Tax authorities have accused Armenia’s national gas distribution owned by Russia’s Gazprom giant of evading millions of dollars worth of taxes.
The State Revenue Committee (SRC) announced the launch of criminal proceedings against the Gazprom Armenia operator on Wednesday. The SRC claimed that the company inflated its expenditures and underreported its earnings in 2016 and 2017. It said that translated into “several billion drams” in unpaid taxes.
No Gazprom Armenia executives have been formally charged yet.
The head of the SRC’s investigative division, Eduard Hovannisian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Thursday that tax inspectors are still “ascertaining” the scale of the alleged tax evasion. “The criminal investigation has only just started,” he said.
Gazprom Armenia strongly denied the accusations. “I insist that they are baseless,” its chief executive, Hrant Tadevosian, told a news conference.
“Our company has repeatedly received SRC certificates of a ‘law-abiding taxpayer,’ most recently in September,” he said.
Tadevosian also accused the government agency comprising the Armenian tax and customs services of damaging the gas operator’s business reputation. He claimed that the criminal case has called into serious question Gazprom Armenia’s plans to obtain a multimillion-dollar loan from a Russian commercial bank.
The SRC brought the tax fraud case amid ongoing negotiations between the Armenian government and Gazprom on the price of Russian natural gas delivered to Armenia. The most recent Russian-Armenian gas agreement set the price at $150 per thousand cubic meters. It expires in December.
The government hopes that Gazprom will cut the tariff or at least keep it unchanged. The Russian gas monopoly has given no such indications so far.