The Fact Investigation Platform found out that the Republic of Belarus purchased the embassy building in the village of Arinj in 2014 from a person affiliated with Gagik Tsarukyan at a price four times higher than the market price.
Belarusian Embassy in Armenia is the only one outside Yerevan.
In 2014, the Embassy moved from Nikol Duman Street, Yerevan to Arinj Village, Kotayk Region. The building is at the back of Prosperous Armenia party’s leader Gagik Tsarukyan’s private house. The Republic of Belarus purchased the Embassy building and the land lot in 2014 from a person affiliated with Tsarukyan.
The Story of the Embassy Building
The house and the land, located in the 9.9 / 1 Baghramyan Street in Arinj community of Kotayk region, where the Embassy of Belarus moved in 2014, had belonged to Zhevik Mkrtchyan (Born in 1960) for a long time, who was previously a resident of Arinj, but is currently registered in Pushkin Street in the center of Yerevan. According to the Cadaster’s data, all completed and semi-finished buildings in that land lot were built in 2007-2008 when Tsarukyan was at the peak of his political and economic rise, and his “estate” on the Arinj hill had already surrounded Zhevik Mkrtchyan’s land on both sides.
The territory of the current embassy, occupying more than half a hectare (5371 square meters) land, was fully owned by Zevik Mkrtchyan until 2009.
In December 2010, he sold nearly two-thirds of the land (3747 square meters) to Harutyun Torosyan, a resident of Yerevan. The transaction was made for 110 million drams (about $ 300,000).
Four years later, in March 2014, when the Government of Armenia discussed the issue of granting a permit to the Embassy of Belarus for acquiring land lot, Torosyan, surprisingly, returned the land plot and the building he had bought previously back to Zhevik Mkrtchyan as a donation, without compensation.
In March 2014, two land areas were merged and received a unified address Baghramyan 9.9 / 1.
On February 27, 2014, Tigran Sargsyan’s government gave permission for the acquisition of a land plot for the embassy of Belarus, which was the same land located at Baghramyan 9.9/1, belonging to Zhevik Samvel Mkrtchyan.
According to the Belarusian TUT.BY news website, the exterior of the embassy building and the entire interior furnishing was made by the former owner Zhevik Mkrtchyan.
What is interesting, however, is the value of the land acquisition. In May 2014, the total cadastral value of this land and the building was estimated at 39 million drams (about $ 95,000).
However, according to the agreement signed on July 24, 2014 between Zhevik Mkrtchyan and Belarus, Belarus purchased real estate for $ 2 million (813 million drams), which exceeds the cadastral value mentioned above 20 times.
We have also contacted an independent expert who rated the house and the land at a maximum of $ 450,000. That is to say, the Belarusian government has spent about four times more at the expense of the country’s taxpayers for the purchase of the embassy building in Armenia.
Բելառուսի դեսպանատունը Առինջում
Who is Zhevik Mkrtchyan?
Former owner of the land plot adjacent to businessman and MP Gagik Tsarukyan’s private house, Zhevik Mkrtchyan is an affiliated person not only with Tsarukyan. From 2010 to 2017 he was the General Director of “Ar-Be” Armenian-Belarusian Trading House” company.
The company was founded in 2010 and 55% of its shares belong to Tsarukyan’s “Multi Group Concern” LLC, and the rest to four Belarusian companies, which are part of Belarusian state-owned Belgospischeprom concern.
Considering that Zhevik Mkrtchyan was the director of “Ar-Be” Armenian-Belarusian Trading House” organization when the transaction was made, it is obvious that there was a conflict of interests. That is to say, the Belarusian government paid money to the representative of the concern affiliated with it, causing suspicions about money laundering.
The ties between Tsarukyan and Lukashenko
It is known that the President of Belarus for already 25 years Alexander Lukashenko is a close friend of Gagik Tsarukyan. During his visit to Armenia in May 2013, Tsarukyan personally met Lukashenko at the airport and hosted him at his home. Lukashenko also attended the opening ceremony of St. Johannes Church built by the initiative of Tsarukyan in Abovyan town.
In September 2013, Tsarukyan was awarded the Belarusian Order of Friendship of Peoples, and in October 2016 Tsarukyan presented four white lions of South African origin to Lukashenko’s 12-year-old son.
In 2012, Yerevan’s Ararat Cognac-Wine-Vodka Factory owned by Tsarukyan and Belarustorg State Enterprise belonging to the Presidential Administration in Minsk established a joint venture the Armenian Standard LLC in Minsk with 69% and 31% shares respectively. The company deals with bottling of Armenian brandy.
Fip.am sent a request to the Embassy of Belarus to find out why it was decided to move the embassy out of Yerevan, and on what basis the area was chosen. However, no answer was received. Fip.am visited the embassy, trying to receive an explanation, but embassy representatives refused to comment on the above-mentioned issues.
Thus, a number of questions remain unanswered.
Why did Harutyun Torosyan decide to donate to the estate of about $ 300,000 to the former owner immediately after the government’s permission?
What caused Belarus to spend $ 2 million, more than four times the market value, and move the embassy out of the capital onto the plot adjacent to Gagik Tsarukyan’s mansion?
This question will also interest the citizens of Belarus, since the embassy building was purchased at the expense of taxpayers’ money.
Is it possible that there was a classic example of state money laundering as Zhevik Mkrtchyan had a direct connection with the Belarusian government?