Here is the top news around the Nation on May 31, 2018.

Azerbaijani Troop Movements in Nakhichevan, Overlooking Areni

Armenia’s Defense Ministry confirmed that Azerbaijan had established new posts in Nakhichevan on a hilltop overlooking the Armenian town of Areni. Defense Ministry spokesman Artstrun Hovhannisyan said that they are in regular touch with the local population, which is well aware of the developments.

Alex Holding Accused of Tax Fraud; Tax Agency Deputy Not Surprised by Findings

Yesterday, the National Security Services (NSS) raided the head office of Yerevan City Supermarket and seized documents without making any arrests. It accused Alex Holding of exploiting tax advantages intended for small businesses in order to avoid 15 billion AMD, or 7.2 million USD, in taxes since the end of 2016.

Under Armenian law, those with annual turnover of less than 115 million AMD per year are exempt from profit tax and value added tax. Instead, they are only subject to a two percent “turnover tax” of their overall revenue. The NSS has accused Alex Holding of using 461 small businesses, most of which it claims were registered under the names of employees, in order to sell a portion of its products so as to enjoy the small business tax benefits.

Today, Rafik Mashadyan, Deputy Director of the State Revenue Committee (SRC) commented on the accusations raised by the National Security Services (NSS) against Alex Holding. Mashadyan said that this “discovery” is not news to the SRC as they have known about it for years but have not been able to prove any wrongdoing. Furthermore, he clarified that this scheme was not limited to Alex Holding. He said that more than ten supermarket chains use this strategy.

When asked to comment, newly-appointed Finance Minister Atom Janjughazyan declined to say whether using the small business tax loophole by separating the business into small parts could be considered tax fraud.

Alex Holding is owned by Samvel Aleksanyan, the wealthiest MP from the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) faction of the National Assembly. The SRC is headed by Davit Ananyan, replacing Vardan Harutyunyan, who was appointed by Nikol Pashinyan, after the latter took office.

The Central Bank of Armenia Revises Projected Growth Rate for 2018 and 2019 Upwards

The Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) has decided to increase its GDP growth projection for the country, from 4.7-5.8% to 4.5-6.5% in 2018, and to 4.1-6.2% in 2019 and to 3.9-6.1% in 2020.

The growth was driven by a surge in economic activity in the first four months of the year, as well as an increase in the prices of precious metals, particularly copper, and also the faster economic growth in partner states.

In the first quarter of 2018 economic activity increased by 10.6%, after growing by 10.2% in the last quarter of 2017. However it dropped to 7.3% for April, at least partially because of the protest movement that led to the government change, which included road closures and strikes. Overall, in the first four months of the year, it has averaged 9.7%. The price of copper, Armenia’s largest export, stood at $6,840/tonne today, 22% higher than it was a year ago, and nearly 50% higher than it was at the start the fourth quarter of 2016. It is however still well below its post-recession high.

Tashir Group Suggests Energy Minister Lied

Yesterday we reported that Energy Minister Arthur Grigoryan announced Armenia’s new government had ended an agreement with Russian-Armenian billionaire Samvel Karapetyan’s Tashir Group. The company released a statement today suggesting that it was the one to end the agreement and said that there were in fact no discussions and no negotiations between Tashir Group and the government or the minister prior to that decision.

Artsakh to End Karabakh Telecom Monopoly

State Minister of Artsakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, announced that Karabakh Telecom’s monopoly will end. He also invited Armenia’s three telecom companies – Ucom, Vivacell, and Beeline – to consider entering the Artsakh market.

New Governors

The governors of the following provinces will be replaced: Kotayk, Gegharkunik, Ararat, Tavush, Aragatsotn, Shirak.

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