On May 8, 2018, the velvet revolution in Armenia ended which began with protests under anti-corruption slogans. Two years have passed since the velvet revolution, it is interesting to see what the "revolutionaries" have been achieved, how they keep their promises, Vzglyad.az reports citing the Moscow Post.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan launched a campaign against representatives of the country's business elite, the former leadership and Russian assets. All these actions are presented to the population as a struggle to return the “stolen money” in that difficult time for Armenia. It was also aimed to save the economy, which started to burst at the seams regarding the downtime of the economy during the coronavirus pandemic.
In one of his speeches last year, Pashinyan promised to "lay on the asphalt" of the oligarchs and take away everything plundered.
And he returned ... According to official figures, as much as 80 million dollars was returned to the state from anti-corruption policies. But during the presidency of Serzh Sargsyan, the indicator of the shadow economy was at least 40%, that is, 400 million dollars of net corruption per annum. Let’s multiply this number by the decade of the presidency of Sargsyan - and get 4 billion dollars. That is, obviously not 80 million, which the prime minister of Armenia shows off. A reasonable question arises - where did the main sums seized from corrupt officials and oligarchs go?!
The presumption of innocence? - Did not hear...
Yerevan experts point out that the new wave of the anti-corruption campaign has a more political context - the goal is to arrest the son-in-law of the second president of Armenia Mikael Minasyan and the former head of the National Security Service Artur Vanetsyan. The prime minister’s office has already labelled them as corrupt officials and charged them with the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars by violating the principle of the presumption of innocence. Brother-in-law of Pashinyan, MP of the Parliament Hrach Hakobyan, who accused the former head of the National Security Council of having recruited foreign intelligence, was the main reason for his resignation.
Of course, the country was not mentioned, but everyone in Armenia considered that perhaps it was about Russia. But if these accusations became public and were the basis for the prime minister to remove the head of the special service, then why is Arthur Vanetsyan still free ?!
Modest successes in the fight against experienced corrupt officials could be blamed on the inexperience of former journalist Pashinyan. But then, like a bolt from the blue, there was a statement by Mikael Manasyan about the corruption mechanism of the “revolutionary tribune”. This statement shed light on a whole series of seemingly harmless facts, but if they are put together in one picture, a corruption system emerges, the main person involved in is the prime minister’s wife, Anna Hakobyan.
Family replenishment schemes
In his video statement, Mikael Minasyan reports that he had a meeting with another head of the National Security Council of Armenia Vanetsyan in Rome. He said that the purpose of the meeting was to convey the message of Pashinyan, that Minasyan should transfer the money to the accounts of funds controlled by Anna Hakobyan. It was promised that the name of Minasyan will not appear in any anti-corruption campaigns. And Minasyan himself should not return to Armenia.
The process of corruption scandals in Armenia is gaining momentum, large companies are under criminal prosecution, shareholders are forced to say goodbye to their shares in favour of either the state or private individuals close to the family of the Prime Minister of Armenia.
Some experts think that Anna Hakobyan spills information in the media, mainly in the ‘Haykakan Zhamanak’ newspaper, which she owns. Besides, she has become an effective ‘solver’ of entrepreneurs' problems. By changing the legislation on foundations, the Armenian government allowed charitable foundations to deal with economic activities.
This allowed charitable foundations of ‘ My Step’ and the ‘City of Smiles’ established by Anna Hakobyan to officially become equity holders in successful business areas of Armenia. The only thing left out of sight of the Armenian government is the transparency of the sources of donations to the foundations. Hakobyan commented on the question of sources of donations: “For me personally, the origin of the money does not matter. Whatever the money, we still use it for good purposes. If this amount, which went to someone in some way, remains with them, it will not be more useful than if it comes to us."
Here, the question arises: aren't the foundations created under the patronage of Hakobyan a tool with which one could “pay off” from the prosecution?
If the answer is yes, then it turns out that the infrastructure was created under the strict guidance of the prime minister’s wife, through which former oligarchs could “buy the right” to continue business in Armenia. The oligarchs who remained in disgrace became the object of criminal prosecution by law enforcement agencies, but those who paid continue to work in various sectors of the economy maintaining monopolistic positions.
Supporting the very first rallies in the center of Yerevan in May 2018, Gagik Tsarukyan and his family made donations to the funds in advance of the major political events. For example, donations by G. Tsarukyan’s daughter was made before the parliamentary elections, and as a result, it was Tsarukyan’s party who was able to become the third for the number of deputies. Moreover, law enforcement agencies turned a blind eye to essentially open bribery of votes, which is hardly possible without the tacit consent of the Armenian PM.
Besides, news has spread that oligarch Samvel Aleksanyan’s son is going to marry the Prime Minister’s eldest daughter and consolidate the business partnership with marriage. Pashinyan recently attended the wedding of the richest oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan’s daughter with oligarch Khachatur Sukiasyan’s son.
