Armenia’s Tycoons Cut Donations to Armenia Fund Charity


YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’s leading oligarchs have all but stopped funding a pan-Armenian charity that has been implementing large-scale infrastructure projects in Nagorno-Karabakh, it emerged on Wednesday.

The Hayastan All-Armenian Fund said only two Yerevan-based entrepreneurs have made donations exceeding $100,000 this year. One of them, Samvel Aleksanian, contributed $200,000 to its 2009 fund-raising campaign that will mainly benefit the war-ravaged Karabakh town of Shushi.

The year-long campaign attracted almost $16 million in contributions and donation pledges from Armenians around the world. Roughly $5.3 million of that was donated by Russian-Armenian businessmen during a recent fundraising gala in Moscow attended by President Serzh Sarkisian.

Armenia Fund collected $4 million and $1.7 million in Europe and Armenia and Karabakh respectively. The rest of the sum was raised among Armenian Americans during its annual telethon broadcast from Los Angeles on November 26-27.

Armenia Fund officials said the 2009 campaign netted no donations from wealthy Armenian tycoons such as Gagik Tsarukian, Hrant Vartanian and President Sarkisian’s brother Aleksandr. Tsarukian donated $2 million to the fund last year.

Barsegh Beglarian, another tycoon who owns Armenia’s largest fuel-importing company, gave only 15 million drams ($39,000) in 2009. The sum paled in comparison with the contributions of several ethnic Armenian businessmen based in Moscow. One of them, Samvel Karapetian, contributed $1 million to the Shushi reconstruction program.

The Karabakh-born Aleksandr Sarkisian has also refrained from supporting the ongoing construction of a heart clinic in the southeastern Armenian town of Goris financed by Hayastan. The controversial businessman, who has allegedly invested millions of dollars in real estate in California and Britain, represents Goris and surrounding areas in Armenia’s parliament.

Incidentally, Armenia Fund has received a $100,000 donation to the hospital from Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a fact emphasized by the fund’s executive director, Ara Vartanian. “We still lack money to finish the project,” Vartanian told a news conference.

Armenia Fund has also failed to attract any donations this year from prominent Armenian-American philanthropists such as Kirk Kerkorian, Louise Manoogian-Simone and Hirair Hovnanian who financed a large part of its charitable activities in the past. Vartanian insisted that the reason for that is purely economic.

“Those two benefactors have not given donations for the past two years,” he said. “The explanation given by them during our meetings was very simple: the economic crisis. So this is not a question of trust.”

According to Vartanian, the Armenian president’s and prime minister’s offices donated roughly $8,000 each during this year’s fundraising. In addition, he said, former President Robert Kocharian gave his one-month state salary of 320,000 drams to Hayastan. “When Robert Kocharian was president, he did the same thing,” added Vartanian.

He also said that the fund received no money from Kocharian’s predecessor Levon Ter-Petrosian.


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  1. Kiazer Souze said:

    May the greedy oligarchil criminals all go to Jahenem. We don’t need their blood money. We can garner more donations from the US.

  2. Mihran Keheyian said:

    Armenia’s leading oligarchs have all but stopped funding  pan-Armenian charity,it makes me wander if they know something or are aware of something that we don’t in the diaspora? 

  3. hrair said:

    Now it’s pretty obvious, the oligarchs know that karabakh has been sold to the turks and azeri’s. The price you ask, look up Masis newspaper a year ago the offer was 7 billion US dollars. The silence from this Armenian government and the FM over statements made by Erdogan is also an obvious sign that black clouds have formed over karabakh and soon Armenia itself. Hirair Hovanian and Louise Simon’s, stamp of approval of the letter by their organizations  to Pres. Obama prior to Erdogan’s visit says it all.

  4. Sarkis Kotanjian said:

    Journalism in Armenia hit a new low…  People calling themselves “journalists” are only looking for intrigue, dirty gossip and fake “sensations”.  I read the transcript of the press conference – nobody on the part of Armenia Fund said that the wealthy Armenian citizens cut their contributions.  On the contrary, Ara Vardanyan said that participation in Armenia was the highest ever. The fundraising in Armenia is not centered around the Telethon as opposed to the United States and donors make contributions throughout the year in Armenia. Some of the businessmen already made their donations, some have not yet done so. Drawing conclusions is premature to say the least. For a journalist to make such far reaching conclusions is irresponsible and unethical, especially when the center of the piece is a respected charity. This entire  RFERL piece is a gross misrepresentation of the news reported at the press conference.
    Besides, if Ms. Ruzanna Khachatryan, who wrote the RFERL report above, was really interested in this year’s Telethon, she should have reported that Telethon 2009 was unprecedented in the number of participants around the world, including Armenia and Los Angeles for that matter…  Against all odds — Diaspora wholeheartedly supported reconstruction of Shushi demonstrating once again that when it comes to issues of strategic national importance – like Artsakh – we form a united front putting all our political differences aside. But unfortunately, as it is the case with this article, journalism in Armenia today is synonymous with cheap sensationalism…

  5. Dino Ajemian said:

    It’s always darkest before the dawn as they say. Here is my guess. If an oligarch does not want to continue investing in a hospital in a town he represents in Syunik then rest assured they know Syunik is lost. And when the russian border troop commander says if the azeris attack they will retreat to a defensive line around the town of ararat then you know our control of vayots dzor and syunik will be over. Afterall, recently Aliev told of his desire for all of zangezur and its rare for him to talk about his old family patrimony. They have the military resources to do it.  They will take it and mark my words the same countries smiling behind nalbandyan at the protocol signing wont say a thing especially when Nalbandyan signs Treaty of Alexandropol II legalizing the transfer of Vyots Dzor, Syunik, all of lake Sevan and half of Lori. Think that scenario is impossible? It’s very possible considering all the military-political machinations going on recently and the obvious weakness of Armenia in her diplomacy. Everyone despises the weak.

    P.S. I remember about 5 years ago a news conference of the azeri military spokesman said in a fit of irritation at a journalists question ” what does it matter, Armenia wont exist in 25 years”

  6. Hrayr said:

    Hyer jan…
    mer tokeri mech shunchka
    yete shunchka, neshanakuma DZAYN yev KERIV-KA
    Pashpanek MER Hyerenike.