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Report: Russian bank led by Ruben Vardanyan involved in $8.8bn offshore scheme
/Mar 4/Public Radio of Armenia/

A new report claims the Russian Troika Dialog bank led by Armenian billionaire Ruben Vardanyan  managed a network of offshore companies moving billions out of Russia.

The report is based on a leak of confidential bank transactions  obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a consortium of east European investigative journalists,  and the Lithuanian website 15min.lt.  

As a whole, the data set includes over 1.3 million banking transactions from 238,000 companies and people, as well as thousands of emails, contracts, and company registration forms.

Dubbed the Troika Laundromat, the investigation is named after the Russian private investment bank Troika Dialog that allegedly created and operated the $8.8 billion scheme.

Led by Russian-Armenian executive Ruben Vardanyan, Troika Dialog reportedly directed billions of dollars from Russia into at least 35 bank accounts at Lithuanian bank Ukio Bankas.

The investigation found that the money was subsequently sent to western Europe and the US after being spun through many accounts and companies.

According to the BBC, money from the network was sent to Prince Charles’ Charities Foundation to help restore Dumfries House, a stately home in Ayrshire.

In an interview with , Vardanyan said his bank did nothing wrong and that it acted as other investment banks did at the time. He stressed that he couldn’t have known about every deal his enormous bank facilitated for its clients.

The report stresses that no evidence has been found that Vardanyan was ever investigated or accused of any wrongdoing by authorities. His signature was found on only one document in the entire scheme, in which he gives a loan to a Troika Laundromat company.

Vardanyan sold Troika in 2012 to the giant Russian state-controlled Sberbank, for a reported $1bn.

Gyumri’s historic center to be under patronage of UNESCO Gyumri’s historic center to be under patronage of UNESCO
/Mar 4/News.am/

Armenia’s President Armen Sargsyan today hosted Primate of the Shirak Diocese, Archbishop Mikael Ajapahyan.

President Sargsyan congratulated the leader of the Shirak Diocese on receiving the honor of becoming an archbishop and noted that this is the appreciation of his merit and his love for and devotion to the homeland and the Armenian Church.

In his turn, Archbishop Mikael Ajapahyan congratulated Armen Sargsyan on the first anniversary of his election to President of the Republic of Armenia and stated that it was a great honor for him to be the first guest of the President at his new residence.

President Sargsyan informed about his conversation with the UNESCO Secretary-General about having the historic center of Gyumri under the patronage of the UNESCO. “This will not allow anyone to encroach upon historic structures in Gyumri and will provide the opportunity to implement certain programs and provide funding for central Gyumri,” he said.

Archbishop Mikael Ajapahyan agreed with the President that the historic center of Gyumri needs to be saved and look as marvelous as it used to look, especially if Armenia wants to boost tourism.

The President also attached primary importance to employment. “If people have jobs, they can purchase homes or apartments with their earnings,” Armen Sargsyan said.

Noting the fact that Armenia has all the favorable conditions and opportunities to solve the current problems in at least two or three years, the interlocutors shared the view that Gyumri can make a great contribution to Armenia’s development with its potential.

World Customs Organization to hold next conference in Armenia
/Mar 4/ArmenPress.am/

YEREVAN – The State Revenue Committee (SRC) of Armenia is expanding international cooperation in tax and customs sectors.

The SRC said after joining the World Customs Organization’s Mercator Program Armenia will receive assistance for developing customs service capabilities, by ensuring the application of the World Trade Organization’s trade facilitation agreement.

SRC International Cooperation Department Director Suren Melik-Israyelyan emphasized that the World Customs Organization has commended Armenia’s programs regarding the Time Release Study.

The next WCO Information Technology Conference will be held in Armenia.

New projects are under development within the framework of cooperation with neighboring countries aimed at exchange of electronic data regarding shipments and transportation vehicles. The SRC has also recommended having a customs attaché under the Armenian Embassy in Russia who will deal with problems surfacing in the Upper Lars checkpoint.

The SRC said that within the framework of partnership with the EU, cooperation will continue in 2019 in the customs sector and directions of services, e-trade and intellectual property right. Armenia’s tax and customs service will also continue working with IOTA and China’s One Belt One Road initiative.

