A few dozen proprietors who have been mishandled by “Ashtarak Kat” dairy company are protesting at the Government administration today to inform the government of the “fraud they have been drawn into.”
For years, small and medium shop-owners received the products of “Ashtarak Kat” dairy and paid directly to the delivery persons on the spot.
“We never had any issues” – says one of the victims of the company’s campaign on shop owners, who operated with this mechanism of product receipt and payment for more than 10 years.
In 2017, shop owners learned that “Ashtarak Kat” CJSC’s bankruptcy manager sued them for having taken products and not paying for them between 2015 and 2017.
The protesters claim that the cases are fabricated: if the company did not receive payment, then why would they continue supplying products? “Why did they allow the “debt” to accrue? Say, I don’t pay the company, but it continues supplying products for another 40 times. How does this happen? They’re not my cousin to give me so much product for free.”
Many of the delivery persons have given written notification that delivery of new batches of products wouldn’t have been possible if there was no payment. According to the deliverers, the cash money they received was entered into the cashbox of the company, otherwise they would not allow delivery of new products to those who are indebted to the company.
The protesters contend that the issue arose when the company went bankrupt and a new department was formed handling the issues of bankruptcy. “Probably the new owners want to get money without having earned it.”
Arsen Kikoyan, owner of a shop in Artik town is the largest tax-payer in the town and has around 80 workers. According to “Ashtarak Kat”, he “owes” the company 4 million drams.
“Either the deliverers did not hand over the cash paid to them, or the company wants to dump its issues onto citizens,” insists Arsen.
“For years they would bring the products, I would sign an invoice and I never imagined that next time they would not bring the receipt. We have worked like this with hundreds of companies, and never had issues. It turns out all these companies can sue me now.”
It is unknown to the protesters how much people “owe” to the company. There are people who owe 4mln drams, some owe 1 million etc. In any case, the company has sued about 2600 proprietors.
The courts, however, have made differing rulings on this chain of cases. Some shop-owners have won in the first instance court, however lost when the company appealed the ruling in the Appeals Court and the shop-owners were obliged to pay the “debt”. There are shop-owners for whom the court rulings were unfavorable from the start. There are those in whose favor the rulings were made by the Appeals Court.
Our interlocutor Kikoyan has lost the suit in the court and has been obliged to pay the company 4mln drams. He insists that the court did not take into account that the deliverer signed a paper by which it was confirmed that he had made the payment and did not owe anything. “The court did not take this into account, did not even examine whether this evidence was credible or not, it simply neglected this evidence.”
Anzhela Harutyunyan is another shop owner, who used to operate a small shop in Malatia district of Yerevan. The shop has closed now. She also is “indebted” to the company in an amount of 1.5mln AMD. Her case turned against her in the Appeals Court. The Court did not consider the document written and signed by the deliverer about receipt of payment from the shop had legal force.
It is notable that the invoices provided by the company read “payment in cash.”
“It was our understanding that we have to pay cash and that’s what we did, there was no complaint of that,” says another shop-owner in Malatia district, Ovsanna Asatryan, whose so-called debt amounts to 3.5 million AMD.
The protesters have written a letter to Prime-Minister Nikol Pashinyan and appealed to him to pay attention to their well-founded suspicions that the bankruptcy of “Ashtarak Kat” was premediated and was part of a criminal fraud plan.
On December 19, 2016 “Ashtarak Kat” CJSC was recognized bankrupt by the general court of Arabkir and Qanaqer-Zeytun of Yerevan for having accrued significant amounts of debt to the state, employees and milk suppliers. “Ashtarak Kat” is now handed over to “Pargev” CJSC.