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Cuban Court Sentences Canadian Businessman Cy Tokmakjian to 15 Years on Bribery Charges

October 8, 2014 Armenia, Business No Comments
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22:53, October 8, 2014

A Cuban court last week sentenced Canadian businessman Cy Tokmakjian to 15 years imprisonment for bribing top Cuban officials in return for lucrative contracts for his transportation company.

According to Reuters, Tokmakjian, who once received a business award from Fidel Castro, was found guilty of bribery, damaging the Cuban economy, illicit economic activity, currency trafficking, fraud and tax evasion.

Cuba put a number on the damage to its economy: $91 million. The Cuban court also seized $100 million in Tokmakjian company assets.

Arrested three years ago, Tokmakjian, has denied wrongdoing and, according to his son, refused to consider any deal that might free him in return for admitting guilt.

Ruling Party ‘Still Not Sure’ About Tsarukian’s Stance

October 8, 2014 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) is still not convinced that influential businessman Gagik Tsarukian and his political team have decided to campaign for President Serzh Sarkisian’s ouster, a senior HHK member said on Wednesday.

Hovannes Sahakian, who chairs a key committee of the Armenian parliament, downplayed calls for “regime change” that are made by senior members of Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) during ongoing rallies organized jointly with two established opposition parties. He implied that only Tsarukian can express his party’s official position.

“If the top leaders [of the three parties] come out and demand [regime change] we will conclude that they are serious about those demands and will try to respond,” Sahakian told reporters.

Thousands Attend Opposition Rally In Gyumri


Armenia’s three main opposition parties rallied thousands of supporters in Gyumri on Wednesday, ending a two-week regional tour aimed at drumming up popular support for their larger anti-government protests planned in Yerevan.

The Prosperous Armenia (BHK), Armenian National Congress (AHK) and Zharangutyun parties again made clear that “regime change” is main aim of their joint campaign. Senior BHK figures reiterated in that regard that their party, the second largest in parliament, is now officially seeking to end President Serzh Sarkisian’s rule.

“I said it [on Monday] and am now repeating that this government must go,” the BHK’s Naira Zohrabian told the crowd that gathered in a central Gyumri square. “We must not allow this government to cling to power for 10 more years with constitutional amendments. This must be the common agenda uniting you and us.”

India: Court Rejects Politician’s Bail Plea

October 8, 2014 Armenia, Business No Comments
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20:32, October 8, 2014

The former chief minister of the Indian southern state of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha Jayaram, was denied bail on Oct. 7 after a high court in the neighboring state of Karnataka said there was no reason to suspend her conviction, according to the BBC.

Jayaram, 66, was sentenced to four years in prison after her conviction last month in a case that stretches back 18 years. She was found guilty of illegally amassing nearly US$ 10 million during her first of three terms as chief minister. The court also ordered her to pay a US$ 16 million fine,reports International Business Times.

Her lawyers requested bail due to Jayaram’s poor health.

Igniting Entrepreneurship in Unexpected Places: An Interview With Sara Anjargolian of Impact Hub Yerevan

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16:16, October 8, 2014

Originally printed in the Huffington Post on October 7, 2014

About a year ago, I found myself sitting in the least desirable seat on the plane – the middle of the middle on a massive airliner directly in front of the restroom. On my left was a man in a grey undershirt, understated in appearance. Meanwhile his posture was one of dignity and pride. As I took in the scene, other travelers on the airplane walked down the aisle, pausing to stare at the man next to me, continuing on their walk, and then turning around to stare again. After two or three passengers stopped to stare, I couldn’t help but ask, “Who are you?”

Canadian Businessman Sentenced For Corruption

October 7, 2014 Armenia, Business No Comments
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21:55, October 7, 2014

Cuba has sentenced Canadian businessman Cy Tokmakjian to 15 years in prison on corruption charges.

Tokmakjian was found guilty of bribing Cuban officials, damaging the Cuban economy, currency trafficking, fraud and tax evasion. A Cuban court valued the damage Tokmakjian allegedly inflicted on the economy at US$ 91 million, reports Reuters.

The Canadian businessman is the president and founder of the Tokmakjian Group, a large transportation company in Canada, which has done business with Cuba for 22 years. In JulyOCCRP reported that Tokmakjian claimed he had been falsely charged, after speaking out against corruption in Cuba.

Passenger Traffic at Zvartnots Airport Up 16% in September Over 2013

October 7, 2014 Armenia, Business No Comments
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11:38, October 7, 2014

According to Armenia International Airports CJSC, passenger traffic at Yerevan’s Zvartnots Airport showed a 16% rise in September when compared to the same month in 2013.

197,602 passengers entered and departed the airport last month in comparison to 169,776 in September 2013.

(Armenia International Airports CJSC, owned by Argentine businessman Eduardo Eurnekian, was granted a 30 year concession by the government of Armenia to run Yerevan’s Zvartnots Airport)

Source: HetqOriginial Article

A Fraud In The Family

October 7, 2014 Armenia, Business, Georgia No Comments
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16:23, October 7, 2014

By Eka Gulua

The renovated building meant for refugees at 7 Tashkent Circle in Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia, is home to 35 families. But it’s the wrong 35 families.

Just ask Lamara Mikia, who lost her own home in the Abkhazian city of Ochamchire in 1993 when Georgians were forced to flee the country’s Abkhazia region during a bloody civil war.

Mikia told a reporter for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) that for the past 21 years, she has lived as an internally displaced person (IDP) in a decrepit former kindergarten used for refugee housing in the western Georgia city of Poti.

Government Offers Concessions To Traders


The Armenian government moved to make concessions to scores of angry market traders on Monday in response to their continuing street protests against new taxation rules introduced by it.

Prime Minister Abrahamian instructed Finance Minister Gagik Khachatrian to draft relevant legal amendments after holding two more meetings with leaders of the traders in the space of several hours. Khachatrian also met them separately.

The four representatives of the protesters announced after the talks that they reached a compromise agreement relating to recent changes in an Armenian law on turnover tax, which is levied from businesses with annual sales of up to 58 million drams ($140,000). The latter pay no other taxes.

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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.