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$100 Milion Scandal: Rolls-Royce Accused of Bribing Brazilian Oil Company Petrobras

February 17, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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20:12, February 17, 2015

British engineering firm Rolls-Royce has been accused of bribing state-controlled Brazilian oil company Petrobras for a US$ 100 million contract.

According to the Financial Times, former Petrobras employee Pedro Barusco told police that Rolls-Royce – which manufactures the gas turbines that power oil platforms – gave him at least US$ 200,000 in return for facilitating the US$100 million deal. His testimony was contained in 600 pages of documents released by a federal court in Brazil this month. Barusco, a key source in the case, struck a plea bargain in November.

Armenian Police Deny Crackdown On Opposition

February 17, 2015 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

Armenian law-enforcement agencies have brushed aside opposition claims that their recent actions targeting some political activists are part of a wider crackdown ordered by the government.

Police spokesman Ashot Aharonian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) on Tuesday that the recent detentions of members of the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) are not politically motivated and are part of the routine work conducted by the Armenian police.


Armenia – President Serzh Sarkisian (R) and businessman Gagik Tsarukian attend the consecration of a new church built by the latter in Abovian, 14May2013.

The BHK led by embattled tycoon Gagik Tsarukian reported late on Monday that several of its members had been detained amid what it described as a continuing campaign of reprisals ordered by President Serzh Sarkisian.

Armenian Opposition Party Claims More Government Pressure

February 17, 2015 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

An embattled Armenian opposition party reported late on Monday that several of its members had been detained amid what it described as a continuing crackdown ordered by President Serzh Sarkisian last week.

Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) lawmaker Elinar Vartanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) that Artur Mamoyan, the leader of the party’s chapter in Yerevan’s Nor-Nork district, had been taken to a police station on unspecified grounds earlier yesterday. She said they also had information about detentions of BHK activists elsewhere in the city.

Later the police reported that Mamoyan was detained on suspicion of illegally keeping weapons and said that his detention was not politically motivated.

Police Officers Working For Tsarukian Security Sacked

February 16, 2015 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

Scores of police officers engaged in providing security for an embattled opposition leader and his property have been dismissed from work in recent days in what authorities claim is just an “ongoing reform”.

The press service of Armenia’s National Police has confirmed 200 such dismissals since last week when the government launched an offensive against Gagik Tsarukian and his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK).

Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun), however, police officials implied that the move is not related to the recent internal political developments.

“In all police departments, including the one providing state protection services, contracts concluded with physical and juridical persons are being constantly checked and updated,” a police statement said.

Government Ordered To Inspect Tsarukian Businesses

February 15, 2015 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian has ordered his government to “verify reports” alleging that embattled opposition leader Gagik Tsarukian has hidden huge amounts of money in unpaid taxes following a move by the head of state to effectively “oust” the tycoon from politics.

In a dramatic riposte to mounting pressure from Tsarukian, President Serzh Sarkisian told senior members of his ruling Republican Party of Armenia on Thursday that the tycoon who leads the second largest parliamentary party, Prosperous Armenia (BHK), is an “evil” as a politician and must be excluded from the political process.


Tsarukyan Throws Down Gauntlet to Sargsyan: Calls for Complete Regime Change

February 13, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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13:38, February 13, 2015

In response to yesterday’s stinging attack by President Serzh Sargsyan against his person and political capabilities, Gagik Tsarukyan upped the stakes a bit more by publicly calling for regime change via snap presidential elections.

The entire scenario some two weeks ago when a Prosperous Armenia Part (BHK) party activist was seized off a Yerevan street, pushed into a waiting car, and later beaten quite severely.

The BHK (Armenia’s second largest political party headed by Tsarukyan) laid the full responsibility of the attack on the ruling Armenian Republican Party (HHK) government.

This, in turn, lead to threats from the top echelons of the HHK to the BHK that such accusations should be dropped or the consequences would be dire.

Azerbaijan: Journalist Faces New Charges

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21:25, February 13, 2015

Fresh charges have been filed against investigative reporter and OCCRP partner Khadija Ismayilova.

The charges, according to the journalist’s lawyer, Fariz Namazly, include running an illegal business, tax evasion, embezzlement, and abuse of power.

If convicted, she faces up to 12 years in prison. Ismayilova, who worked for Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty, denies all charges.

Ismayilova has been held in pre-trial detention since Dec. 5, 2014 on charges of inciting a former colleague to commit suicide. She denies the accusations, which international human rights groups believe are politically motivated.

Yerevan Hopes For U.S. Presence At Genocide Commemoration


President Serzh Sarkisian has expressed hope that senior U.S. officials will visit Armenia on April 24 to attend official commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the new U.S. ambassador in Yerevan said on Friday.

The envoy, Richard Mills, held his first news conference at the U.S. Embassy after handing his credentials to Sarkisian. He met with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian on Thursday.

Mills said both Sarkisian and Nalbandian stressed the importance of high-level U.S. presence at the official ceremonies in Yerevan that will mark the genocide centenary. “I will convey that to Washington,” he said.

Sarkisian’s office confirmed that the upcoming centenary commemorations were on the agenda of the meeting with Mills. But it gave no details.

Upping Stakes, Sarkisian Begins Crackdown On Tsarukian


In a dramatic riposte to mounting pressure from Gagik Tsarukian, President Serzh Sarkisian moved to kick the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader out of parliament, ordered tax audits of his businesses and warned of the possibility of his prosecution late on Thursday.

Sarkisian lashed out at his former coalition partner in a speech full of derogatory descriptions of Tsarukian, including his infamous “Dodi Gago” nickname, delivered before senior members of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).

The unusually harsh attack marked a further escalation of tensions between the Sarkisian administration and the BHK that began after a gathering of opposition forces organized by Tsarukian last week. The tycoon used the gathering to step up his criticism of the government’s track record and, more importantly, warn Sarkisian against amending the Armenian constitution.

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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.