2020 August 11

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Daily news and anti-corruption report

Aug/11/2020 news: / Inspectors find some ammonium in Armenia. Beirut aid / How Kocharyan & Serj sold Armenia's infrastructure to Russia / Kocharyan trial / ex-BHK official demands refund. Voter buying / $446M corruption / COVID news & Economy / The story of Dragon Stones / Soccer league renamed /...
by ar_david_hh


How and why Kocharyan & Serj sold Armenia's infrastructure to Russia

FIP writes: After independence, several strategic infrastructure objects were privatized, sold, and handed over to foreign management. The transparency and benefits of these deals were disputed.

Some of these deals are "Property in exchange for debt", "Electric Networks of Armenia", "HayGas".

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Deal 1: Property in exchange for debt

President Robert Kocharyan, Defense Minister Serj Sargsyan, and Russia signed this controversial agreement in 2002. In exchange for the $95M debt that Armenia accumulated between 1994-1998, Armenia agreed to give Russia full ownership and control of:

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Hrazdan thermal plant worth $32M. It became part of Inter-RAO-ES. The latter sold it to the Russian-Armenian Tashir group in 2017.

Yerevan's Automated Systems worth $3.37M.

Yerevan's Mathematical Machines Research Center worth $2.75M. Currently owned by a Russian Citronix firm.

Mars factory worth $56M. It was also sold to Citronix in 2008.

Material Research and Production Enterprise worth $350K. Later, Mars and that institute would merge and form a free trade zone built by Citronix.

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What is Citronix? It's part of the Russian giant SISTEMA firm, one of whose board members was/is none other than Robert Kocharyan.

Besides those objects, Russia also received the surrounding lands and a tax waiver.

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Deal 2: HayGas

HayGas was delivering gas after independence. A month before president Levon's departure, the second player HayRusGazard was created.

On April 30, 1998, the new president Kocharyan decided to give Armenia's gas network to HayRusGazard.

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HayRusGazard's 45% was then given to Russian Gazprom, 10% to Russian Itera, while 45% remained under Armenian control.

As part of the sale, Armenia was supposed to receive $148M worth gas throughout 2.5 years. President Levon later criticized Kocharyan, saying that the fate of the money that was supposed to go into state coffers is still unknown.

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Gazprom got another sweet deal. Hrazdan thermal's remaining energy bloc was sold to them for $248M. The latter was supposed to finish its construction.

From that $248M, Gazprom didn't have to pay the $188M portion, in exchange for not raising gas prices for Armenian consumers. (eh?)

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By 2013, Gazprom had 80% of HayRusGazard shares, with Armenia owning 20%. Armenia then sold the rest to Gasprom and the latter owned 100%. This also guaranteed that Armenia must buy gas from Gasprom until 2043.

Gazprom also owns the gas pipeline coming from Iran. It purchased it between 2006-2015.

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Deal 3: Electric Networks of Armenia.

Privatized in 1998-2000 through an international auction. Despite several popular bidders, the winner was an offshore firm "Midland Resources Holding" owned by a Russian businessman Alexander Shneider.

In 2002, the offshore firm and Kocharyan signed the agreement to sell the Network. It was worth $25M, but since it had accumulated debt, it was sold for $12M.

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The ownership changed multiple times. The offshore firm sold it to Russian Inter-RAO-ES for $73M (3x original price) in 2006.

Inter-RAO is the company that decided to raise electricity prices in 2015, which triggered the iconic Electric Yerevan protests.

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Later in 2015, Inter-RAO sold the Network to "Liormand Holding" and "Cascade Energy", both of which are offshore firms owned by Russian-Armenian businessman Samvel Karapetyan (Tashir Group).

The latter agreed to co-subsidize the electricity cost to prevent a rise for 1 year, due to protests.

--

To be continued...

Source: https://fip.am/12361

Tags: #Privatizations #Infrastructure #ArmenianFactories

Treaty of Sevres / AM MFA responds to TR MFA

After the Armenian govt members reminded about Treaty of Sevres and how Armenia was supposed to get its lands back, Turkish govt pushed back with counter-rhetoric, saying that Sevres was canceled by the Treaty of Lausanne (Lozan treaty) (which was dismissed as false by president Sarkissian yesterday).

