Armenia։ Car Owners Spend $23 Million to Buy Vanity License Plates
Armenians have spent more than $23 million over the past seven years to buy vanity "golden" numbers for their car license plates.
Who are they? Why do people pay millions of dollars for them?
Years ago, "golden" numbers in Armenia were acquired mainly via an acquaintance in the government or by bribing an official. The law was changed in 2006, and those wanting such numbers had to pay extra for them.
In Armenia, having such number plates is a status symbol. And they help on a practical level as well. Traffic cops are wary of stopping cars with such plates, even in case of obvious violations, because stopping the wrong car can end their career quickly.
"Golden" license plates are acquired by officials, businessmen or their relatives. Different officials seem to like different numbers. For example, MP Samvel Alexanyan likes the number six, Gagik Tsarukyan- eight, and so on. They got car licenses with these numbers even prior to the legislative changes mentioned above.
The best numbers cost eight million drams ($16,667)
Hetq received the list of license plates costing between five and eight million drams from the Traffic Police and tracked down the owners of some of them.
Apparently, high-ranking officials of the Yerevan Municipality are in favor of expensive license plates.
Arman Yedoyan, who heads the municipality's Department of Trade and Services, bought two expensive plates from the Traffic Police, one costing eight million drams, and the other - five.
Arman Yedoyan's name has repeatedly appeared in various headline stories. According to media reports, he is now suspected of bribery. The case is under police investigation.
On September 13, 2015, Arman Yedoyan’s Lexus ran over a pedestrian who died as a result. A criminal case was initiated, but has since been dropped. The investigating authority decided not to prosecute Yedoyan, arguing he couldn’t have prevented the accident.
Yedoyan receives a monthly salary of 346,000 drams. The cost of one of his license plates is equal to two years of his salary.
Hovik Abovyan, the Governor of Tavush Province, bought a 55--555 plate for eight million drams. The plate is affixed on a white Mercedes-Benz. In the three financial declarations published by the Commission on Ethics of High-Ranking Officials, the governor mentioned that his revenues were derived from his wages, which amounted to 2.5 million drams in 2014, and 6.2 million drams in 2015-2016. We should note that Abovyan’s cash reserves in drams and dollars were far from modest in those years.
Armenian MPs and their children are also prone to buying expensive plates.
For example, the 88-888 plate, costing eight million drams, is registered in the name of Karen Tovmasyan. But, according to press reports, Vardan Karapetyan, the son of the former MP Karo Karapetyan (aka Juvetsi Karo), drives a Bentley Continental with this license plate. Karapetyan’s name has repeatedly appeared in the press due to violating traffic rules.
MP Mihran Poghosyan is also a fan of "golden" numbered plates. His wife, Karineh Mkhitaryan, has a 33--333 eight-million-dram license plate.
Another “golden” eight-million-dram plate (99—999) belongs to Serge Sophoyan, the son of the former MP Hovhannes Sophoyan. According to the photos published in social networks, 24-year-old Serge drives a black G-Class Mercedes Benz.
Numbers 7 and 9 are the most popular among the rich
Owners of "golden” license plates boast about their expensive cars and license plates offline and online, putting their photos not only on their own personal social media pages, but also publicly - on the pages displaying the most expensive and luxurious cars in Armenia
Armenian citizens have paid more than AMD 11 billion for "golden" numbers
For years, the non-budget funds of the Traffic Police of Armenia have been filled with billions of drams from the sale of the "golden" license plates.
From January 2010 to August 31, 2017, 11.297 billion drams (more than $ 23 million) has been generated from the sales of desirable license plates, reaching its peak in 2012.
This money was used to cover the expenses of the Traffic Police.
Money collected from the sale of vanity plates
It turns out that some citizens are ready to pay the price of a mid-sized car for a vanity license plate.
In Armenia, people can take out a loan to buy a license plate. One credit agency offers loans of 100,000-1,500,000 million drams. The agency says the loans, to be used to buy a vanity plate, are written up as a consumer loan.
Revenues from the sale of license plates
Vanity car license numbers are provided based on government decisions. The law states that car owners must pay 36,000 drams for license plates with desired numbers, and 60,000- 8,000,000 drams for highly demanded plates.
Since 2012, plates with a price of AMD 1.2 million (447 sold by September 2017) and AMD 1.5 million (342 sold by September 2017) have had the highest demand.
184 million drams ($380,000) have been collected from the sale of plates costing 8 million drams since 2012.
Armenian Chief of Police Vova Gasparyan decided to reduce the price of some high demand license plates in 2016. License plates costing eight million drams were dropped to five million, resulting in the sale of 27.
Fees have been raised again recently, and eight million AMD license plates have been reintroduced.
P.S. To safeguard personal data, we have covered the letters on the plates of the vehicles appearing above, even though we have taken the photos from social networks and Internet open sources.