Personally congratulating the newlyweds, he presented a bill according to which Iranian cement was subject to additional duties, and this created favorable conditions for Gagik Tsarukyan’s largest cement plant.
The same story happens with Samvel Aleksanyan, who spent money on the election campaign of Pashinyan’s brother-in-law, Hakobyan’s brother and Member of Parliament Hrachya Hakobyan. The Armenian government provided customs duties to Aleksanyan’s Textile Company.
Union consisting of the prime minister’s family and obedient oligarchs, who overnight became “respectable entrepreneurs' ', is manifested in the criminal chronicle. So, the name of Anna Hakobyan’s brother appears in the sensational scandal with 40 tons of smuggled cigarette products, which were transported by plane and were arrested by Russian law enforcement officers. Along with Anna Hakobyan’s brother, names of Khachatur Sukiasyan and Pashinyan’s nephew, a member of the Parliament Sipan Pashinyan appear.
Anna Hakobyan plays the main role in all this configuration. The composition of obedient businessmen is formed around Hakobyan. The prime minister’s wife has a great influence on her husband and is not satisfied with playing the fake role of the first lady. Hakobyan forms around himself the image of a business woman with a strong-willed character.
Everything new is actually well-forgotten old
Undoubtedly, financial resources should be invested in the future, and if you look at the process of an unprecedented outflow of capital from Armenia, you can conclude where Mrs Hakobyan keeps the millions obtained. In 2018, the outflow of capital from Armenia amounted to more than $ 1.2 billion, and many experts associated this figure with the fact that large businessmen took out capital in the year of revolution. However, in 2019, capital outflows amounted to $ 1 billion. Whose money is exported from Armenia, which is almost a third of the state budget?
Looking at the official partners of the "My Step" and the "City of Smiles" charitable foundations in the banking sector, one can assume that by which financial institutions the transfers of money belonging to the Pashinyan-Hakobyan family are realized. AmeriaBank, the corporate partner with extensive experience in money laundering, transfers them to offshore zones.
According to the report, published in the Brussels based Compromat CIS telegram-channel at the end of last year, Pashinyan-Hakobyan family had smuggled more than 1.5 billion euros from Armenia. The report says that large businessmen, hiding from the persecution by the prime minister's family transfer large sums of money to her foreign accounts and symbolic amounts to the accounts of the foundations that she patronizes.
Interestingly, last year the subject of discussion was the overseas visits of the spouse of the Prime Minister. According to some reports, it can be assumed that these trips are used mainly for the purpose of investing financial resources in foreign business projects. The wife of the Prime Minister of Armenia is interested in buying real estate in Europe and investing in jewellery. Another destination is Canada. Prime Minister Pashinyan arranged a warm welcome for Trudeau in 2019 during his visit to Yerevan. Pashinyan calls the Prime Minister of Canada a friend, and apparently the Pashinyan-Hakobyan family seeks to legalize their finances in the calm harbour of a North American country. According to Telegram channels, during her visit to Canada, Anna Hakobyan spent more time at meetings with realtors of expensive real estate than at official events.
Beautiful life is not forbidden...
The obtained millions of money have influenced the lifestyle of the Armenian leadership. Let's remember how the Pashinyan-Hakobyan family showed an ascetic lifestyle after the revolution: they rode a bicycle, took pictures of themselves sleeping on the grass. However, after a year the luxury life of Prime Minister became larger. The premier’s country residence was repaired again at public expense and it cost $ 2 million, the fleet was renewed for a total of $ 540,000, visits to the United States and Canada cost the state budget 350,000 only for the rental of aircraft. The concert, once the world-famous "Jamiroquai" was also paid from the state treasury and cost $ 1 million. The circles close to the prime minister’s family noticed in the conversations that the concert was a whim of Anna Hakobyan, who wanted to mark the first “billion acquired by overwork”.
Instead of a conclusion
The investigative structures of Armenia promised to study the statements of Mikael Minasyan and Arthur Vanetsyan on corruption schemes of the Pashinyan-Hakobyan family. However, in Armenia, they understand that any decision that the prime minister does not like will cause his negative emotional reaction. But Pashinyan knows how to take revenge, it’s enough to look at the fate of former President Kocharian, who has been imprisoned for more than 500 days, and the trial process which cannot be concluded in any way. Even the guarantee of Catholicos Garegin had no effect, and Kocharyan was refused to remain in bail once again. Not a single judge dares to start a criminal case against the prime minister’s family, although facts have already been gathered on more than one volume. An example of the arrests of relatives of the head of the Constitutional Court, Hrayr Tovmasyan, and an open run over all the judicial structures force the judges to rivet the sentences necessary for the prime minister.