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Moldova: Ex-Tax Chief Still at Large after Six-Year Sentence Announced

June 30, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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18:26, June 30, 2015

The former chief of Moldova’s highest tax authority, Nicolae Vicol, remains at large after being sentenced in absentia to six years in prison for corruption. 

Vicol was convicted earlier this month for abuse of power and illegally wiretapping his colleagues. His sentence was decided by the First Court in Chisinau on June 18 in the culmination of a court case that stretched over two years.

The court also banned Vicol from holding public office for five years and ordered him to pay a fine of 10,000 Moldovan lei (about US$ 533).

The court pronounced the sentence in Vicol’s absence. His lawyer, Vasile Nicoară, said Vicol was in Romania for medical treatment and his planned date of return was unknown.

Russian Owner Denies Talks On Sale Of Armenian Electric Utility


A Russian energy company on Monday denied reports that it is holding negotiations on the sale of Armenia’s troubled power distribution network owned by it amid continuing protests in Yerevan sparked by a controversial rise in electricity prices.

“Right now we are holding no negotiations on the sale of the Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA),” a spokesman for the Inter RAO group told the Interfax news agency.

Citing unnamed sources in Moscow and Yerevan, the Russian daily “Kommersant” reported on Sunday that Inter RAO is negotiating with Russian-Armenian businesspeople interested in buying the ENA. The paper singled out Samvel Karapetian, an Armenia-born billionaire whose Tashir Group conglomerate comprises several regional electric utilities in Russia.

Aliyev Family Owns Some of the Best Hotels in Baku

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10:55, June 29, 2015


Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev has spent billions on capturing the world’s attention to the European Games in his Caspian seaside capital of Baku. He has spared no expense, including slapping plastic facades on tired buildings, building new roads and booking megastar Lady Gaga for the Opening Ceremonies. The best hotels are booked solid.

In its two-week run, the first-ever competition played host to and showcased 6,000 athletes and 3,000 officials and support staff from 50 countries.

While taxpayers ultimately foot the bill for this, two privileged citizens have been massively enriched by the games: the president’s daughters.

U.S. Report Highlights ‘Systemic Corruption’ In Armenia


The U.S. State Department has described “systemic corruption” as one of the most frequent and serious forms of human rights violation in Armenia, saying that the authorities in Yerevan are not doing enough to tackle it.

“Allegations of persistent corruption at all levels of government undermined the rule of law, although the government took limited steps to punish corruption by low- and mid-level officials,” the State Department said on Thursday in its latest annual report on human rights practices around the world.

“There were numerous reports of systemic government corruption, including in such activities as urban maintenance, construction, public administration, the judiciary, state procurement and auctions, health care, taxation, law enforcement bodies, and military personnel,” reads the report. “There were reports of embezzlement of state funds, involvement of government officials in questionable business activities, and tax privileges for government-linked companies.”

U.S. Embassy in Yerevan to Restore Consular Services

June 26, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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10:31, June 26, 2015

U.S. Embassy Yerevan expects to be able to restore full visa services by next week thanks to the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs’ hard work to resolve the technical issues that affected consular systems worldwide. Due to the backlog of pending visa cases caused by these technical issues, we remain unable to print visas within the usual 2-3 business days. 

Non-Immigrant Visa Applicants (Tourists, Businesspeople, Students, etc.): 

If you scheduled an appointment and were informed that your appointment was cancelled by the Consular Section, please call +374 60 27 0113 to reschedule your interview. 

If you were interviewed, your visa was approved, and the Consular Section has your passport, you can pick up your passport and visa at the U.S. Embassy:

Azerbaijan: Prosecutors Complete Investigation Into Case of Jailed Journalist Khadija Ismayilova

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23:01, June 24, 2015

The criminal investigation into the case of jailed investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova has been completed by Azerbaijani prosecutors.


Ismayilova has been held in pre-trial detention since her arrest last December when a court ruled to hold her for two months pending inquiries by the authorities.

