[08:05 pm] 03 November, 2008
Foreign partners of SIL Concern have responded to the latest scandal over the Sukiasian-owned businesses, in particular the crackdown on Bjni Company.
“I cannot believe that the authorities deny any political motives behind the crackdown on this successful company of mineral waters. The loss of this national brand will directly inflict great losses on Armenia’s shaky economy. Imagine the French government closes Evian or Perrier or the U.S. government closes Coca Cola or Pepsi,” says President of Harwal Group Harut Ohanessian.
“Reasonable people will condemn the regime’s steps which obviously intend to dissolve the successful business of their political opponents to deprive them of their property. Unfortunately, this valuable national resource is destroyed for political reasons, he says.
Remind that the SIL Concern issued a statement according to which an Armenian business group owned by a fugitive opposition-linked businessman Khacahtur Sukiasyan claimed to be heading for financial ruin because of what it described as a “political vendetta” waged by the government. The SIL Concern group, which comprises a major commercial bank and a dozen other companies (Bjni, Pares Armenia, Pizza de Roma, Sports Time, Yerevan’s Mill and Nor Shin), fell foul of the authorities after its main owner, parliament deputy Khachatur Sukiasian, publicly welcomed former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s September 2007 return to active politics. The companies have sustained great losses.
Another Sukiasian-owned company, the exclusive distributor of Phillip Morris cigarettes in Armenia, went out of business earlier this year, saying that customs officials are refusing to process its imports on government orders. According to SIL, Phillip Morris now sells its cigarettes in the Armenian market through another firm allegedly controlled by President Serzh Sarkisian’s influential son-in-law.Three of those companies were inspected by tax authorities and charged with evading millions of dollars in taxes late last year. Two of them, a pizza restaurant chain and a printing house, saw their chief executives arrested on corresponding charges. In a written statement, SIL accused the authorities of seeking to “destroy” the companies owned by Sukiasian and his extended family. “With this approach, the current authorities have proved one thing: that those entrepreneurs who will dare not to follow their rules of the game will be strictly and arbitrarily punished,” the statement said.