Ex Premier Bagratian Denies Wrongdoing in Energy Fraud

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Hrant Bagratian–Armenia’s prime minister from 1993 to 1996–on Saturday brushed aside scandalous allegations of fraud and mismanagement in the energy sector during his term in office. The allegations were made on June 14 by an ad hoc commission of the parliament which concluded that the Armenian state has incurred some $200 million in losses since 1992. Its report claimed that that 305,000 tones of procured fuel oil worth $25 million never reached Armenia between 1992 and 1995 as was claimed by the authorities. The 224,000 tones of fuel oil imported in 1993 and 1994 had actually cost the ministry of energy $11 million and not $29 million reported by official statistics–the report said.

But in an interview with RFE/RL–Bagratian countered that the fuel oil in question either reached the country after 1995 or was stolen in Georgia–for which the latter’s government agreed to reimburse Armenia. He said the findings of the commission are also based on the discrepancy between figures provided by the government’s customs department and the ministry of statistical data. This is partly due to the fact that fuel supplied to Armenia in the form of humanitarian aid was not inputted in customs documen’s at the time–Bagratian argued.

The ex-premier–who used to be one of the former president Levon Ter-Petrossian’s closest associates–went on to categorically deny that the actual price of Russian oil was lower than the one paid by Armenia.

"There could only be minor cases of fraud. This fairy tale about tens of millions of dollars stolen from the state has nothing to do with reality," Bagratian said. All other instances of massive embezzlement alleged by the commission took place at a time when the current president–Robert Kocharian–was prime minister–he said. In one such example–the commission alleged a $80 million damage to Armenia resulting from the establishment of a joint venture with Russia’s Gazprom monopoly in late 1997.

One of the strongest argumen’s of the multi-partisan parliamentary body is government figures showing that the Armenian energy sector generated more energy in 1992-94 (when the population had only a few hours of electricity a day) than now that electricity is not rationed. The commission believes that the figures were grossly inflated to cover up massive embezzlement. "From 1992 to 1995 the stated amount of electricity was not generated. These are bogus figures," its chairman–David Lokian told the parliament.

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