Her detention has since been extended a number of times. According to Azerbaijani press, the Sabail District Prosecutor’s office has finally completed its probe into the allegation that Ismayilova incited an acquaintance to attempt suicide.

The development means that her lawyers will now have access to the authorities’ evidence against her.

Forged in Fire: The Making of an Investigative Reporter

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The more she uncovered and reported, the more the government tried to close off the access to key information. When that didn’t stop Ismayilova, the threats of personal attacks began — outrageous, demeaning and humiliating attacks.

Ismayilova told them she wouldn’t stop, so they followed through by releasing hidden camera video of her most intimate moments.

Next they arrested her on what her employers, supporters and leading journalism organizations consider to be ludicrous, trumped-up charges.

Nearly a decade earlier, it had been the assassination of another journalist that awakened the then-28-year-old reporter and inspired her to devote her life to exposing corruption, consequences be damned.

Profile of an Undercover Lobbyist for Azerbaijan

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A 1999 press release from the chamber at the launch of the Caspian Studies Program noted its emphasis on outreach to “help to shape informed policy”. The Kennedy School of Government’s parallel press release announced that the program would open with a panel presentation and discussion chaired by Graham T. Allison and featuring Ilham Aliyev, then the first vice president of SOCAR. Allison was and remains the Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a prominent foreign policy think tank based at Harvard. Aliyev in 2003 succeeded his father as president of Azerbaijan.

Allison appointed Shaffer director of the new program in 1999 on the basis of merit, according to a Belfer Center spokesman, though the position was not advertised. The then-primary listserv for academic and policy-related jobs related to Eurasia, which was hosted at Harvard.edu, does not list any such vacancy related to the Caspian Studies Program.

U.S.-Armenian Tycoon Remembered At Gyumri Church Service


Hundreds of people attended a church service in Gyumri on Monday to pay their respects to Kirk Kerkorian, the Armenian-American billionaire who has built thousands of homes in Armenia’s second largest city ravaged by a 1988 earthquake.

Kerkorian, who died one week ago at the age of 98, financed over $230 million in infrastructure projects that were implemented in his ancestral homeland in the decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A considerable part of that assistance was spent on the reconstruction of Armenia’s northern regions devastated by the 1988 earthquake. Some 3,700 apartments and houses were constructed there in the early and mid-2000s.

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Featured Books

Book Reviews

John Balian’s “Novel Approach” Brings the Armenian Saga to the Masses – An interview with John Balian by Lucine Kasbarian

Gray Wolves and White Doves cover art

Armenians often wish for a tale about the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath that would make a blockbuster film and draw attention to their cause. John Balian’s new book, Gray Wolves and White Doves (CreateSpace/Amazon.com), may be that tale.

 Largely autobiographical, this atmospheric novel is presented through the eyes of an innocent young boy trying to make sense of the world as he grows up amid repressive conditions in Western Armenia/Eastern Turkey during the 1960s and 70s.

 This fast-paced, multi-layered narrative takes readers from Hanna Ibelin’s (a.k.a. Jonah Ibelinian’s) close-knit family life in the perilous Asia Minor region of Palu to terror and tragedy while en route to Syria’s Kamishli, to a bleak existence on the mean streets of Istanbul.

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

Teaneck, N.J. and Belmont, Mass. –  An Armenian folktale retold by Armenian-American writer Lucine Kasbarian and illustrated by Moscow-based artist Maria Zaikina debuts with Marshall Cavendish Children’s Publishers in April 2011.

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale is from the ancient Armenian oral tradition and culture, which was nearly obliterated during the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915. The author learned the tale from her father, editor and columnist C.K. Garabed, who would recite it to her at bedtime. He had learned it from his own grandmother, a celebrated storyteller from the Old Country.  The tale was first put to paper by Armenian poet Hovhannes Toumanian at the turn of the 20th century.

