches, because I want what is [good] for the future of my country, for the future of our children,” he added.
Sukiasian, who is one of the largest taxpayers in Armenia, says entrepreneurs work in unequal conditions today. He says the government lacks political will to bring them all into “an equal field” of taxation.
According to Sukiasian, through affiliation with the government “a person defends himself and his business and not an idea or a political decision that this system has advanced.”
Sukiasian hinted that some overtures once were made to try to “recruit” him, but he declined to disclose any details.
Representatives of the State Taxation Body refuse to give interviews or provide explanations.
The only information that is made available to the media is that tax officials had Pizza di Roma Company director Gevorg Safarian arrested for understating revenues by 760 million drams (about $2.3 million).
They also revealed false acquisitions of 600 million drams (about $1.85) at a printing house belonging to the Sukiasian family.
Inspections are also underway at the Pares Armenia Company importing cigarettes.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Sukiasian accused authorities of exerting pressure on companies where they don’t have a share.
“We are not against inspections, but it should not be done for the purpose of destroying,” he said. “But it is impossible to destroy business in our case. Our companies will struggle to the end, up to the European Court, and we will defend our rights.”