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Return of Camp Armen Remains Unresolved: Next Ten Days Crucial

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15:37, May 29, 2015

The following is a translation of an Armenian editorial that appeared in today’s issue of Agos

On May 22, the “Solidarity with Camp Armen” group organized a march along Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue.

One of the main slogans voiced during the march was “We will succeed by struggling”. When the hundreds of marchers reached Galatasaray Square, Armenian songs were sung and Sayat Tekir, a representative of the Nor Zartonk (New Awakening) organization addressed the crowd.

Before the march, news had spread that the present owner of the camp would be handing it over to its original owner, the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church. Upon hearing this and thinking that the matter had been resolved, many decided not to participate in the march.

TeliaSonera Warned Not to Pay Further Dividends to Azeri Partners

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20:28, May 28, 2015

(TT news agency, Sweden)

It was the previous management of Swedish telecoms giant TeliaSonera that entered an allegedly corrupt deal in Azerbaijan in which companies close to the president are thought to have walked off with hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes.

But the new leadership says it will continue to pay dividends worth many millions to the firms linked to Azerbaijan’s presidential family.

TT, Swedish Television and the OCCRP Wednesday revealed that TeliaSonera, through a deal in 2008, is suspected of having helped the presidential family in Azerbaijan to take over a government asset worth at least 6 billion kronor (about US$ 709 million).

Government To Privatize Armenian Postal Service

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The Armenian government announced on Wednesday plans to privatize the country’s state-owned national postal service employing thousands of people.

Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian’s cabinet approved the planned sell-off during its weekly session in Yerevan. The decision took the form of draft amendments to an Armenian law that lists state companies subject to privatization. It therefore also requires the parliament’s approval.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, the head of the government’s privatization agency, Arman Sahakian, said the Haypost operator should be privatized because it needs substantial capital investments.

“The company’s privatization will foster the development of postal communication in Armenia through new investments, installation of new equipment, and rehabilitation and modernization of its physical infrastructure,” Sahakian said.

Azerbaijan: Offshores Close to President Paid Nothing for State Share of Telecom Giant

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Taxpayers in Azerbaijan lost more than $600 million in a deal that made no sense for all involved except for a murky offshore deeply connected to President Ilham Aliyev.

A company close to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his family likely walked off with more than US$ 1 billion in a takeover of his country’s stake in Azercell Telecom, the largest mobile operator in the country. The process was aided by a subsidiary of TeliaSonera, the Swedish-Finnish telecom giant, which acted against its own interest to allow the deal to happen.

Microsoft To Boost Support For Armenian IT Sector

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Microsoft Corporation pledged to step up its contribution to Armenia’s burgeoning information technology sector on Tuesday with a new regional software development center to be opened in Yerevan soon.

In return, the Armenian government promised stronger protection of the U.S. giant’s world-famous products against widespread software piracy in the country.

The two sides formalized their mutual commitments with a package of agreements which Microsoft’s top executive for central and eastern Europe, Don Grantham, signed in Yerevan with Armenia’s ministers of economy, education and defense. Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian and the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, Richard Mills, underscored its importance with their presence at the signing ceremony.

OCCRP Reporter Detained in Moscow, Banned from Russia until 2020

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22:35, May 26, 2015

OCCRP journalist Stevan Dojčinović has been detained for 20 hours in a Moscow airport without explanation, deported, and banned from entering Russia until 2020.

Dojčinović was due to give a lecture at the Faculty of Journalism in the Russian city of Voronezh.

But as his passport was scanned at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport on May 13, an alert appeared in the computer system and the border guard told Dojčinović to sit down. After an hour’s wait, police arrived and took him to a room for questioning.

Dojčinović said that in the interrogation room a portrait of President Vladimir Putin bearing the words “Our Commander in Chief” hung alongside a long table. Officers presented Dojčinović with a document in Russian which he was asked to sign, while another police officer filmed the proceedings.

Ex-PM Takes Legal Action Over Corruption Claims

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Tigran Sarkisian has filed a libel suit against a businessman who has accused Armenia’s former prime minister and current ambassador to the United States of helping a former partner defraud him of millions of dollars, it emerged on Tuesday.

A lawyer for Sarkisian said he is seeking 1 million drams ($2,100) in damages for Paylak Hayrapetian’s “false claims” stemming from an alleged scam investigated by law-enforcement authorities.

As part of that investigation, another Armenian entrepreneur, Ashot Sukiasian, stands accused of having misappropriated most of a $10.7 million loan which Hayrapetian borrowed from an Armenian commercial bank in 2012. Sukiasian had pledged to invest that money in diamond mining in Sierra Leone. He never did that, according to investigators.

Armenia’s Former Prime Minister Sues Paylak Hayrapetyan for Slander

May 26, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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11:52, May 26, 2015

Tigran Sargsyan, Armenia’s former prime minister and presently its ambassador to the United States, has filed a one million AMD slander suit against businessman Paylak Hayrapetyan.

On March 24, Hayrapetyan appeared on the “shamshyan.com” website and accused Sargsyan or receiving US$7.5 million of his money via an off shore financial deal that dates back to 2009.

At the time, Hayrapetyan placed millions of his property as collateral at AmeriaBank for loans to invest in a grandiose Armenian government backed diamond project. But a large percentage of the loans were transferred to the bank accounts of companies registered in Cyprus. Stockholders in these companies Tigran Sargsyan, prime minister at the time, Primate of the Ararat Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church Archbishop Navasard Kjoyan, and a businessman called Ashot Sukiasyan.

Finance Minister Again Denies Conflict Of Interest

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Armenia’s controversial Finance Minister Gagik Khachatrian claimed on Monday that lucrative businesses linked with his family do not enjoy privileged treatment by tax authorities headed by him.

Khachatrian again dismissed suggestions that he is unfit to lead a genuine fight against widespread tax evasion because of extensive business interests widely attributed to him. “The public does not say that. It’s you who say that,” he told reporters.

In that context, the minister spoke of his “pride” in the track record of the Armenian State Revenue Committee (SRC). He pointed to a steady growth in the government’s tax revenue during his 7-year leadership of the tax collection agency. The SRC was incorporate into the Ministry of Finance when Khachatrian became finance minister in May last year.

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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.

Commentary

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.