No Impunity: Armenian politicians duck justice

It is nothing new for Armenians to see their politicians accused of corruption. Usually the accusations have little effect and in a few instances people may change jobs but they rarely get punished.

In July 2012, however, a court in the United States returned a guilty verdict against Vardan Ayvazyan, a former environment minister and current Member of Parliament  for soliciting a $3 million bribe and ordered him to pay $37.5 million in compensation to a US mining company, which following its refusal to bribe lost its license in Armenia.

Ayvazyan is also chair of the parliamentary Standing Committee and a prominent representative of the ruling Republican Party. The news of his conviction was reported in the Armenian press only in September.

Sona Ayvazyan (right, no relation to the accused) of Transparency International’s Armenian Chapter as she participates in a public protest against other violations committed by the Yerevan Municipality and Mayor. Read more here: http://transparency.am/news.php?id=453&inside=1&l=en

In Armenia the police and the judiciary are among the top institutions that people believe are most corrupt. So, we don’t expect those in power to be brought to justice very often. Impunity is a big problem. It will be very surprising if this politician has to pay a penny in compensation, much less lose his job.

Today, despite the ruling in the US and all the evidence presented in the court there, there is little political will in Armenia to follow up on the case. This is a significant opportunity to show that the rule of law is important and applies to everyone. It perpetuates the idea that those who are corrupt and use their positions of power for private gain will not be held to account.

Transparency Armenia has asked the Committee on Ethics of the National Assembly of Armenia to look into the case to decide if the behaviour of the parliamentarian lived up to ethical norms and standards. In terms of other activism, there is a campaign running on Facebook demanding Vardan Ayvazyan’s resignation and more than 500 people have signed to date.

Of particular concern was Ayvazayan’s public contempt for the US international court, the journalists who wrote about the case, and the general public.

Unfortunately, the Ethics committee declined to open the case because the alleged crime took place before Ayvazyan became an MP and before the introduction of current ethics rules which were introduced in May 2012.

It is a missed opportunity for Armenian law enforcement authorities in not initiating any investigations after the US court decision. We feel by highlighting this case, we can make a point about the rule of law and why it is so important for political elites not to be seen to be above the law

We are not pre-judging the former minister who clearly has the right to appeal his conviction, but what we would like is there to be transparency about the allegations and a way for the citizens of Armenia to hold their elected officials to account. That is the lesson here that we hope the political class will learn.

Share and enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • TwitThis
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • MisterWong
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • YahooBuzz
  • Print
  • email
Varuzhan Hoktanyan

About Varuzhan Hoktanyan

Varuzhan Hoktanyan is Executive Director of Transparency International Anti-corruption Center, TI's Chapter in Armenia.

, , , , , , , ,

6 Responses to No Impunity: Armenian politicians duck justice

  1. Vasilios Mavridis 26 October 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    You may be right, or you may be wrong about Ayvazyan, but there was no trial or proof of a bribe just an accusation made against Mr. Vardan Ayvazyan by Mr. Van Z. Krikorian, the Legal Counsel and President of Global Gold Mining. Which even the US Embassy in Armenia questioned the veracity of those claims. Read: “[EXCERPT FROM US EMBASSY] COMMENT: A MESSY SITUATION WITH NO CLEAN FACES: Global Gold, however, has at times been less than entirely forthcoming with us. They did not report Minister Aivazian’s alleged bribe solicitation until almost a year after it happened, were cagey about the timing of events, and for a number of months appeared reluctant to take the matter to court.”

    Read more at: http://toukhmanuk.blogspot.com/p/news-reports-on-gbgd-global-gold-and.html and wiki leaks cable included.

    All we can blame Mr. Vardan Ayvazyan now for is that he accepted bad legal advice and failed to defend himself in the USA. That is all he is guilty of.

    But what you are right about is that there is corruption in Armenia and Van Krikorian appears to use that corruption in his favor and hides behind his lawyers actions, while at the same time he accuses others of corruption.

