COMPILED BY ROUBEN KRIKOURIAN
YEREVAN—The Prosecutor-General of Armenia, Aghvan Hovsepian, has asked his visiting Greek Cypriot counterpart Clerides on Tuesday to help Armenian law-enforcement authorities investigate a high-profile fraud case that has sparked corruption allegations against Prime Minister Tigran Sagsyan, RFE/RL’s Armenian service has reported.
The case stems from the alleged misappropriation by Armenian businessman Ashot Sukiasian of millions of dollars invested by another entrepreneur, Paylak Hayrapetian. Sukiasian has been charged with stealing the money through a company registered in Cyprus.
The company, Wlispera Holdings, Ltd., is formally co-owned in three equal parts by Skiasian and by Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan and the Primate of the Ararat Diocese Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan. Prime Minister Sagsyan claims that it was registered in his name without his knowledge.
Asked by RFE/RL whether authorities in Cyprus, a world famous tax haven, can register a company in the name of an individual who is unaware of its existence Clerides said: “No.”
“But I don’t want to go into details until I look into the case and documents that are needed for investigating those events,” he added.
Sargsyan has been under fire since the publication of a report by Hetq.am in late May linking him to the company called Wlispera Holdings, to which monies have been wired in this alleged fraud case. Hetq.am disclosed a document purportedly certifying that he co-owns it along with Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan and businessman Ashot Sukiasian.
According to the report by Hetq.am, $10.7 million worth of bank loans intended for Sukasian’s Dzoragyugh Production Cooperative were funneled to three companies registered in Cyprus, including Wilspera Holdings. The loans were acquired by placing $33 million of business partner Paylak Hayrapetian’s property as collateral. Hayrapetian made the allegations public after it became apparent that his property was going to be seized, as the $10.7 million loan went to the trio’s company abroad and met none of the bank’s established requirements.
The loans were intended for the expansion of Sukasian’s diamond processing operation and were spurred by a government initiative to transform Armenia into a world center for diamond processing.
Ashot Sukasian has since fled Armenia, with the Armenian law enforcement attempting to track him down.
Sukasian and Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan have been in the news before, including in one report that claims Archbishop Navasard Kjoyan is Sukasian’s godfather and that it was Sukiasyan who gifted an expensive Bentley automobile to the clergyman. Sukasian and Prime Minister Sargsyan have also been in the news in dealings with Sierra Leone diamond industry representatives.