YPC Weekly Newsletter

2007


MUNICIPALITY AND TAX INSPECTION OF GYUMRI FILED SUITS VERSUS THE FOUNDER OF “GALA” TV COMPANY

On November 30 at “Yerevan” hotel the press-conference of “Internews” Media
Support NGO, Yerevan Press Club and “Asparez” Journalist’s Club of Gyumri was
held. The press-conference focused on the situation in media ahead of presidential
elections, in particular that of “GALA” TV company of Gyumri.

As it has been reported, on October 22 the owner of “GALA” Vahan Khachatrian
issued a statement regarding the attempts of various power agencies to exert
pressure on the TV channel. The document stressed the infallibility of the TV
channel’s stance and the readiness to prevent any attempt of intervention into
its editorial policy. One week after the statement a tax audit started at “CHAP”
LLC, the founder of “GALA”. On November 12 the RA State Tax Service reported
a number of serious violations, revealed during the audit. In particular, this
referred to the concealment of the TV advertising volumes, due to which “CHAP”
must make an additional payment of about 26 million AMD to the state budget
(including the fines and penalties). The communication of the tax officers also
noted that the TV tower that “GALA” founder used was owned by Gyumri municipality,
had not been rented by the company and was operated by it illegally. The owner
of “CHAP” Vahan Khachatrian noted, on his behalf, that “GALA” could not have
had the advertising volume that the tax officers assumed to be the basis for
their calculations. As to the TV tower, as Vahan Khachatrian stated, the certificate
of ownership of the tower was received by Gyumri municipality only on November
5, 2007. Till that time, in 2004-2005, he had addressed various agencies but
was unable to find the tower owner. According to Vahan Khachatrian, he operated
the TV tower that had no one take care of since 2005, with a preliminary renovation
and enforcement of the transmitter. In his statement of November 14 Vahan Khachatrian
stressed his intention to challenge the audit results and reminded about the
common practice of using tax audits for exerting pressure on media, noting the
situation with the TV company had political underpinning (see details in YPC
Weekly Newsletter, November
9-15, 2007
). On November 16 Vahan Khachatrian challenged the results of
the tax audit at the RA State Tax Service.

At the meeting with journalists in Yerevan a film about the situation of “GALA”,
produced by the TV company staff, was shown. The recent developments were also
presented. In particular, it was said that the Investigative Department of the
State Tax Service instituted proceedings on Article 205 of the RA Criminal Code
(evasion of tax, duty and other mandatory payments). On November 26 the heads
of “CHAP” were summoned to an interrogation as witnesses.

On their behalf the municipality and the Tax Inspection of Gyumri filed suits
versus the founder of “GALA”.

The suit of Gyumri municipality, accepted by the RA Commercial Court on November
26, contains a demand to oblige “CHAP” to stop the use of the TV tower and dissemble
the equipment installed there. The hearing of the case is to take place on December
10. On November 29 the Chairman of the Board of “Asparez” Journalist’s Club
of Gyumri Levon Barseghian called on the Gyumri Mayor Vardan Ghukasian to solve
the TV tower issue through negotiations. In the evening of November 29 Levon
Barseghian was invited to the meeting with the Gyumri Mayor, who stated his
readiness to negotiate the issue of further use of the TV tower by “GALA” TV
company upon the condition that the broadcaster should pay the municipality
for the use of the tower during the preceding years. Levon Barseghian noted
that this demand was not justified, as the right of property of the municipality
for the TV tower was documentally recorded only on November 5, 2007.

On November 27 the RA Commercial Court accepted another suit versus “CHAP”,
this time from Gyumri Tax Inspection. The plaintiff demanded to recover from
“CHAP” the tax liabilities of 25.2 million AMD (including penalties and fines
and excluding the taxes already paid). The hearing on the suit is scheduled
for December 17. Besides, the Tax Inspection of Gyumri submitted a motion to
the court to allow custody on “CHAP” property as a way of securing the suit,
which was refused as ungrounded. Yet later, on November 30, the Gyumri tax officers
made another motion of the kind, this time secured – on December 3. On the evening
of the same day the representatives of the Compulsory Execution Service took
the property and the finance of “CHAP” LLC into custody, yet the company so
far continues to go on air.