Telman Hovhannessian visited Aravot's editorial office with a letter and some documents refuting the facts in our articles. We are not publishing his refutation because all facts printed in our article were correct, except for one, for which we apologize to Hasmik Hovhannessian. She was not born in the village of Teghenik in the Kotaik Marz, where she owns a private house, but in Leninakan (Gyumri).
Among the documents Telman Hovhannessian presented, we find especially interesting the act written by Experts of the First Class of the Main Inspection Department of the Ministry of Finance and Economics Petrossian and Arshakian. This department was requested by the Prosecutor General's office to conduct a review of documents pertaining to the relationship between Armenian citizen Silva Hovhannessian (Telman Hovhannessian's second daughter) and Italian citizen Marco Lionello between 1997 and 1999.
Examining these documents, the first class experts found, "The copies of invoices of the Italian ITTIERE factory presented by the prosecutor's office are comparable to the originals presented at the appeals court."
The invoices in question record three shipments of merchandise to Armenia. According to four invoices dated February 4, 1999, 179 items in 21 packages of 78 kilograms each, with a total value of $11,767, were sent from this factory to the 4 Vardanants store in Yerevan, in Lionello's name. This shipment went through customs at Zvartnots Airport and was picked up by Telman Hovhannissian. The customs value of the shipment was $3542.
The customs dossier under review by the prosecutor's office contained no factory invoices, so the customs value was calculated using the imported goods exchange rate in accordance with Government Decision 615 made on December 6, 1993.
Moreover, it's significant that the customs values are lower than the prices in the factory invoices. For example, according to the invoice, the price of a pair of pants is $60, and on the customs declaration it's $31. A pair of shoes is $93 on the invoice and $25 on the customs declaration. Skirts are $54 on the invoice, and $15 on the customs declaration. Thus, the first shipment left the factory with a value of $11,767, which during the customs process became $3542. The difference is $8225. For the second shipment, the numbers are as follows: Factory value--$9913, customs value - $2727, difference - $7186.
The most interesting part of the review is that the experts who discovered these facts concluded, "Thus the State Customs Committee of the Republic of Armenia performed customs procedures in accordance to the law."
By the way, when lawyers looked at the results of this review they said they contained sufficient grounds for criminal charges.
Everything was done so that first-class experts could come to a first-class conclusion, placing everything within the framework of the law. Customs officials are honest and true, and it's out of patriotism that they decrease the value of imported goods three or four times. For which, in return, they win praise and prizes, build houses and buy luxury cars…
We have in our possession a number of hand-written letters from Hasmik Hovhannissian to Armine Philipian in Italy that lead us to draw some conclusions, and to understand how the whole story came down on Lionello's head, and why he can't get out of this Armenian labyrinth. Here are some excerpts from the letters:
"Hello Marco, Armine, Eliza, and Robert, I impatiently await your arrival…First of all, I spoke to the appropriate people and made a plan that Marco, when he comes, should go to the notary office and should give his consent to become a member of our cooperative and get full power to act in Italy on behalf of our cooperative. And our cooperative has the right to trade with any country and to have stores in any part of Armenia to sell its merchandise. If the cooperative buys merchandise and sells it in our stores, it pays the state 16.6% of the sales price of the merchandise, which is a very high percentage. That's why it's necessary to value these items as low as possible, and secondly, to write down a lower quantity, and naturally, it will be impossible to put price tags on items in the store windows, since they'll be sold at one price, but declared much lower…And as for profit, we can't show it all, because I was told by the tax department that trade with a foreign country is never profitable, because the taxes are too high.
"Armine, I took an apartment for you, I noted it on the map, it's right on Abovian Street. It's not a bad place, the only problem is that it's only for a month-that's why it was difficult and a little expensive-I paid $450 for the apartment and $150 to the broker that found the place.
"There's hardly any time left, you're coming soon and we'll talk about everything, we'll do everything the way Marco wants. I'll start the renovation [on Marco Lionello's 4 Vardanants store] next Monday. I need to buy all the construction materials to start the renovation right away…"
This letter was written in 1996. We found out that Hasmik Hovhannissian paid the realtor (Armen) $300 in rent and broker's fees for the Abovian Street apartment. She took $600 from Armine Philipian….