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

Turkish writer and publicist Ahmet Insel labels the initiative of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party to pray namaz on the ruins of Ani as provocation.

In an interview with “A1+,” the publicist said the initiative was supported only by a small percentage of Turks.

“They offered namaz in Ani in protest against Christian rites carried out in Trabzon and Akhtamar. The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, Devlet Bahceli said if Christians are allowed to pray inside museums, similarly he can pray namaz in Armenian churches,” said Ahmet Insel.

The Turkish writer arrived in Armenia to participate in a book festival. Presentation of Armenian version of Dialogue sur le tabou arménien (Dialogue about the Armenian Tabou) co-authored by Ahmet Insel and Michel Marian was held during the festival.

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA –  KFI 640, a popular news/talk radio station hosted by Bill Handel on September 23 aired a live interview with Michael Bobelian, the writer of a new book titled  Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice

The book chronicles the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and recounts a people’s struggle for justice in the face of a century of silence and denial.

During the interview, which was aired during the prime morning time slot, Bill Handel addressed both the efforts within the United States to ensure that the US government appropriately acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s ongoing denial.

Handel, a well known and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, has discussed the Armenian Genocide during past shows.


Capitalism Run Amok Is Just Plain Capitalism

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16:37, January 17, 2015

By Markar Melkonian

The source of Armenia’s misery and humiliation, we often hear, is not capitalism per se, but rather “gangster capitalism,” “a broken system,” “capitalism run amok.”

The goal for the future, then, is to “fix the system,” to reform capitalism, to make it more like regular, pure, genuine Free Enterprise, the kind of capitalism that works. But what if Armenia’s actually existing capitalism already is genuine capitalism?

An economist once observed that the only existential meaning of “enterprise” in the term free enterprise is “whatever capitalists happen to be doing at the time”–and “free” is the accompanying demand that they be allowed to do it.

Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

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21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

Yerevan Calling: A Weekly Roundup of Random Musings from Armenia

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13:05, October 3, 2014

Here it is dear readers, the debut of a weekly column I hope to maintain on a regular basis.

It’s sort of a catch-all of news snippets, irreverent commentary, and personal observations on what’s happened during the week here in Yerevan, and throughout Armenia.. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting, if not slightly diverting.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Regards – Hrant

Oct. 2 – Protests Throughout Armenia: A Game of Numbers & Solidarity

Three separate protest rallies took place in Armenia today.

As Hetq reported earlier, business owners in the town of Sevan kept their stores and factories shut to protest changes to the so-called volume (sales) tax. Local residents flocked to the bread factory to wait on line for a loaf or two.

China: President Takes Action Against High Ranking Corrupt Officials

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21:31, July 30, 2014

Zhou Yongkang, one of China’s most powerful former leaders, is under investigation in the highest-level corruption inquiry since the Communist Party came into power in 1949.

Under current president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Zhou for “serious disciplinary violations,” as the officialXinhua news agency reports. Media has not yet, however, specified the allegations against him.

The probe is an attempt to show the length to which Xi and the party will go in order to combat abuse of power reportsThe Wall Street Journal. 

A commentary published in the officialPeoples Daily makes the point that regardless of  an official’s rank or supporters, punishment will result for violating laws or the party’s discipline. 

Armenian Gangs: Caught between an Archetype and a Cliché

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19:15, July 12, 2014

By Marineh Khachadour

“The whole thing started with a scene straight out of a mobster movie. It was around 6 p.m. when more than a dozen men from two organized crime groups opened fire on each other in a North Hollywood parking lot. Witnesses say nearly everyone was armed, and the shootout quickly went mobile. The men took off in cars, exchanging fire as they weaved through the Whitsett Avenue traffic.”

Stories such as this are not unique to Armenians in the American press, but this investigative report recently published in the LA Weekly is about Armenian Power, the Los Angeles based Armenian gang that operates in the heavily Armenian populated communities of Glendale, Burbank, and North Hollywood.