    If you want to know how unethical/corrupt Mr. Van Krikorian of Global Gold is, just read my blog: http://extortion-in-armenia.blogspot.com and see how he corrupted Kopryoun Hagopyan of the Concession Department of the Ministry of Energy and Nature Protection to secure a bogus Termination Notice which Mr. Krikorian used to unilaterally terminated a JV we had together. see: http://extortion-in-armenia.blogspot.com/2012/07/part-1-is-gbgd-corrupting-force-in.html

    Also Van Krikorian and his lawyer corrupted Deputy Prosecutor A. Afandyan to start a bogus criminal investigation against me, so as to push me out of Armenia. see: http://extortion-in-armenia.blogspot.com/2012/06/part-v-you-your-brother-and-azat-are.html

    He also mislead/lied to the US Embassy in Armenia to compel them to support him in an Administrative Court Case. See: http://extortion-in-armenia.blogspot.com/2012/07/van-krikorian-in-yerevan-this-week.html and read my facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/InvestigateGBGDCorruptionInArmenia

    We all know how corrupt the judiciary is, your organization talks about it all the time. The Prime Minister, Mr. Tigran Sargsyan, appears to have given an order to the Administrative Court in Armenia to rule in favour of Mr. Van Krikorian’s company Global Gold.

    This guy who won a default judgement is also under criminal investigation for tax evasion and other potential financial crimes in Armenia since March 2011. Read: http://toukhmanuk.blogspot.com/2012/06/mego-gold-under-criminal-investigation.html

    From the Actions of Van Krikorian, one can conclude Mr. Vardan Ayvazyan was setup.

  2. Am 30 April 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    This must be the same Vasilios Mavridis
    http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20130422-911913.html

  3. Vasilios Mavridis 20 June 2013 at 1:19 am #

    Who is “Am”? Why do you post anonymous comments? So much for Transparency International! Please post the name of the user or remove the post.

    I have a reply to the false, misleading and slanderous comments made by Van Z. Krikorian in the Press Release that “Am” refers to above and it is a matter of time before I file a major lawsuit against Mr. Van Krikorian.

    Right now Mr. Van Z. Krikrorian of Global Gold and his operations in Armenia are apparently under criminal investigation for abuses of the tax code and apparent money laundering. Even local Environmental NGOs in Armenia have filed criminal complaints against Global Gold’s subsidiary, MEGO-GOLD LLC and its operator Mr. Ashot Poghossyan for damage caused to the environment from apparent illegal operations of their TOUKHMANUK GOLD MINE, near MELIQ village, north of Abaran,

    Yes this is the same Vasilios Mavridis, who Mr. Van Z. Krikorian of Global Gold used the influence of CORRUPT ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, such Marcel Matevossyan, the “Deputy Chairman” of the “Special Investigation Department of the General Prosecutor’s Office” of Yerevan, Mr. Koryoun Hagopyan, the Head of the Concessions Department and Mr. Hrayr Gukhassyan, A criminal Lawyer and Professor of Criminal Law in Yerevan with family connections to Justice Hovanes Gukhassyan of the Cassation Court of Armenia, Criminal Division, to file unfounded criminal complaints, interfere and unnecessarily prolong an unfounded criminal investigation, and secure fake and unfounded termination documents of the Marjan mining project all in effort to swindle Caldera out of the project and push me out of Armenia.

    The criminal case filed by Mr. Hrayr Gukhassyan on behalf of Global Gold. contained false and misleading accusations which a first year law student could see right through. Mr. Gukhassyan the so called “respected” professor of criminal law and lawyer for Global Gold Mining in Armenia and its related companies should be disbarred for such reprehensible behavior. Mr. Gukhassyan has filed at least two other criminal complaints against their employees and contractors to Global GOld and its subsidiaries to stop them from collecting payment of their salaries. Mr. Gukhassyan and Global Gold have lost all the criminal cases they have filed, which proves my point that Mr. Gukhassyan should be disbarred for knowingly filing false criminal complaints in an effort to gain advantage in civil cases.