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Armenian MFA responds: Turkish MFA has once again proven that they're incapable of facing the reality. Turkish govt brags about their Ottoman heritage yet wants to ignore Ottoman agreement [Sevres] with Armenia.

The Treaty of Sevres was, is, and will be a historic fact. [She then spoke about the Genocide and current conflicts.]

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024692.html , https://factor.am/275712.html

Beirut explosion

CivilNet reporter said: The humanitarian jet that earlier transported aid to Beirut has brought with it 37 Lebanese-Armenians who wanted to settle in Armenia.

Armenian community sustained the largest damages. [~$150M].

Now is not the right time to call for mass migration from Lebanon to Armenia. Not only it's insensitive, but you have to ask whether Armenia is capable of housing thousands of people with economic needs.

https://youtu.be/gtVmfRJNVBA

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Aurora Armenian humanitarian organization donated $200K to Beirut.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024627.html

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MFA Mnatsakanyan spoke with French-speaking Francophone colleagues about Beirut.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024636.html

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Armenia will soon rebuild 2 damaged buildings in the Armenian district of Beirut.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024646.html

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More humanitarian aid was sent from Yerevan to Beirut today. This is the third - and for now, the last - 12-ton aid.

https://hetq.am/hy/article/120414

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Armenian charity union ՀԲԸՄ collected $2M in donations from around the world. Vache and Tamar Manukyan donated a million and will match future donations by doubling it.

Donor list: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024712.html

Beirut explosion: Does Armenia have similar explosive ammonium?

After the Beirut explosion, the inspectors decided to audit two chemical facilities (Vanadzor and Nairit) to find if they store similar explosive materials.

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Inspectors: // we couldn't find 90 tons of ammonium and ammonium liquid as reported by media outlets. The reserves were earlier sold. Only 1 out of 4 containers is 1/6th full with 9 tons of ammonium.

The storage contains very little materials to be dangerous. It's not enough to blow up in case of fire. This material quickly evaporates.

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Since the factory was bankrupted earlier, the new owner will decide the fate of those 9 tons. It could be sold. (For comparison, 2,700 tons exploded in Beirut).

The factory also has very little mercury. It's properly sealed and safe.

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However, we found fire safety code violations in the facility and asked the owner to fix it. The facility is in poor shape after being abandoned 4 years ago. More specifically, it doesn't have running water and "Stop" signs.

We'll audit Nairit factory and fireworks warehouses next. \\

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024624.html

Prosecutors reveal the total sum from corruption investigations

Across Armenia, there were 1,283 felony corruption cases and 873 suspects as of June 30th.

Prosecutors seek to recover $446M in damages done to the state.

$52M of it has been recovered. $54M assets are frozen.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024629.html

March 1st: Kocharyan & Co trial is delayed again

Co-defendant Yuri Khachaturov's lawyer couldn't be present. "Something came up. BBL". Another co-defendant's lawyer is on a vacation. The defendants asked the trial to be delayed.

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Prosecutor and March 1st victim lawyer asked the judge to punish the defense for "intentionally delaying the trial."

The defense accused the prosecutor of themselves delaying the trial last time.

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The judge chose to delay the trial until September 8th.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024656.html , https://youtu.be/7oju80kWxmU

Level 1 хулиган busted

The report says: Shirak prosecutors found that 5 employees of the Social Services department were taking $100 bribes from families who visited for aid-qualification evaluation. The ringleader is arrested. The 5 are facing charges.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024685.html

ex-BHK member wants a refund

Ashot Sargsyan was managing BHK's office in Yerevan's Norq-Marash district between 2007-2010.

Ashot said: // I trusted BHK chief Tsarukyan's promise about appointing me as Goom Market's director if I helped BHK, and used my own $28K to cover office expenses.

I gave $20 aid to voters. On rare occasions, I'd pay $200 towards someone's education. (nowadays it's called "bribe")

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It is because of our payments that BHK received the most votes in Norq-Marash. (go on...)

