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Armenian Prime Minister Hosts Swiss-Armenian Businessman Sirmakes

July 28, 2015 Armenia, Arts, Business No Comments
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16:14, July 28, 2015

Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan today hosted Swiss-Armenian businessman Vardan Sirmakes, chairman and co-owner of luxury watch brand Franck Muller.

Abrahamyan praised Sirmakes for his $150 million backing of the “Hin Yerevan” (Old Yerevan) construction project for downtown Yerevan.

The Armenian prime minister also congratulated the Istanbul-born Sirmakes for his investments in Artsakh.

Photo (from left): Sirmakes, Abrahamyan

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Armenian Prime Minister Declares "War on Corruption", Then Visits Son’s Business Partner

July 28, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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17:23, July 28, 2015

Today, in Yerevan, Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan presided over the first ever meeting of a newly created anti-corruption council, declaring war against the scourge that plagues Armenia.

Immediately after the council meeting, Abrahamyan met with Vartan Sirmakes, chairman and co-owner of luxury watch brand Franck Muller.

According to a government communiqué, the prime minister praised the Swiss-Armenian businessman for his investments in Armenia designed to spur economic development and job creation.

Another government press release one might say if not for the fact that Hovik Abrahamyan’s son Argam is a business partner of Sirmakes’.

Argam Abrahamyan (newly elected mayor of Artashat) owns 12% in the Franck Muller Yerevan Watch Distribution company. Another 13% is owned by local businessman and former politician Gagik Tsarukyan.

Grand Theft Moldova

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17:42, July 24, 2015


The bank theft was so outsized and bold that citizens of the Republic of Moldova came out in the streets this past May by the thousands to protest: “We want our billion back!”

They used the number — US$ 1 billion – that news accounts reported had gone missing from three Moldovan banks in November of 2014.  Unsure who to blame, the protestors denounced the government, politicians, banks and organized crime.

The theft was a serious setback for Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries, with a gross domestic product of only US$ 8 billion and an average wage of US$ 200 per month.

Russia: Deputy PM Owns US$ 18 Million Flat in London, Navalny Says

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17:46, July 24, 2015

Igor Shuvalov, Russia’s deputy prime minister, owns a posh apartment in central London worth £11.44 million (US$ 17.7 million), says corruption activist Alexei Navalny. 

According to an investigation by Navalny’s Fund for the Fight Against Corruption, Shuvalov turned two flats into a 500-square-meter luxury apartment, located in Westminster borough, an extremely affluent area of the British capital. 

Shuvalov’s anti-corruption declaration for 2014 shows he was renting a flat in London, but Navalny says the documents he obtained from the British land registry shows Shuvalov owns the property, and his claims that he is only renting are “fictitious.”

Russia: Suspect In Vodka-King Murder Case Claims Torture

July 24, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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14:42, July 24, 2015

A suspect in the murder of a well-connected Russian businessman who led a billion-ruble liquor store empire says investigators forced him to confess by torturing him, including threats of rape.

In October 2013, masked men kidnapped Oleg Dergilev and his chauffeur, drove them to a forest near the Russian city of Samara, locked the driver in the trunk, and shot Dergilev to death. 

Dergilev had built a business empire of more than 270 liquor stores in the south-central Russian Samara region, as well as the Saratov region close to the Kazak border and a small number of stores elsewhere. His liquor store group, named “Vodka,” earned revenues of more than 1.3 billion rubles (US$ 22.6 million) in 2009, according to a local media report which dubbed him the King of Vodka.

Italy: 51 Arrested in Multi-National Online Gambling Ring

July 24, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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22:37, July 23, 2015

Gambling executive Mario Gennaro was arrested Wednesday by Italian police along with his associate Domenico Lagrotteria and 49 others accused in an online gambling tax evasion operation valued at € 2 billion.

Franco Roberti, the Anti-Mafia District Attorney from Calabria, said investigators seized 45 Italian companies, 11 foreign companies, 1,500 agencies, 82 websites and an undisclosed number of buildings.

Gennaro, the general director of the Malta-based gambling company BetUniQ, is accused of heading a transnational criminal association specializing in illegal gambling, tax evasion and money laundering.

Prosecutors say Gennaro created an online gambling empire based in Malta, with agencies in Italy, Romania, Austria and Spain, where the organization would collect and distribute winnings in cash in order to avoid tax.

Sarkisian, Tsarukian Make Another Joint Appearance


President Serzh Sarkisian attended on Wednesday the inauguration of a new church built by Gagik Tsarukian, making another public appearance with the former Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader forced out of politics earlier this year.

The supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Garegin II, personally consecrated the Church of the Holy Savior in Nor Hachin, a town 15 kilometers north of Yerevan, at a ceremony marked by unusually tight security measures.

The presidential security service, Tsarukian’s bodyguards and police prevented scores of people from entering the church during the ceremony. Journalists were also barred from attending it.

IDeA Foundation and EBRD to Support Projects Aimed at Infrastructure and Tourism Development

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13:10, July 22, 2015

Initiatives for Development of Armenia (IDeA) Foundation and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) signed a memorandum of understating (MoU) on cooperation today.

The objective of this MoU is to enhance, on a non-exclusive basis, cooperation and to facilitate collaboration between the Parties to promote projects that support sustainable economic municipal infrastructure development in Armenia.

Acting General Director of IDeA Foundation Edgar Manukyan and Head of the EBRD Yerevan Office Mark Davis signed the Memorandum.

“‘Tatev Revival’ and Dilijan development projects implemented by IDeA Foundation are firstly aimed at the development of community infrastructures and tourism in those regions. We are happy to have an important partner such as the EBRD in development projects. We are sure our joint efforts will enable us to carry out larger-scale projects and ramp up cooperation to include other sectors as well,” said Edgar Manukyan.

Government Service Pays Off: The Millionaire “Marzpets” of Armenia

July 20, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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By Kristine Aghalaryan and Grisha Balasanyan

Reviewing the financial disclosure statements of Armenia’s marzpets (provincial governor) one gets the impression that they all live solely on their government salaries. But all of them drive fancy cars, own lots of property, and have their hands in a various businesses.

Hetq has looked at their statements. It appears that Karapet Guloyan, a newly appointed marzpet and the youngest in the bunch, is the richest of the ten.

Karapet Guloyan (Kotayk) – Youngest Billionaire Marzpet

Serving as the Mayor of Abovyan in Kotayk, Karapet Guloyan was appointed the marzpet of the province in April of this year. He’s the son of MP Murat Guloyan and the son-in-law of MP Gagik Tsarukyan.

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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.