Business owner lying down in protest at Armenia’s State Tax Committee building
Engineer, business owner and civic activist Vargdes Gaspari laid at the entrance to the State Tax Committee of Armenia for several hours to express protest against bureaucratic delays.
Gaspari says that on 13 December his company imported electronic equipment that weighed 740kg and cost 10 000 dollars. However, the process of getting it through customs has still not started. Allegedly, the State Tax Committee demanded that he ‘enter into business relations that would entail corrupt actions: namely, to go to a private broker who promised to solve all his issues for a certain amount’. Gaspari says he cannot accept this state of affairs.
Moreover, the State Tax Committee has demanded documents attesting to the product meeting certain standards and that they are not destined for agricultural or military use.
Gaspari affirms that getting such documents would require certain corrupt actions. These documents are given out by private companies for large sums of money and they simply hand out the documents without even checking the merchandise.
“The ‘broker’ at customs says ‘give me x amount of money, and I will solve all your problems and no one will demand anything else of you’. I told him I didn’t plan on paying [phony] customs officers anything. They asked me: ‘Will you solve all your problems with customs?’ And I said that I would.
“For 14 days I have been searching for information about how to fill out a declaration by myself. I make written inquiries and they tell me: come in, we’ll talk. This is corruption: when you submit a written inquiry and they tell you to ‘come and talk’, and then give you their private number instead of simply sending you a link where you can find the form to fill out a declaration,” Vargdes Gaspari says.
In order to draw attention to this issue, he lay down near the entrance of the building of the State Tax Committee with a sign: “Harutyunyan, you are a fake and phony swine [Vardan Harutyunyan is the chairman of the State Tax Committee].”
Gaspari says that the problem isn’t about money: it’s about changing the system so that it stops robbing people of money and so that citizens of Armenia can freely import merchandise into the country without having to enter into corrupt affairs and partnerships.
The State Tax Committee of Armenia has not reacted to his protest.