I'm trying to get that $28K compensated by Tsarukyan. I regret spending it. He only refunded $5K. \\

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Tsarukyan's wife and other MPs called the story "nonsense".

https://factor.am/275520.html

COVID stats & other news

+160 infections. +7 deaths. 6,399 active. 177,322 tested.

https://factor.am/275588.html

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PM's office denied media rumors about Pashinyan participating in a wedding. The spokeswoman criticized the Hrapark outlet for publishing "unconfirmed rumors". The outlet earlier wrote that participants were told not to publish photos from the wedding.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024714.html , https://hraparak.am/post/a4ba7b14494e25c3ff70c91eccf8777b

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LHK MP Tandilyan asked the government to provide free vacation tours to doctors who fought against COVID.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024639.html

How did COVID affect consumer spending?

3Q20: -21% (Correction: not 3Q20 but April-June)

1H20: -11% (-14% small scale trade, -8% large scale)

April was the worst because of mandatory restrictions.

Trade was growing double-digit before COVID.

Overall, the economic activity shrank -4.7% in 1H20.

More: https://hetq.am/hy/article/120402

Handle all your paperwork in one building or online

A few weeks ago the govt launched the first universal facility that houses departments from dozens of government agencies, so the citizen won't have to run around to get something done. The one in Yerevan has served 1,500 people so far.

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"It took me 6 minutes to submit an application," said an official. "Online queue registration, friendly staff, bank terminals, parking lot," she promised.

"I needed to get a document from the Property Registration Agency. They sent me an SMS when it was ready, along with a code. I logged into the website and got it. A physical visit wasn't necessary."

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There will be 49 such facilities in Armenia. The construction and the online document system will complete by 2022.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024641.html

Artsakh will lower the electricity cost...

.... for 30,000 residents of settlements without a gas network. It'll cost 3 cents.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024720.html

More about archaeological dragon-stones / Ancient cult?

As we learned yesterday, Armenia has hundreds of ancient Vishapaqar stones with dragon paintings. Education Ministry began reinstalling some of them in previous locations where they were found, and decided to flip the stone located in Yerevan Circular Park because it was installed sideways.

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Expert explains what Vishapaqar is: // These 3,000 B.C. stones are unique to Armenian Highland's mountainous areas and are at least 1,300m above the ocean level.

People used to climb mountains to hold various religious rituals lasting 1-2 weeks. Vishapaqars were used during rituals.

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They also served a purpose to unite various tribes. You can find them near Van and Urmiah lakes, too.

They resemble khachqars. Each one had to be crafted by a whole group of architects because they are big and made of tough stones.

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They were first studied 100 years ago with a renewed interest 10 years ago. You could say that vishapaqars are the ancestors of khachqars. \\

Full: https://youtu.be/qqcQOo4RMYA

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Here is the opening ceremony of the reinstalled vishapaqar in Yerevan park: https://youtu.be/qqcQOo4RMYA?t=833

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https://factor.am/275579.html , https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/i7bigt/aug102020_news_bolola_anatolia_vs_armenian/?

How is the asphalt quality checked?

Recently, after purchasing quality-verification equipment, the govt has been forcing some construction firms to re-do the asphalt that was of poor quality. The tests are done by the govt-funded "Road Department" agency (smart name).

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Their lab uses lasers to check if the asphalt is smooth. It takes asphalt samples to study the composition and density, water levels, thickness. They can test sand, concrete, and several other materials.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024687.html

Road repairs

10km section of Vardablur-Tashir and nearby bridges are being renovated for the first time in 40 years. Costs $2.1M.

https://youtu.be/hI68r9o6FDs

Armenian soccer league has a new name and a sponsor

Armenian soccer doesn't get much love... and money. The admins decided to attract more private funding through a partnership with VBET betting company.

VBET will give soccer federation $0.8M this year, then add 10% each year subsequently.

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In return, the "Higher League" (where the main teams play) will officially rename into "VBET Armenian Premier League".

The "Armenian Cup" will rename to "VBET Armenian Cup".

The new logo says "Armenian Premier League" with VBET's icon below.

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VBET is a major advertiser and sponsors many Armenian YouTube channels, websites, and shows.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1024679.html

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You've read 1942 words.


Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/i7y6ej/aug112020_news_inspectors_find_some_ammonium_in/

Disclaimer: All the accused are innocent until proven guilty by the court of law, even if they may sound as being guilty. Currency in Armenian Drams ֏ unless specified otherwise. Helpful overview of Armenia's media ownership and leanings.


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