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Government Details Tax Evasion Penalties Against Food Exporter


Armenia - A greenhouse belonging to the Spayka company, November 13, 2018.

Armenia’s largest food exporting company, Spayka, had failed to pay roughly 10 billion drams ($21 million) in taxes, the State Revenue Committee (SRC) claimed on Tuesday.

The SRC accused Spayka of evading over 7 billion drams in taxes in 2015 and 2016 when it arrested the company’s owner and chief executive, Davit Ghazarian, in early April.

The accusations stem from large quantities of foodstuffs which were imported to Armenia by another company, Greenproduct. The SRC says that Greenproduct is controlled by Spayka and that the latter rigged its customs documents to pay fewer taxes from those imports.

Ghazarian strongly denied the charges and any ownership links to Greenproduct. The businessman was set free in early May after paying the government 1 billion drams.

The SRC chief, Davit Ananian, made clear late last month that Spayka and Ghazarian in particular have not been cleared of tax evasion despite his release from custody. Ananian said the businessman was set free because the SRC does not want to disrupt Spayka’s operations given their significance for the Armenian agricultural sector.

“The criminal investigation is still going on,” one of Ananian’s deputies, Eduard Hovannisian, confirmed at a news conference. “Measures are being taken to fully ascertain the damage inflicted on the state. Our actions in that regard are quite difficult and extensive.”

Citing fresh SRC “recalculations,” Hovannisian said the tax penalties imposed on the company now total around 10 billion drams. He said the figure is “not final” and could again be revised upwards.

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service on July 25, a senior Spayka executive, Karen Baghdasarian, declined to say whether the company is now willing to pay the alleged back taxes demanded by the government agency comprising Armenia’s tax and customs service.

Baghdasarian complained that the ongoing inquiry is continuing to complicate Spayka’s operations. “I hope that the criminal case will be closed soon,” he said.

Spayka is Armenia’s leading producer and exporter of agricultural products grown at its own greenhouses or purchased from farmers in about 80 communities across the country. Following its owner’s arrest, the company employing about 2,000 people warned that it may not be able to buy large quantities of fruits and vegetables from them this year.

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