    Mr. Vardan Ayvazyan obviously faced the same scandalous and unsubstantiated claims filed by Mr. Van Z. Krikorian, the so called American “savior” of Armenia and active member of the Armenian Assembly of America. Global Gold fails to tel everyone that he won a the judgement by DEFAULT. Mr. Vardan Ayvazyan was never properly informed of the unfounded claims filed against him by Mr. Van Z. Krikorian, who has a very dubious character in these matters. AS I said before, the only thing we can accuse Mr. Ayvazyan is that he got bad legal advice. I hope the case in the US will eventually be overturned so he can clear his name and expose the real CORRUPTING force in Armenia, Mr. Van Z. Krikorian and his lieutenants, Ashot Poghossyan, Hrayr Gukhassyan, Marcel Matevossyan and Koryoun Hagobyan.

    If you want to learn more about the ties that bind Mr. Van Z. Krikorian in Armenia read my blog at titled “Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice to Deceive” in Armenia” http://gbgd-armenia-mining.blogspot.ca/2013/05/oh-what-tangled-web-we-weave-when-first.html .

  4. VASILIOS MAVRIDIS 27 November 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    JUDGEMENT of $37MM against Mr. Vardan Ayvazyan was REVOKED!

    Can you believe that VAN KRIKORIAN and GLOBAL GOLD failed to clarify to everyone that the the judgement in July 2012 was a DEFAULT judgement, because Mr. Ayvazyan did not appear.

    The same Judge who ruled in favour of Global Gold, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge J. Paul Oetken, revoked his own Judgement!

    It turns out that Global Gold sued SHA LLC for damages and went to arbitration. Based on allegations that the Former Minister of the Environment, Mr. Vardan Ayvazyan demand a bribe and when he did not get it, he supposedly terminated the mining license for MARJAN and Hankavan, he sued the Government of Armenia and SHA, claiming corruption and that Mr. Ayvazyan was a secret shareholder of SHA.

    He tried to get Mr. Ayvazyan to be a defendant by alledging that he was a secret owner of SHA in the Arbitration case. While the Arbitrator initially ruled Mr. Ayvazyan must participate it later reversed that ruling (see below).

    Meanwhile, using the sharp practice of the law in the US, he got the US District Court to rule that Mr. Ayvazyan had to participate…that in of itself is very strange. Mr. Krikorian failed to properly inform Mr. Ayvazyan about this and then convinced the Judge to give mim a default judgement and find Mr. Ayvazyan guilty of causing the collapse of the Hankavan project and loses.

    Once he got that, he cancelled the arbitration calling it “moot” and declared victory!

    But that is just part of Mr. Krikorian’s “ambulance chasing” nature. Sue everyone, everywhere, drive them crazy, use sharp practice of the law, make wild accusations, cause people to spend money in US courts to defend themselves while he pays nothing because he is a lawyer and acts as a witness and a lawyer.

    But the Judge saw his error, The Arbitration, which is a private tribunal, had jurisdiction on this matter as was agreed between Global Gold and SHA of Armenia. Only the Arbitration tribunal can settle this matter and find any one guilty, and Mr. Ayvazyan had no contact with the US courts either

    Now the case is cancelled, the judgement is revoked and guess what, so is the Arbitration, because Van Krikorian Cancelled it in 2012 claiming victory and providing half truths in his public filings that there was “no appeal” and failing to disclose that he had a default judgment not just a judgement against Mr. Ayvazyan.

    To make matters worse Van Krikorian announced on November 20 2013, after the judgement was revoked slandering Mr. Ayvazyan by making unfounded accusation in his public filing that the judgement was revoked, by stating:

    (http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/319671/000143774913015132/gbgd20131121_8k.htm)

    On November 21, 2013, the Company received from its attorneys the “without prejudice” ruling of the Judge J. Paul Oetken of United States District Court for the Southern District of New York which vacated the $37.5 million default judgment which the Company had obtained against former Armenian Minister of Environment Vartan Ayvazian solely on jurisdictional grounds. The ruling is expressly “without prejudice” to Global Gold’s right to re-file or continue to pursue the case, and the Company is currently reviewing its legal options. The court did not rule on the corruption charges or damage amount caused by Ayvazian’s actions, basing its findings on Ayvazian’s general insufficient contacts with New York. One of the shareholders of the Armenian party to the agreement under which the Company brought suit against Ayvazian identified him as the undisclosed principal who controlled the transaction and divided the funds paid by Global Gold. The November 21, 2013 court ruling also did not address those facts. This ruling has no effect on the Company’s financial statements as this judgment was never recorded on the Company’s books.

