On November 29, 2018, during the snap parliamentary election campaign, Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, leader of My Step Alliance, met with residents of Gavar town of Gegharkunik province, and spoke about expected investments, announcing that in January 2019 a businessman who comes from Tsovazard village will open a textile factory in the region.
“He (the businessman) has decided to make investments and set up a textile factory in Tsovazard village where they will spin cotton. … By the way, according to his promise and the plan, this plant will start working starting in January, and initially there will be 400-600 jobs, and thereafter 1200 jobs are planned to be opened.”
Pashinyan had said in his speech earlier that one of the first cases after becoming prime minister was related to this businessman who tried to import cotton seeds to Armenia in order to make experimental sowing in Armavir region, but there were problems with customs authorities.
“I wondered what the problem was and so on. Allegedly there was a problem with phyto-sanitary requirements. I instructed them to quickly inspect and let those seeds enter Armenia. Thereafter, the businessman, as he had planned, carried out cotton sowing in Armavir region for the first time in many years. And now it turns out that there is much more cotton yield than expected in Armavir province” Pashinyan said, adding that the harvest will be used at the plant in Tsovazard village.
The acting prime minister’s statement was welcome by the audience applause.
Fourteen months after this promise, the Fact Investigation Platform decided to find out if the plant has been opened, and at what stage the works are.
Tsovazard factory is not operational yet
Aramayis Yengoyan, Mayor of Tsovazard, told Fip.am that the plant does not operate.
According to him, there was a textile factory in the community, which was closed (declared bankrupt) several years ago due to financial problems. It belonged to businessman Gagik Khachikyan, and the same businessman promised to restore the cotton processing plant on the basis of this factory building and machine shop last year, but according to the mayor, he did not do any preparatory work.
“I called Khachikyan a couple of times, and he said his attempts are not successful yet” Yengoyan said.
Fip.am also tried to contact Gagik Khachikyan. The latter promised to call later, but eventually a woman named Lusine contacted us, who introduced herself as Khachikyan’s lawyer and accountant. Lusine said that the plant was not opened in Tsovazard because the cotton yield was insufficient to start production and the harvest is now in the storage.
“Due to the scarcity of the raw material, it has been decided to delay the processing of cotton” Lusine said, adding that they already have about 1,000 hectares of cotton fields in several communities.
It is noteworthy that earlier in July 2018, Gegharkunik Governor Ishkhan Saghatelyan visited Tsovazard Cotton Factory where founder of Uzbek Textile Group LLC Gagik Khachikyan assured the Governor that they would see their production by the end of the year and, as a result, more than a thousand jobs will be created. “We have sufficient means and preconditions for that” said Gagik Khachikyan.
Who is Gagik Khachikyan?
As mentioned above, Gagik Khachikyan is the owner of “Tsovazard Textile Factory” CJSC located in Tsovazard. The latter is a shareholder in Gor-Al founded by businessman Payak Hayrapetyan in 2006, Cotton Textile Group founded in 2017, and Uzbek Textile Group founded in 2018. In April 2018, Khachikyan founded the Tsarukyan Cotton Road LLC together with Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukyan, where he owns 20% of shares.
The Fact Investigation Platform referred to Khachikyan who started a new business with Gagik Tsarukyan in its July 2018 article titled “Gagik Tsarukyan’s new businesses. Is the MP engaged in entrepreneurship?” Shortly after registration, the company founded by the two businessmen had already accumulated tax debts. On June 24, the State Revenue Committee notified Tsarukyan Cotton Road of tax liabilities of more than 4.8 million AMD.
Gagik Khachikyan was twice found guilty of forging documents and illegally crossing the border. In both cases, he was fined for those activities.
In the Datalex judicial information system, we can see that Khachikyan has been involved in numerous court cases, mainly related to non-compliance with credit obligations and money confiscation claims by banks and credit organizations.
In addition, a group of Tajiks protesting in front of the government last year complained that Gagik Khachikyan, the director of the Uzbek Textile Group, was not paying their salaries. He owed them more than $ 15,000 but refused to pay, and without money, they couldn’t leave the country. After the scandal, Khachikyan finally paid their salaries, and the Tajiks left.
Anyhow they promise the factory will be opened
Gagik Khachikyan’s lawyer told Fip.am that before starting the production in Tsovazard, it is necessary to establish an intermediate pre-processing plant for cotton cleaning and seed removal. “Construction of the primary raw material processing plant in the Hayanist village of Ararat province is also suspended at this time, but work will continue at the earliest opportunity,” the lawyer said.
She assured that after the construction of the pre-processing cotton plant, the construction of the Tsovazard plant will be organized. But the question when it would happen was left unanswered.
To sum up, we can state that Nikol Pashinyan’s assurances that a textile factory will soon open in Gavar during the November 2018 election campaign have not yet come true. Although Gagik Khachikyan assures that the plant will be opened, no tangible steps have been taken in this direction yet.
It is noteworthy that Pashinyan stated in his speech that cotton yield in Armavir marz was beyond expectations, which was the main motive for opening the plant. However, in fact, the representative of the businessman claims the opposite, insisting that the plant was not opened due to lack of raw materials.