Representing Marco Lionello, lawyer Iveta Badalian informed law enforcement agencies, "After reviewing the documents of the case, and documents presented to me by Lionello, I have come to the conclusion that there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the actions of Telman, Hasmik and Silva Hovhannissian, in accordance with Article 89, Clause 4 of the Criminal Code." Lionello's lawyer believes that the Hovhannissians must be brought to justice. Documents in her possession and documents sent to us from Italy permit us to draw well-founded conclusions. There are forged documents and letters handwritten by Hasmik that help us solve this puzzle and uncover the chain of illegal acts in the case of "ripping off" the Italian. This is a classic example of the participation of state agencies in illegal activity with abuse of power, protection, forgery, shadow economy, deal-making lawyers and biased judges.
Let's look at three incidences of forgery:
1) Two different official records, with the same date, of the founding meeting of the cooperative Druzhba Narodov. The chairman of the cooperative is Hasmik Hovhannissian.
2) Excerpts from the official record of a meeting of Hovtel trade industrial cooperative dated January 5, 2000. A decision was made at the meeting to change the name of the cooperative from Druzhba Narodov to Hovtel. The record states that Marco Lionello participated in the meeting. But Marco Lionello visited Armenia only once, in 1997.
3) The forged signature of Marco Lionello on the last page of the statutes of the Hovtel cooperative registered by the Ministry of Justice (registration #01A-002341)
This evidence was never examined.
According to the decision of the Economic Disputes Tribunal dated July 9, 2002, Marco Lionello was ordered top pay 11,908,330 Dram to Telman Hovhannissian, and 174,800 Dram in state fees. The court ignored the explanations and protests of Lionello's representative at the time, Armen Ter-Tachatian. Furthermore, the court neglected to examine evidence presented in the case, in particular letters sent by Hasmik Hovhannissian to Lionello's wife Armine Philipian. These letters prove that the 4 Vardanants store, the renovation, and all merchandise were bought with Lionello's money. Hasmik Hovhannissian sent Philipian financial records in her own handwriting regarding all payments made. Here is an excerpt from one such letter:
"In 1996, merchandise was sold totaling $2695, which I used to renovate the store. Expenditures for renovation came to $16,000. Marco gave me $43,000, $35,400 of which we used to buy the store. Of the remaining $7664, I paid $1000 to customs when I received the shipment in the summer, and paid $265 for salaries and electricity, leaving $6395…"
"It doesn't matter that much what price is written in the sales contract for the store, Hasmik either kept the difference herself, or made a deal directly with the owner. If the Economic Disputes tribunal looked at those letters, and came to the decision it did, it means the court had its own interest. It put everything aside and made a decision that was not based in the facts," says lawyer Iveta Badalian. Then the Executors of Court Orders made the rip-off complete.
Executor Kniazian made the decision to begin the execution process, and sent a memo in Armenian to Marco Lionello in Italy demanding the fulfillment of the court order, otherwise the 4 Vardanants property would be subject to confiscation as well. Without receiving a response from Lionello, and without checking whether a response had been sent, the executors set up an appraisal of the store. According to the Law on the Conduct of Executors of Court Orders, property is to be appraised according to market prices on the day the order is issued, and any disagreement or objection by either of the sides is subject to expert evaluation. Article 53 states that the executor has the right to appoint an expert to appraise the property, first, when the appraisal of certain objects presents a difficulty, and second, if either the creditor or the debtor contests the appraisal of the executor.
"During the appraisal, the executor must get the cadastre value of the property from the cadastre agency, and determine the selling price. With all of this in mind, the executor requested an expert appraisal, of which he was obliged to inform the parties, who had the right to raise questions. It is specified in the Code of Civil Court Proceedings that in the event of an expert appraisal, both parties have the right to raise questions or present objections, and to participate in the appraisal process. It is unknown what kind of methodology the expert applied, because although court records show the cost of the renovation as $20,000, the 160-square meter store in the center of the city was valued at only $20,500. This is nonsense. Either the expert was incompetent, or he committed fraud. The starting price of similar properties in the center of Yerevan is $600 per square meter. The expert first of all should have considered the construction value, the land value, and determined the market value of similar properties, looking at other announcements and offers," continues Badalian.
It is not hard to understand why the executors work with experts like these. These experts are "in the pocket", ordered to appraise a property at a certain value because they know in advance who the buyer will be. In this case the expert was Zh. Tsatoulian, leading expert at the Expert Center of the Ministry of Justice. Hasmik Hovhannissian's bother Samvel also works at the Ministry of Justice. He heads the Department of Execution of Court Orders.
Says Iveta Badalian, "Even if we accept that the Economic Disputes Tribunal made a fair decision, then thanks to the work of the executors, a store with a minimum value of $50,000 was taken from Lionello for $20,000. $30,000 was snatched from his hands as a result of wrongdoing by court executors and experts."
To be continued.