    As previously reported, in 2006, GGH, which was the license holder for the Hankavan and Marjan properties, was the subject of corrupt and improper demands and threats from the now former Minister of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Armenia, Vardan Ayvazian. Specifically, the Company was asked to pay a $3 million bribe which it refused to pay. The Company reported this situation to the appropriate authorities in Armenia and in the United States. On November 7, 2006, the Company initiated the thirty-day good faith negotiating period (which is a prerequisite to filing for international arbitration under the 2003 SHA, LLC Share Purchase Agreement) with the three named shareholders and one previously undisclosed principal, Mr. Ayvazian. The Company filed for arbitration under the rules under the International Chamber of Commerce, headquartered in Paris, France (“ICC”), on December 29, 2006. On September 25, 2008, the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Mr. Ayvazian was required to appear as a respondent in the ICC arbitration. On September 5, 2008, the ICC International Court of Arbitration ruled that Mr. Ayvazian shall be a party in accordance with the decision rendered on September 25, 2008 by the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York. Subsequently, in December 2011 the ICC Tribunal decided to proceed only with the three named shareholders; in March 2012, GGM filed an action in Federal District Court pursuant to that Court’s decisions for damages against Ayvazian and/or to conform the ICC Tribunal to the precedents, and on July 11, 2012 the Federal Court entered judgment in favor of the Company, which was not appealed and became final. Based on the evidence of the damages suffered as a result of Ayvazyan’s actions, the final $37,537,978.02 federal court judgment in favor of GGM was comprised of $27,152,244.50 in compensatory damages plus $10,385,734.52 of interest at 9% from 2008. The Company notified the ICC that the pending arbitration against the other three shareholders should be terminated as moot, considering the judgment against Ayvazian. The ICC complied with the Company’s request and terminated that proceeding.

    Separately, and based on the US Armenia Bilateral Investment Treaty, Global Gold filed a request for arbitration against the Republic of Armenia for the actions of then Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Ayvazian with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, which is a component agency of the World Bank in Washington, D.C. (“ICSID”), on January 29, 2007. On August 31, 2007, the Government of Armenia and GGM jointly issued the following statement, “[they] jointly announce that they have suspended the ICSID arbitration pending conclusion of a detailed settlement agreement. The parties have reached a confidential agreement in principle, and anticipate that the final settlement agreement will be reached within 10 days of this announcement.” GGM entered into a conditional, confidential settlement agreement with the Government of the Republic of Armenia to discontinue the ICSID arbitration proceedings, which were discontinued as of May 2, 2008. The November 21, 2013 “without prejudice” ruling does not affect the ICSID settlement.

    Here Mr. Krikorian writes that “On November 21, 2013, the Company received …ruling of the Judge J. Paul Oetken of United States District Court for the Southern District of New York which vacated the $37.5 million default judgment which the Company had obtained ” and in his initial reports and news articles published in the Armenian press he failed to tell anyone that this was a DEFAULT JUDGEMENT.

    In the recent filing with the SEC he also states that “on July 11, 2012 the Federal Court entered judgment in favor of the Company, which was not appealed and became final.” and in his public filings of September 6, 2012, Mr. Krikorian states: “The Writ of Execution was issued by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York following the order and judgment of Judge J. Paul Oetken and final entry of that judgment (No. 12,1260), without appeal. ” As if Mr. Ayvazyan could not or would not appeal such a strange and corrupt ruling.

    Mr. Krikororian goes out of his way to slander Mr. Ayvazyan by stating in his SEC filings that “The court did not rule on the corruption charges or damage amount caused by Ayvazian’s actions, basing its findings on Ayvazian’s general insufficient contacts with New York. One of the shareholders of the Armenian party to the agreement under which the Company brought suit against Ayvazian identified him as the undisclosed principal who controlled the transaction and divided the funds paid by Global Gold. The November 21, 2013 court ruling also did not address those facts.”

