Մատչելիության հղումներ

Fugitive Tycoon’s Firm Prepares Lawsuit at Strasbourg


Armenia -- PM Khachatur Sukiasian/s lawers Ara Zakarian and Artur Grigorian. Yerevan, 07July, 2009

A troubled mineral water company owned by the extended family of fugitive opposition parliamentarian Khachatur Sukiasian is going to file a lawsuit with the European court in Strasbourg over what it claims to be the violation of its ownership rights by the Armenian authorities.

The Bjni mineral water bottling plant, based in Charentsavan, a town 40 kilometers north of Yerevan, employed more than 400 people before it was raided by tax and police officials and forced to suspend its operations last fall.

It was subsequently put up for sale late last year after its refusal to pay 5.2 billion drams ($14 million) in fines imposed by tax authorities over alleged tax evasion. It was auctioned off for 4.44 billion drams in February 2009. Armenia’s Administrative Court later annulled the controversial sale of the company that was effectively confiscated by the government from the opposition-linked businessman.

Sukiasian, a millionaire businessman holding a parliament seat, supported opposition leader and former President Levon Ter-Petrosian in the February 2008 presidential election and went into hiding to escape arrest following the disputed vote. He is wanted by the authorities for his part in what they call an opposition plot to seize power.

Sukiasian has strongly denied the coup charges through his family members and lawyers. They insist that tax authorities’ crackdown on Bjni and other businesses making up Sukiasian’s SIL Concern group, launched in late 2007, was also politically motivated.

Earlier this month, Sukiasian hinted at his possible surrender after an amnesty bill approved by the National Assembly on June 19 gave him and other fugitive oppositionists until July 31 to turn themselves in and face trial. Authorities, however, refused to leave Sukiasian at large pending trial in the event of his surrender.

Bjni legal representative Ara Zohrabian told RFE/RL that with the lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights they will demand compensation for “the consequences of the violation of ownership rights”, which is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Zohrabian claims the government’s interference with the company’s business has resulted in the company’s bankruptcy.

“We believe that the European Court will find that a violation has taken place. In that case, the Court may impose financial and moral damages on the Republic of Armenia in favor of the plaintiff,” says Zohrabian.

The company, still legally owned by the Sukiasian family, continues to idle because of the bankruptcy procedure launched by the Service for the Mandatory Execution of Judicial Acts.

Zohrabian says Bjni is ready to submit a recovery plan to avoid the sale of assets to different buyers. Yet, he doubts the court will resolve the matter in the company’s favor.

Arsen Chetchian, a court-appointed manager of the bankruptcy process, denies that the state is interested in breaking up the company assets for their subsequent sale to different buyers. Among the options, Chetchian also mentions a sound recovery plan for the company.
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