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Opposition Businessman Takes Armenian Government To Court

YEREVAN -- An Armenian business conglomerate owned by an opposition party-linked businessman has asked a European court for 214 million euros ($304 million) in compensation from the Armenian government for its confiscation of one of the company's key assets, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The Bjni mineral water plant, which was operated by the SIL Concern, was auctioned off by the government earlier this year after SIL failed to pay 5.2 billion drams ($14 million) in fines imposed against it for alleged tax evasion.

Khachatur Sukiasian and his family, who own SIL, have taken the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Ara Zohrabian, a lawyer for Sukiasian, said the family hopes the Strasbourg-based court will force Yerevan to compensate it for the "material and moral damage" it inflicted on SIL.

Bjni and several other companies owned by SIL were raided by tax officials and accused of large-scale tax evasion shortly after Sukiasian voiced his support for former President Levon Ter-Petrossian's bid to return to power in September 2007.

Armenia's Administrative Court annulled the auction for the mineral water plant in March, saying that the authorities cannot forcibly sell the company unless it is declared bankrupt by another court.

Bjni has since gone through bankruptcy proceedings and faces an uncertain future.