Saturday, 22 September

Bulgarian Shipper: “We’ve been robbed by Armenians”



Seeks payment from a Chamber of Advocates member

Kanio Pironkov, a Bulgarian, is the director of Asia Kargo, Ltd, an international freight company based in Bulgaria. This past July, Asia Kargo received a job order from JIT Express, an Armenian company, to ship 10 truckloads of equipment from Germany and Austria.

JIT Express has yet to pay the 30,850 Euro shipping fee. Ovsanna Stepanyan, a lawyer, heads JIT Express. She is a member of Armenia’s Chamber of Advocates and deals with shipping cargo on the side.

Local drugstore chain involved

Natali Pharm, a local Armenian drugstore chain, was the one who placed the order with JIT. Natali Pharm, in turn, is one of the considerable business holding of Samvel Aleksanyan, a member of Armenia’s parliament. The goods arrived at customs and were stored in MP Aleksanyan’s Aleks Grig warehouse. The total value of the freight was 55,500 Euros, of which only 24,650 was paid up front. They promised to pay the balance immediately after the last shipment arrived. Five trucks arrived from Germany, each carrying goods worth 5,700 Euros. Four originated in Austria, each valued at 6,200 Euros. The tenth shipment, at 6,200 Euros, was split among the two countries. Ovsanna Stepanyan paid the 24,650 deposit when the freight reached Bulgaria. According to Kanio Pironkov, after the entire shipment reached Armenia he hasn’t been able to get in touch with Stepanyan. His telephone calls and emails have gone unanswered. The Bulgarian is now in a tough spot. The cargo was shipped via different companies who now want to get paid. Some have even gone to court, demanding that Pironkov pay them. He has sent a letter to Natali Pharm explaining the situation and requesting that it pay the balance owed. The company hasn’t gotten back to him.

Armenian embassy in Sofia no help

On October 10, a frustrated Pironkov petitioned the Armenian embassy in Bulgaria for help. “The upshot of all of this is that Asia Kargo’s bank accounts have been frozen and a portion of the company’s assets seized,” Pironkov noted in his letter to the Armenian embassy in Sofia. He asked that the embassy assist him in getting what he is owed and to take steps make sure that JIT Express does not dupe other unsuspecting freight companies in the future. The Armenian embassy in Bulgaria has only failed to respond. “We Bulgarians regard Armenians as a kindred people who have shared a common fate.   Armenians are, first and foremost, seen as an honorable people by us. Sadly, the same cannot be said about you,” Pironkov reads from the letter he sent to Ovsanna Stepanyan. We were only able to contact Stepanyan after much difficulty. We arranged to meet, but, true to form, she never showed. We set up a second rendezvous. Stepanyan called to say she’d be out of the city and wouldn’t be available.

Armenians claim goods were damaged

In the end, we only talked over the phone. Stepanyan claims that the merchandise arrived totally damaged and that the insurer Rosgosstrakh refused to pay any compensation. According to her, the insurance company says it is not liable given that the merchandise was damaged while in transit and that it is not liable for such negligence. Stepanyan says, “I warned them at least ten times that the merchandise was very expensive. The JIT director says she’s not averse to paying the balance, but only after deducting the cost of the damages, which the insurer places at 13,000 Euros. She claims she’ll transfer the remaining 17,850 Euros. Stepanyan argues that the reason for the delay lies at the feet of the insurer, and that it issued its appraisal only a few days ago. So now, she is waiting to get paid from Natali Pharm. Then JIT Express will pay what it owes to Asia Kargo. What is surprising, however, is that the delivery receipt, signed by a representative of the company, mentions nothing about damaged goods. “We have all   CMR documents for all ten shipments, signed and stamped by representatives of JIT Express. This proves that we fulfilled our obligation and got the cargo there undamaged,” says Pironkov. (A CMR is an international agreement that contains the rights and obligations of parties involved in road transport; the shipper, carrier and addressee) Ovsanna Stepanyan explains the absence of any mention of damaged goods by arguing that when the shipments arrived in Armenia, she was in the United States and wasn’t able to monitor the off-loading process. She says that the damage was noticed only afterwards. “If the shipped merchandise is damaged, there is a specific line on the CMR form to specify what exactly was been damaged, the value, etc,” notes Pironkov. Ovsanna Stepanyan swears that she informed Pironkov about the damaged goods and even sent photos. Pironkov denies this, saying he just received some photos a few days ago and that he can’t even be sure what the merchandise is. Asia Kargo fulfilled its contract and unloaded the cargo at the warehouse belonging to Aleks Grig. If the company that placed the freight order fails to pay all applicable customs duties, the merchandise remains in storage.

Bulgarian swears retaliation

Pironkov says that it is possible that the damage occurred when the merchandise was transported from the customs house and, if so, he isn’t responsible. Nevertheless, Pironkov certifies that the merchandise arrived undamaged and that JIT Express merely is making all this up to either not pay him what they owe or to finagle some money from the insurance company. Pironkov wrote the following to Ovsanna Stepanyan: “Your alliance is quite pitiful. By pitiful I have in mind the two of you, Armenia’s top lawyers Ovsanna Stepanyan and Setrak Asatryan, plus his brother or the close friend of the Natali Pharm’s executive director Asatur Asatryan. All three of you are complicit in the crime of robbing a foreign customer and defrauding the insurance company for monetary gain.” With no other solution in sight, Pironkov has now stopped another freight order placed by Stepanyan from leaving Europe. He got wind of the job from a colleague who was preparing to ship the goods to Armenia. Pironkov states that until JIT Express doesn’t pay him all that it owes, he will prevent the shipment from ever reaching Armenia. Otherwise, he will sell the goods himself and keep the money in lieu of payment.


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