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Baghdad-Yerevan-Erbil: A Commercial or Political Route?

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19:52, February 26, 2015

Today marked the inaugural flight linking Yerevan with Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Armenia’s General Civil Aviation Department reports that the Iraqi Airways flight, linking Baghdad and Yerevan with a quick stopover in Erbil, will operate every Thursday and Sunday commencing March 5.

As announced, Flight IAW 481 will depart from Baghdad and will land at Yerevan’s Zvartnots International Airport at 1pm. At 2pm, Flight IAW 484 will leave Yerevan for Erbil. At 5pm, Flight IAW 483 will return to Yerevan and will leave for Baghdad at 6pm.

The new route, to be operated by Iraqi Airways, the country’s national carrier established in 1945, will be serviced by planes in the Canadian made Bombadier CRJ900 and American Boeing 737 class. Iraqi Airways now has five CRJ900 and twelve Boeing 737 planes in its fleet.

Armenian Opposition In Limbo After Government Crackdown

February 27, 2015 Armenia, Asia, Business, Top News No Comments

Armenia’s major opposition parties remain vague on their immediate steps after Prosperous Armenia (BHK), admittedly the most influential of them, came under huge government pressure earlier this month.

The BHK led by tycoon Gagik Tsarukian dramatically toned down its criticism of President Serzh Sarkisian and his government after suffering the consequences of what appeared to be a crackdown unleashed by the head of state.

Sarkisian and senior members of his ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) lashed out at Tsarukian on February 12 after the BHK leader effectively presented them with an “ultimatum” – to give up controversial plans for a constitutional reform or face sustained street protests seeking to oust the current administration.

Romania: Anti-Corruption Agency Indictments ‘Doubled’ in 2014; Former Minister Arrested

February 27, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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12:53, February 27, 2015

Romania’s national anti-corruption agency has announced that 2014 was its most productive year yet, according to an annual report released on Tuesday.

The chief prosecutor of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), Laura Codruta Kovesi, made a speech on Tuesday to prosecutors, police and employees from foreign embassies, saying last year saw their largest-ever number of criminal cases, indictments, convictions, and investigations into high-ranking officials.

According to Kovesi, there were 317 indictments in 2014, double the figure from 2013. There were reportedly over 9,100 cases throughout the year, managed by 86 prosecutors.

Kovesi, the former prosecutor general of Romania, has developed a reputation for effectively targeting corruption since she took office in 2013, recently receiving attention fromThe Economistand theNew York Times.

Armenian Ruling Party Awaits ‘Messages’ From Embattled Rival

February 27, 2015 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

Armenia’s ruling Republican Party (HHK) will wait to see what political messages one of its top critics, Prosperous Armenia (BHK), sends to the public at a convention scheduled for next month, a spokesman said.

According to Deputy Parliament Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, the meeting of the HHK’s executive body held late on Thursday did not discuss any issue related to the BHK.

On February 12, the HHK council held a meeting dealing entirely with the domestic political situation created after BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian mounted a serious challenge to the current administration.

Apparently infuriated by Tsarukian’s “ultimatum” to give up the planned constitutional reform or face large-scale street protests, President Serzh Sarkisian told the HHK that he heads to exclude the man from the political process. He described Tsarukian as “evil” for Armenia and effectively ordered tax audits of his businesses.

FBI’s ‘Largest Cybercrime Bounty Ever’ Offered for Russian Hacker

February 26, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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21:34, February 26, 2015

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have announced a reward of US$ 3 million this Tuesday, Feb. 24, for information that would lead to the arrest of alleged cyber criminal Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev.

The FBI claims this is its largest ever bounty offered in a cybercrime case. Bogachev is accused of racketeering, bank fraud, identity theft, conspiracy, and money laundering, along with other charges. He is currently on the FBI’s Cyber’s Most Wanted List.

The FBI suspects that Bogachev participated in a “major cyber racketeering enterprise” using a malware scheme called “Zeus”, which reportedly allowed him to take part in the theft of more than US$ 100 million by harvesting the banking information of businesses and consumers through fake webpages and password theft. The FBI claims it disrupted the “botnet” (network of private computers) responsible in June 2014.

Armenia Considers Tax Advantages For Large Exporters

February 26, 2015 Armenia, Arts, Asia, Business, Top News No Comments

A government-drafted bill setting a considerably reduced profit tax rate for large-scale exporters has sparked debate in Armenia after reaching the National Assembly this week.

In an effort to attract more foreign investment, the Armenian government last month unveiled its plans to cut the tax from 20 to just 2 percent for manufacturing companies annually exporting at least 50 billion drams ($106 million) worth of goods other than metals and ores.

An elaborated bill setting the export volume threshold at $40 billion drams (about $84 million) and envisaging a 5-percent corporate profit tax was put on the agenda of this week’s four-day session at the National Assembly.

‘Reports’ Implicating Tsarukian In Tax Evasion Still Being ‘Verified’

February 26, 2015 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

Armenian tax officials are still inspecting the businesses of embattled political party leader Gagik Tsarukian, a senior government member confirmed on Thursday.

Deputy Finance Minister Armen Alaverdian, however, refused to disclose details of the audits or speak about their preliminary results.

“The inspections are underway, certain time frames are set for these audits, and it is impossible to speak about any results now,” he said.

The tax audits of the companies owned by the extended family of Tsarukian, the leader of Armenia’s second largest parliamentary party, Prosperous Armenia (BHK), were ordered by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian on February 14, two days after President Serzh Sarkisian lashed out at the opposition leader, accusing him of being “evil” for the country and calling for his exclusion from Armenia’s political life. In his verbal attack on his top critic Sarkisian also spoke about “unverified reports” implicating Tsarukian in large-scale tax evasion.

Tsarukian Party Confirms Meeting With Prime Minister

February 25, 2015 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

A group of members of the Prosperous Party of Armenia (BHK) led by embattled tycoon Gagik Tsarukian recently met with the Armenian prime minister to discuss “problems related to small and medium-sized enterprises”, a senior party member confirmed on Wednesday.

Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun), Naira Zohrabian, the secretary of the BHK parliamentary faction, declined to elaborate on the agenda of the meeting with Hovik Abrahamian or name the party members who participated in it.

The meeting with Prime Minister Abrahamian, a senior member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) who is also in-laws with Tsarukian, took place against the backdrop of a government crackdown against the BHK that included detentions of several members and inspections of some of the businesses belonging to Tsarukian loyalists. Earlier this month Abrahamian himself ordered members of his government to look into “unverified reports” implicating Tsarukian in large-scale tax evasion.

A Family Affair: Business Interests of President of Armenia’s National Assembly

February 24, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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12:32, February 24, 2015

While Armenia’s National Assembly President Galust Sahakyan has consistently declared that he isn’t engaged in business, he has conveniently hidden the fact that his wife and sons (also in government) are.

It would be the apex of naivet to believe that Sahakyan lives merely off his government salary or that his family members, due to sheer due diligence alone and without abusing their personal contacts in government, have become owners of various companies.

Ever since 2011, Sahakyan (who was appointed speaker of the parliament in April 2014, has only listed as revenue his government wages and pensions when filling out the financial disclosure forms he’s mandated to file.

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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.

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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.