    Unfounded and unproven allegations and also makes statements of an UNNAMED shareholder of SHA that identified Mr. Ayvazyan as an “undisclosed principal”. THis is a serious charge so why has this never ever been investigated since 2008. Because it is not true. Just one lie after another. Sorry did I say lie. No this is an “un-supported claim”.

    IT is clear there are problems with Corruption in Armenia, but when an AMERICAN Lawyer and CORRUPT business man like MR. VAN Z. KRIKORIAN, who uses his political connections with the ARMENIAN ASSEMBLY OF AMERICA, his use the sharp practice of the law to cause harm to his detractors, this is the real corruption. This the corruption of the legal system and the breach of the Rules of Professional Conduct that lawyers have to operate by.

    Once CORRUPT people like Van Krikorian are removed from doing business in Armenia will real justice be served.

  5. VASILIOS MAVRIDIS 27 December 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    Part I: US Judge Blasts Van Krikorian / Global Gold Corp (GBGD) and Overturns his $37MM Default Judgement Against Former Minister of the Republic of Armenia, Mr. Vardan Ayvazyan

    I finally received a complete copy of the ruling handed down by Justice Paul Oetken, relating to the overturning of the Vardan Ayvazyan default judgement, that awarded Global Gold Corp. (otcmarkets: GBGD) $37MM.

    (A copy of the Order can be viewed at: https://app.box.com/s/10ryoiun49ykt8kk490i)

    The order was overturned on November 21, 2013 by the same Judge who issued it, on the grounds stated below:

    Because this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Ayvazian, the default judgment is void and must be set aside. Equitable factors also support this outcome. Global Gold has had its day in court and has also had its day before the Tribunal that it contracted for, from behind a veil of ignorance, before the dispute arose. Faced with consistent adverse decisions, it now seeks to change the rules of the game. This is the rare case where the interests of finality and the interests of protecting a defaulting defendant are aligned: Global Gold may not circumvent the decision of the ICA Tribunal by returning to this Court, which lacks jurisdiction over Ayvazian.

    For the foregoing reasons, Defendant Ayvazian’s motion to vacate default judgment (Dkt. No. 15) is GRANTED, and the default judgment entered in this case on July 11, 2012 (Dkt. No. 9) is hereby VACATED.
    The complaint is hereby dismissed without prejudice.
    The Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case.
    SO ORDERED

    Dated: New York, New York
    November 21, 2013

    J.Paul Oetken
    United States District Judge

    Since 2006, GBGD has been attempting to impugn the character of Mr. Vardan Ayvazyan by making outrageous and unsubstantiated declarations of corruption, all in an apparent scheme to gain advantage in negotiations with the representatives of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, so as to secure and maintain his exploration and mining licenses on the Marjan and Hankavan gold deposits.

    No less than 3 times have the International Chamber of Commerce Court of Arbitration (“ICA Tribunal”) and the United States District Court have ruled that Mr. Krikorian’s dispute with SHA, LLC does not involve the former Minister of the Environment, Mr. Vardan Ayvzyan, since he was not party to his dealing with SHA, LLC or mentioned anywhere in his agreements.

    Judge Paul Oetken, not only reversed his own decision that issued a default judgement in favour of GBGD, it slammed Van Krikorian and Global Gold, for abusing the legal system by trying to aggressively and repeatedly pursue Mr. Vardan Ayvazyan so as to get the ruling that it wanted.

    Judge Paul Oetken states: “Global Gold has had its day in court and has also had its day before the Tribunal . . . Faced with consistent adverse decisions, it now seeks to change the rules of the game . . . Global Gold may not circumvent the decision of the ICA Tribunal by returning to this Court, which lacks jurisdiction over Ayvazian.”

    http://gbgd-armenia-mining.blogspot.ca/2013/12/judge-blasts-van-krikorian-global-gold.html

  6. VASILIOS MAVRIDIS 12 January 2014 at 1:52 am #

    hey approve my previous comment