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Senior Tax Official Killed In Car Blast

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 PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:37 pm    Post subject: Senior Tax Official Killed In Car Blast Reply with quote Back to top

Senior Tax Official Killed In Car Blast

RFE/RL 6 September

By Karine Kalantarian

The Armenian governmentís top official in charge of detecting and investigating tax evasion was killed in a car explosion in downtown Yerevan early on Wednesday.

Shahen Hovasapian, head of a State Taxation Service (STS) division tasked with combating tax fraud, was found in a critical condition in his government-owned car after it was rocked by the blast just 50 meters from his apartment building. He died while being rushed to hospital, police and other security officials at the scene told RFE/RL.

They said that an explosive device planted under a front seat occupied by Hovasapian went off just seconds after he and his teenage son were driven away from their home. They said the driver suffered minor injuries, while the young man survived unscathed.

The blast left a gaping hole under the front seat next to the driverís, suggesting that Hovasapian was its main target. State prosecutors immediately launched a criminal investigation into the apparent assassination but reported no arrests in the following hours. Law-enforcement officials refused to come up with possible theories of the crime, which is bound to be linked with Hovasapianís professional activities.

Despite holding an important government post, Hovasapian has rarely figured in the news and is not known to have initiated high-profile tax evasion cases against big companies controlled by influential individuals. The assassinated official himself was a wealthy businessman, reportedly owning one of Armeniaís two main liquefied gas companies, Goshgaz. The other company involved in the lucrative gas business, Multi-Leon, is controlled by Gagik Tsarukian, a powerful government-connected tycoon.

Hovasapian, who is a native of Nagorno-Karabakh and was a field commander during the war with Azerbaijan, is the first high-ranking Armenian tax official killed while in office. Gagik Poghosian, who briefly headed the governmentís tax collection agency in 2000, died in a grenade attack under similarly mysterious circumstances five years ago. The apparent contract killing has still not been solved.

Hovasapianís violent death continued recent monthsí series of high-profile murders that have raised widespread concern about the situation with crime and rule of law in Armenia. Among their victims were a businessman, a reputed crime figure and a senior member of the influential Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans. Nobody has been prosecuted in connection with those crimes so far.
Sarkis Shahinian
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