Tuesday, 18 September

When Money Becomes the Sole Ruling Force

The RoA State Commission for the Protection of Economic Competition (SCPEC), during its investigation of the vodka market, has brought charges against “Saleks Group”, a company owned by MP Samvel Aleksanyan, six times and has hit the legislator with penalties. These indictments have been well covered by Armenian TV. What the stations fail to mention is that Samvel Aleksanyan has never paid any of the fines.

Let us present here, for the elucidation of our readers, an excerpt of one of the statements put forth by the SCPEC . “The Ukrainian Ambassador to Armenia, A. Bozhko, and A. Gousak, the Director of “Image Holding”, have applied to the SCPEC, alleging that the external appearance (bottle, cork, label) of the vodka brand “Khlobtsi”, manufactured and sold by Aleks Group is, for all practical purposes, totally copied from the differentiating traits of the external appearance of the “Khortitsa” vodka brand manufactured and sold by Image Holding. Also presented were copies of documents on file with the RoA   Intellectual Property Agency. As a result of the SCPEC’s investigations, it turns out that Saleks Group also produces and sells the “Moskovskaya”, “Staraya Stolitsa” and “Gjilka” brands of vodka. These brand names are not registered as belonging to Aleks Group; they legally belong to other companies. “Thus, Saleks Group vodka, with its four commercial brands, violates the RoA Law Regarding Economic Competition. Moreover, the company has violated the law a second time in one year and is thus liable to a fine of 1million AMD,” this according to an August 22, 2007 statement issued by the SCPEC. The SCPEC initiated another legal suit on the basis of a complaint lodged by the company “Manukyan and Partners”, claiming that a representative engaged in the defense of the intellectual property rights of several Russian vodka companies was in Armenia. “According to the petition, Saleks Group produces vodka whose brand symbols are confusingly similar to the brand symbols of the vodka produced by “Slavyanskaya”, “Parlament Group”, “Parlament Distribution” and “Russky Brillant” companies. The petition declares that the brand symbols of these companies have been internationally registered and must also be safeguarded in Armenia. During its November 5, 2009 session, SCPEC described the actions of Saleks Group as “unscrupulous competition” and issue 500,000 AMD penalties for each violation, for a total of 1.5 million AMD. On May 19, 2010, the SCPEC hit Saleks Group with another fine of 3 million AMD. This time it was because the company’s “Ukrania” vodka was strikingly similar to the Ukrainian “Ukranika” brand, its “Khloptsi” to “Khortitsa”, its “Premium” to “Prime”, and its “Medofe” to the British “Medoff”. Furthermore, Samvel Aleksanyan used Ukrainian writing on the labels for his “Khlebni Dar” vodka. This MP, whose job responsibilities are enshrined in the law, is day and night thinking of schemes to trick the consumer, other companies and government agencies. Maybe it is time to include all this in the law as well, so that individuals elected to the parliament are no longer encumbered with having to explain away their actions. One can find other vodkas in the Yerevan City chain of supermarkets owned by MP Aleksanyan. His company now produces and sells “Zhuravl” vodka in a distinctive bottle, and the brand “Lebed” in the same bottle with the same label.

We can only provide one piece of advice to the SCPEC – not to investigate the other economic sectors in which Samvel Aleksanyan has a stake; of course if they can find such a sector. Perhaps the SCPEC should close its doors and thus permanently resolve the matter? Is it possible for any other normal business person to conduct his or her affairs in such a way for so long – not to pay the fines set down by the SCPEC? Of course not. If they did, the long arm of the law would definitely seek them out. But MP Samvel Aleksanyan , owner of Saleks Group, continues to refuse to pay. He has petitioned the courts to annul the decisions of the SCPEC. Rest assured he will win his case in the courts. There are no closed doors for this MP since money has become the sole force of law in Armenia today.

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