Armenia’s GG taxi company raided after owner backs anti-government protests

By Mark Dovich

Law enforcement raided the headquarters of GG, Armenia’s biggest local taxi company, and seized all the computers at the firm’s main office Saturday, just days after founder Khachatur Grigoryan backed ongoing anti-government protests.

The next day, GG released a statement condemning what it called “an obviously groundless and illegal” raid motivated by Grigoryan’s “active civic position and public activities.”

Likewise, company lawyer Arsen Babayan, who was at the office during the raid, told CivilNet he believed it was meant “to put political pressure on the founder of the company.”

For its part, Armenia’s Investigative Committee denied the raid was politically motivated, saying in a press release Monday the searches stemmed from a year-old probe into alleged tax evasion at GG. It did not explain why it took more than a year to investigate those claims before raiding the company.

As of Monday afternoon, no one had been formally charged with a crime.

What’s the background?

Last week, GG’s founder urged his followers to join demonstrators on Yerevan’s central Baghramyan Avenue calling on Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to resign, writing in a post on Facebook: “If you are Armenian, if you want me to respect you when you greet me, your place is on Baghramyan.”

Though it was far from the first time Grigoryan made his anti-government views known, those remarks quickly attracted the attention of Arayik Harutyunyan, Pashinyan’s chief of staff, who called them “offensive” and “unacceptable.”

“I hope that business will understand…that such expressions only harm business and do not create any added value in our society,” Harutyunyan added.

Grigoryan, an outspoken critic of Pashinyan known for his support of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians, founded GG in 2014 as Armenia’s first ride-hailing app. It is now the country’s biggest homegrown taxi company and operates in Georgia and Russia as well. In addition, GG runs on-demand truck and package delivery services, as well as intercity shuttles.

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