Prosecutor’s Accuse Customs Officials of Irregularities.

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–In an interview with RFE/RL–Gevork Danielian–the head of the Office of Protection of State Revenues–a branch of the prosecutor’s office complained that customs officials apply double standards when they judge the value of imports. The same merchandise entering the country is appraised differently depending on who the importer is.

Danielian reiterated that prosecutor’s conducting a review of practices by customs officials in 1999 and during the first five months of this year came across examples of such irregularities. Often shortcomings in legislation are blamed for this and similar inexplicable discrepancies. But Danielian believes that the law cannot be blamed in this case–when the interests of businessmen can be protected with sound practices of government officials.

Observers believe that discriminatory practices in charging import duties are sometimes the result of connections importers have with government officials. Well connected businessmen pay less than others–because customs officials can reject the declared value of the goods and set their own appraisal.

The prosecutor’s office has discussed these issues with the Minister of State Revenues Gagik Poghosian–who has recently vowed to combat favoritism.

Our correspondent tried to interview Poghosian to find out which importers have paid less import duties and what measures are being used to reform the system. The minister was not ready yet for an interview.

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