As a result of cooperation with international partners, the SRC is expected to have more efficient cooperation with EEU and CIS customs and tax structures.

Armenia the only country that has preserved 2 diplomatic representations in Syria – Aleppo Governor receives Armenian Ambassador
/Mar 4/ArmenPress.am/

YEREVAN – Ambassador of Armenia to Syria Tigran Gevorgyan met with Governor of Aleppo Hussain Diab on March 2.

As ARMENPRESS was informed from the press service of the MFA Armenia, greeting the Armenian Ambassador, Hussain Diab highly assessed the balanced policy of Armenia, as well as the huge humanitarian assistance during the years of war. He particularly emphasized the fact that Armenia is the only country that preserved 2 diplomatic representations in Syria, one of which, the General Consulate of the Republic of Armenia, operates in Aleppo.

Ambassador Gevorgyan underlined that the Armenian people are always ready to help the brotherly Syrian people, a brilliant proof of which is the arrival of the specialized humanitarian mission to Aleppo.

The interlocutors discussed the situation of the Armenian community in Aleppo. The Governor assured that the self-government bodies of Aleppo pay a special attention to the issues of Aleppo-Armenians.

On the same day Ambassador Gevorgyan met with the religious and secular leadership of the Armenian community in Aleppo. The Consul General of Armenia in Aleppo Armen Sargsyan, member of the Syrian parliament Zhirayr Reisyan, the leader of the Berio Diocese His Eminence Archbishop Shahan Sarkissian, the head of the Armenian Evangelical community Harutyun Selimyan and the leaders of Aleppo Armenian community institutions were present at the meeting.

The Ambassador noted that Armenia attaches great importance to the close cooperation with Diaspora-Armenian institutions. Tigran Gevorgyan assured that the diplomatic representations of Armenia are ready to provide comprehensive support to the Armenian community in Syria.

Armenia considers opening embassy in Israel – deputy FM’s interview to The Jerusalem Post
/Mar 6/ArmenPress.am/
YEREVAN – Armenia wants Israel to stop arms sales to Azerbaijan but is not making it a condition for improving ties with Jerusalem, Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigor Hovhannisyan said in an interview to The Jerusalem Post, reports Armenpress.

The deputy FM stated that Armenia considers opening an embassy in Israel in order to take ties between the two countries to the “next level”.

He stated that Armenia would like to see Israel reciprocate by opening an embassy in Yerevan.

Regarding the reports that Israel is one of Azerbaijan’s main weapons suppliers, Grigor Hovhannisyan said Armenia would welcome a situation where Israel would do as the US and most European countries have done and not sell arms to either Armenia or Azerbaijan. He noted that there is no military solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, there must be only a political one. The deputy minister emphasized that Armenia wants its friends to know that selling arms to Azerbaijan is “beyond a simple business transaction, and has consequences”.

The interview also touched upon the Armenian Genocide. Asked whether he was disappointed that Israel has not recognized the Armenian Genocide, the deputy FM distinguished between his own personal opinion and that of the foreign ministry.

As the offspring of refugees who survived the genocide, Hovhannisyan said he was personally disappointed, though that is not the position of the foreign ministry or the government. At the same time he noted that in the more than 25 years of Armenian independence from the Soviet Union the pace of recognition has been impressive. 

Grigor Hovhannisyan also talked about the mutual economic interests of the two countries, stating that Armenia is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) which can open up a huge market for Israeli products.

Some high-level officials obtained lands at Meghri FTZ at ridiculously low prices – the lands will be refunded to the State
/Mar 7/ArmenPress.am/

YEREVAN – Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan referred to Meghri Free-trade-zone, noting that some unusual facts have been recorded in terms of obtaining lands near it.  

“We had preliminary information that some high level official, being informed in-advance that a free-trade-zone will be established there, obtained the surrounding lands at ridiculously low prices. And when I visited Meghri FTZ last year, I recorded that, in fact, there are no state-owned lands there”, ARMENPRESS reports the PM said, inquiring from Chief of Prime Minister's Staff Eduard Aghajanyan about that case.

Aghjajanyan noted that a criminal case is initiated in the sidelines of that case. According to the Chief of Prime Minister's Staff, the police inform that the mentioned land is undoubtedly subject to be refunded to the state balance. “According to our colleagues, it will take 2-3 months”, he said.