Primate of Ararat Diocese Charged with Embezzlement

Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan has been charged with fraud and embezzlement
Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan has been charged with fraud and embezzlement

Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan has been charged with fraud and embezzlement

YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—An influential archbishop has been charged with fraud and money laundering amid mounting tensions between Armenia’s political leadership and the Armenian Apostolic Church.

In a statement released late on Wednesday, the National Security Service (NSS) claimed that Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan had colluded with an Armenian businessman to defraud another entrepreneur.

Although the statement named no names, it clearly referred to Ashot Sukiasyan, who was convicted in December 2017 of having misappropriated most of a $10.7 million loan which his former business partner, Paylak Hayrapetyan, borrowed from an Armenian commercial bank in 2012. Sukiasyan had pledged to invest that money in diamond mining in Sierra Leone. He never did that, according to prosecutors.

A district court in Yerevan sentenced Sukiasyan to 16 years in prison. However, Armenia’s Court of Appeals shortened the sentence and released the disgraced businessman from prison in January this year.

Sukiasyan was arrested in Georgia, extradited to Armenia and charged with fraud, money laundering and tax evasion in 2014 after Hetq.am discovered that Hayrapetyan’s money was transferred to the offshore bank accounts of several Cyprus-registered companies. The investigative publication disclosed a document purportedly certifying that one of those firms is co-owned by Sukiasyan, then Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan and Archbishop Kchoyan.

Both Sargsyan, who resigned as prime minister in April 2014, and Kchoyan strongly denied having any stakes in the company, saying that it was registered in their names in Cyprus without their knowledge. Sukiasyan likewise claimed to have forged their signatures.
The NSS statement said that Kchoyan, who heads the Armenian Apostolic Church’s largest diocese encompassing Yerevan and the southern Ararat province, owned 33 percent of the offshore company. It said that he convinced Sukiasyan to cover up his involvement in the scam.

The statement said nothing about the company’s other owners. Nor did it make any reference to Tigran Sarkisian, who now lives and works in Russia.
Kchoyan on Thursday denied through a lawyer the accusations brought against him. “Let them present a single piece of evidence that the archbishop was offered or given a single penny from that sum,” the lawyer, Hovik Arsenyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Reacting to the accusations, the Echmiadzin-based Mother See of the Armenian Church urged government officials and media to respect Kchoyan’s presumption of innocence.

In a statement, it also described as “bewildering” the fact that the NSS announced the charges one day after the church’s supreme head, Catholicos Karekin II, called for the release on health grounds of the jailed former President Robert Kocharian.

“Although this fact causes some concerns, the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin hopes and will strive to ensure that an impartial and comprehensive investigation is conducted as part of the criminal case,” read the statement.

The Catholicos’ call for Kocharian’s release was criticized by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s office. It prompted angry reactions from Pashinyan’s political allies and supporters. Some of them demanded his resignation.

Kchoyan has long faced criticism from Armenia media outlets for his behavior and lifestyle seen as too earthly. He also sparked controversy by participating and even speaking at political gatherings organized by the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia. The archbishop personally blessed Republican Party of Armenia leader Serzh Sarkisian at a February 2008 campaign rally held in the run-up to a dispute presidential election.

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9 Comments

  1. Արմենակ Եղիայեան said:

    Հայաստանի ամենամեծ սրիկաներէն մէկն է, իր հոգեւոր մեծաւորին՝ Գարեգին Բ-ի հետ:
    Վաւերական մաքսանենգ մը ու մանաւնդ խենեշ կնամոլ մը, որ իր շուրջ ունի պոռնիկներու ամբողջ ցանց մը:
    Հոգեւոր կոչումի ու ապրումի ոչ մէկ հետք կայ իր մէջ, ինչպէս չկայ իր հոգեւոր տիրոջ եւ այն վեղարաւոր ջոլիրին մէջ, որոնք հաստատուած են Էջմիածնի եւ սփիւռքի առաջնորդարաններուն մէջ եւ կ’ապրին, կը յղփանան ազգի լումաներով ու կը շնանան օրնիբուն:

  2. Dr.Hermon Mihranian said:

    Pashinyan and the Armenian politicai leaders after ckeaning there opponents now they go agaist the Armenian Church. May I ask is Pashinyan a true Armenian? Or is he Soros puppet?
    The Armenian Church is the pillar of our nation. Is this all what Pashinyan can do for Armenia to destroy it?

  3. ardachece barseghian said:

    These men of the Church are not God, mere p fishers, to our equal, but those, appointed by neo-communist leaders whose nature of their personalities knew, condemned for moralizing the state with the consequence of a mass exodus, these so-called religious had to be elected by the council of laics. These executives have long been involved in money deals and luxurious gifts, far from the suffering of the people. Since 29 they have never appeared in our suffering villages except burial and marriages against trebuchante currency either it does not come. All covered by the chef … so-called religious. I see blooming in the entrees of our cities … republics, huge crosses, rather than the statutes of our historical heroes. Where does our Republic go in the eyes of our tourists, including Muslims with whom we have to fraternize?

  4. ardachece barseghian said:

    This leader should rather work on inter-confessional issues and be able to fraternize sincerely to the example of Antelias rather than to have his students in military march in front of the media … World.

  5. joe said:

    Armenians stealing from other Armenians need to prosecuted in the harshest way. A Clergyman using his position and stealing needs to be HUNG!. Worst of the worst..Totally unacceptable..

  6. Suren said:

    Kchoyan has been known for years to be corrupt. The government however used his case as a political tool, not happy about that – he should’ve been charged long ago. Clearly politics is in play with the NSS and Church, who should both be independent.

  7. Serop said:

    This vile piece of trash should be kicked out of the Armenian Church, along with Karekin, all of them are puppets of the crime families.
    Our Church led by the Godless Karekin is an embarrassment to our nation & people globally. They have become tools and puppets for oligarchs

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