Back in 2015, during a visit to Gyumri, former Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan announced that Swiss-Armenian businessman Vartan Sirmakes would provide $ 10 million for the economic development of the Shirak province.
” Once again expressing his patriotism, he (Sirmakes-ed.) offered to invest $ 10 million to create an organization in Gyumri that will finance all the economic projects that will be presented by the population of the Shirak province. It will contribute to the revival of the economy of the Shirak province and creation of jobs. It was also suggested that the Armenian government contribute 20%. Thus, the Armenian government will contribute $ 2 million” Abrahamyan stated, adding that with a total investment of $ 12 million they will try to finance the programs that will be proposed by the business sector of the Shirak province.
In his turn, Vartan Sirmakes stated that the crucial projects for the region will be primarily funded. “First of all, it is agriculture, which is very important for the province, followed by light industry. After Yerevan, I made investments in Artsakh, and now in Shirak. This is a normal process.”
The Fact Investigation Platform decided to find out what outcome the promised investment program had and how much it contributed to the economic activity and development of the Shirak province.
The fate of the investment program
In response to our inquiry, the Shirak regional administration informed that the promised investment program has not been implemented in the province.
However, the regional administration informed that in October 2015, the businessman founded the “Sastex” sewing factory, which initially planned to provide employment for 300 and then up to 1,000 people. For this purpose, in February 2016, by the decree of the government, the building of the former regional hospital and the adjacent areas were handed over to “Sastex” company for 1 million AMD, obliging the latter to invest about 2.3 million USD a year.
As of the end of 2018, the factory that opened with the participation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had only 150 employees. Later, in May 2019, “Sastex” appeared in the center of media and public attention after the employees complained that the management of the factory “exploits them, pays them partially, and that they work in inhumane working conditions.”
The regional administration also informed that no activity is being carried out in the factory at the moment. It was closed in winter as well.
A memorandum on the construction of a new maternity hospital building for the Gyumri Maternity Hospital CJSC was signed in August 2019 between the foundation established by Vartan Sirmakes and Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan. Arsen Torosyan also wrote a post about this on his Facebook page. As reported by the Shirak regional administration, the foundation has not implemented such a project in the province.
Who is Vartan Sirmakes?
Swiss-Armenian businessman and philanthropist Vardan Sirmakes is the owner of the Franck Muller brand. Mr. Sirmakes is the owner of “Armswissbank” CJSC. He has expressed readiness to implement many projects in Armenia, some of which, as we see, have not been implemented, and some are in progress, such as the “Old Yerevan” project. In 2018, Mr. Sirmakes and his colleague announced the launch of the “Build Armenia” initiative, whose “mission was to arm the Armenians who have taken the road to the homeland with the necessary information,” but according to the official Facebook page of “Build Armenia”, the initiative has not been active since 2018. In 2019, Mr. Sirmakes founded a cotton plant in Maralik, and etc.