by Edik Baghdasaryan)
Colonel K. Matevosyan, Deputy Chairman of the State Customs Committee of Armenia, in his response to our inquiry stated that during 2005-2006 the Republic of Armenia exported a total of 866 tons of bananas.
Now let us present a more detailed picture of the amount of bananas both imported and exported by Armenia for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007 according to figures given by the SCS.
In 2005, 8,192 tons of bananas were imported into Armenia; 8,128 tons from Ecuador and 60 tons from Costa Rica. In the same year Armenia exported 594 tons of bananas to the Bahamas.
In 2006, Armenia imported 8,614 tons of bananas; 7,056 tons from Ecuador, 1,509 from Costa Rica, 38.2 from Guatemala, 3.2 from Thailand and .2 tons from Iran. In the same year Armenia exported 3,002.2 tons of bananas to the Bahamas and 90.7 tons to Georgia.
In 2007, Armenia imported some 17,198 tons of bananas, almost twice as much as in 2006. Armenia didn’t export any bananas in 2007.
Is it actually possible for Armenia to have exported bananas to the Bahamas and Georgia? Stretching credulity a bit there might be a slight possibility in the case of Georgia but the Bahamas? That’s just downright crazy. Bananas are grown in the Bahamas. Why would they need to import bananas and from Armenia at that? Of course, it’s up to the government to come up with a plausible explanation for such figures; that is if they have any. Otherwise our own conclusions might prove somewhat embarrassing for the officials responsible. In any event, we again wrote to the Deputy Chairman of the SCS requesting an explanation for these bizarre statistics.
In his response, Colonel A. Afrikyan, Deputy Chairman of the SCC, wrote that, “We are informing you that in 2005-2006 the “Ketrin Ltd” firm exported 59.44 kilos of banana oil to the Bahamas, an amount equivalent to the 755.4 tons of bananas imported on a temporary basis for reprocessing purposes. According to the Custom’s statistical methodology, “the re-exportation, i.e., of reprocessed imports” are considered to be foreign exports and are thus registered as exports of the Republic of Armenia.”
For us average citizens such explanations, as attempted by the SCC’s Deputy Chairman, are difficult to follow; that bananas are imported into Armenia, reprocessed as banana oil, and subsequently exported to the Bahamas. Let’s just say that it’s a bit hard to swallow that Armenia occupies a preeminent position, not only in the region but worldwide, when it comes to the banana reprocessing sector. Perhaps we just cannot comprehend the capabilities of Armenian businesses, in this case “Ketrin Ltd”.
We also attempted to find out whether the State Tax Service’s Division of Inspectorial Supervision (DIS) had looked into the records of this firm to see if such evidence existed. Mr. K. Mkrtchyan, Head of the DIS, in a response to our inquiry, stated that “Ketrin Ltd” only imported bananas in 2005-2006, “…At the same time I am informing you that on December 11, 2007 the company underwent a correction to budgetary matters due to actions taken by Armenia’s State Tax Service’s DIS and a correction regarding the implementation of a review as prescribed by law covering the period from January 1, 2004 to December 11, 2007. The audit revealed additional tax obligations amounting to 404508,4 thousand drams.
For years on end, state bodies have presented figures that have not been credible. When the press, politicians and economists expressed their doubts regarding these numbers the official bureaucrats would immediately claim that their figures were indeed correct. It is clear to all that Armenia does not export bananas either to the Bahamas or to Georgia. Any documentation to this effect has been falsified within Customs and it can be ruled out that the National Security and Tax Services, the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Heads of various Inspectorates aren’t aware of the shenanigans taking place.
The reality is entirely different that what is being presented. During the years in question huge amounts of bananas, several times more than registered by the State Council on Statistics and the State Customs Committee, were imported into Armenia. According to official statistics, 17,200 tons of bananas were imported by Armenia in 2007, almost twice the amount imported in 2006. Naturally, this doesn’t mean that in 2007 Armenians started to eat twice as many bananas. Simply put, during those years that difference in the amount of bananas, some 8,000 tons, was never officially recorded; a part of the black market.
The “Godfather of Bananas” was Grisha Harutyunyan, the former Deputy Chief of the National Security Service. He in fact owns “Ketrin Ltd”. He has been lining his pockets with untaxed profits for years on end. We’re not talking about $1 or $2 million, but rather tens of millions of dollars. This money that should have gone to raising pensions, build schools and water systems. Instead, Mr. Harutyunyan invested these ill-gotten gains into the construction of elite apartment houses. He owns “Griar Ltd” and other businesses. How much of all this remains in the “shadows” is anybody’s guess. Only Grisha Harutyunyan and certain key officials know for sure.
P.S. – This time I personally would like to propose to the Prime Minister’s Supervisory Division that it investigates this affair and sees to it that the tens of millions of dollars involved are returned to the state budget