Czech News Agency (CTK)
June 11, 2005

Czech state attorney travels to Armenia to question witnesses


The state attorney in charge of the case of a 24-member organised
criminal group which has been charged with tax evasion involving
millions of crowns, and a police officer, have recently traveled to
Armenia to question witnesses.

"We have obtained important evidence there which can be used in a
court," state attorney Vlastimil Rampula from the serious economic
crime office told CTK.

Police have charged 23 men and one woman of having deprived the Czech
state of 75 million crowns in unpaid taxes. Their criminal activities
were connected with imports and exports of goods. Most of the 24
defendants face between five and 12 years in prison. Apart from 18
Czechs and one German woman, two Armenians, one person without
citizenship, two Czechs of Armenian nationality and one Russian
national are being prosecuted.

The state attorney asked Armenian authorities to question five
Armenian witnesses, alleged importers of goods from the Czech
Republic, as part of international legal assistance.

"We wanted to attend the questioning also to be able to ask
additional questions and thus prevent the questioning from being
repeated," Rampula said.

The Armenian authorities showed a very accommodating stance and even
allowed the defence lawyers of the accused to be present at the
questioning, contrary to their legal practice.

In Armenia, the defence lawyer has no right to be present at the
police interrogation, Rampula said, adding that he had also asked
Lithuania for legal assistance and intended to travel there as well.

According to the police, the criminal group organised fictitious
transactions with goods worth hundreds of thousands of crowns in the
past few years, depriving the Czech state of millions of crowns.

By busting the group, police prevented further transactions from
being implemented which would result in an additional 19-
million-crown tax evasion.

Rampula has frozen the property of four of the accused and said that
he expectd the court to expropriate property of all the defendants
given the damage they caused to the state.