Who Privatized and Sold Gndevaz Land Areas (Hetq.am)
Thanks to the official information provided by the Cadastre Committee on land sales and auction transactions in Gndevaz Community for 2006-2018, it became possible to find out new details about the privatization and sale of land areas around Amulsar. The Cadastre Committee provided the documents in response to the official inquiries of by NA MPs.
The Hetq has analyzed the documents to find out both former and current officials and their interrelated persons were involved in the privatization and sale of Gndevaz Community land areas.
Before moving on to these transactions, let us recall the transactions by Gndevaz Village Head Hayrapet Mkrtchyan and his son Layert Mkrtchyan, as a result of which a large land area was sold to Geoteam (now Lydian Armenia). This case of selling Amulsar land areas had received a great public response.
According to the indictment in the criminal case, Hayrapet Mkrtchyan was arrested in 2014. In June 2014, he alienated 10 hectares of community land areas through an auction to his son, Layert Mkrtchyan, for 410,000 AMD (around 800 USD). Just one year later, in June 2015, Layert Mkrtchyan sold this land area to Lydian Armenia for 147 million 300 thousand AMD (around 295.000 USD).
As we can see in the indictment of this court case, as a result of the Mkrtchyans’ actions “Gndevaz Community suffered property damage of 146 million 890 thousand AMD (around 294.000 USD), the community budget was deprived of cash inflows, community funds were used for personal interests, the good reputation of the local self-government body was discredited, community service principles and goals were devalued.”
The court proceedings have not finished yet, despite that Hayrapet Mkrtchyan continues holding his office.
Hereby, we present new details about the privatization and sale of land areas around Amulsar.
In 2011 former RPA member Aragats Saghatelyan held the position of executive director at “Vayq” WUC. In November 2011, he bought 9 hectares of land areas from Gndevaz Community at auction for 620,000 AMD (around 1200 USD). A few years later, in April 2016, Saghatelyan sold this land area to “Geoteam” CJSC for 17 million 320 thousand AMD (around 35.000 USD).
Saghatelyan was elected as Vayq Mayor in January 2015, at that time he was the only candidate for mayor, and he was nominated by RPA. In 2015, the Hetq covered the construction of Khndzorut village irrigation water system, which was carried out by a company owned by Saghatelyan without any tender.
Saghatelyan served as Vayq Mayor until October 2016, when non-party Taro Avetyan was elected as Vayq mayor during the community enlargement elections. That is, when selling the land area to “Geoteam” Saghatelyan was still Vayq Mayor.
Aragats Saghatelyan is a well-known person in Vayots Dzor with wide connections. He has been appointed as Regional Head twice in 2012-2014 and after the change of power in 2018. When Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan arrived in Jermuk on July 6, 2018 to meet with the population on the issue of Amulsar, Governor Aragats Saghatelyan accompanied him. He later resigned.
In 2011, two land areas with a total area of 1.3 hectares were alienated at an auction for 221,000 AMD (around 550 USD) to Alyosha Vardazaryan, a member of Gndevaz Village Aldermen’s Council. In 2015, Vardazaryan sold these land areas to “Geoteam” CJSC for 43 million 161 thousand AMD (around 86.000 USD).
1400 sq.m. land area owned by Alyosha Vardazaryan’s father Vasak Vardazaryan and other family members was sold to “Geoteam” CJSC in February 2015 for 16 million 914 thousand AMD (around 34.000 USD).
In 2014, a 4.5-hectare pasture from Gndevaz Community land areas was alienated through an auction to Surik Misak Grigoryan, a member of Chamber of Advocates and Director of “Management Mix” Consulting Company.
Grigoryan sold the land area he purchased for 186,000 AMD (around 350 USD) only a year later, in 2015, to “Geoteam” CJSC for 17 million 514 thousand AMD (around 35.000 USD). Grigoryan is not a resident of Gndevaz, he is registered in Yerevan.
Interestingly, one year after the transaction between Grigoryan and “Geoteam” Company, during a discussion organized by “Management Mix” Consulting Company on June 10, 2016, Mher Manukyan, the company’s consultant, said in his interview with Banks.am that the company aims to “support one of the leading sectors of the country’s economy – mining companies.” The meeting was also attended by Geoteam, EBRD, IFC and other mining industry representatives. As a matter of fact, the company provided consulting services to Lydian Armenia.
There is another transaction of the privatization of community land areas and its sale a year later. Albert Mnatsakanyan, a Gndevaz resident, purchased 1.7-hectare pasture from Gndevaz Community at an auction in June 2014 for 70,000 AMD (around 130 USD), and only nine months later sold it to “Geoteam” CJSC for 5,982,000 AMD (around 12.000 USD).
The sons of Aram Harutyunyan, the former Head of Staff at Gndevaz village municipality, and Narek and Mesrop Harutyunyans also sold a total of 4.5 hectares of land areas.
In February 2007, Mesrop Harutyunyan bought 3 hectares of land areas from Gndevaz Community at an auction for 62,000 AMD (around 120 USD), which in 2015 he sold to “Geoteam” CJSC for 15 million 710 thousand AMD (around 31.000 USD).
His brother, Narek Harutyunyan, also bought a 1.5-hectare land area from Gndevaz Community at an auction in February 2008 for 52,000 AMD (around 100 USD), which he later sold for 30 million 66 thousand AMD in February 2016 (60.000 AMD).
Large Transactions by Gndevaz Village Head and Family Members with “Geoteam” CJSC
The family and relatives of Gndevaz Village Head Hayrapet Mkrtchyan also sold their plough lands. Thus, Hayrapet Mkrtchyan and his wife, Karine Navasardyan, sold their 5,697 square meters of plough land to “Geoteam” CJSC for 64 million 195 thousand AMD (around 130.000 USD).
The brother of the Village Head, Hakob Edik Mkrtchyan, also sold plough lands of 4380 sq.m. and 8592 sq.m. belonging to his family to “Geoteam” CJSC for a total of 53 million 587 thousand AMD (around 107.000 USD).
The plough land of 3615 sq.m. belonging to the family of the other brother of the village community head, Armen Edik Mkrtchyan, was sold to “Geoteam” CJSC for 40 million 300 thousand AMD (around 80.000 USD).
Mayis Mkrtchyan, Hayrapet Mkrtchyan’s cousin, sold his 1.3 hectare land, which he purchased at an auction in Gndevaz Community for only 46,000 AMD (95 USD) in 2007, to “Geoteam” CJSC for 42 million AMD in May 2015 (84.000 USD).
Vahan Hakob Mkrtchyan, who is the nephew of Hayrapet Mkrtchyan, the village community head, bought 1.3 hectares of land from the community lands alienated by an auction in February 2008 for 46,000 AMD (around 95 USD). In March, it was sold to “Geoteam” CJSC for 11 million 961 thousand AMD (24.000 USD). In 2015, he was a member of Gndevaz Village Council.
Hayrapet Mkrtchyan’s other nephew, Tigran Mkrtich Mkrtchyan, purchased a 1.3-hectare land area from Gndevaz Community at an auction in February 2007 for 46,000 AMD (around 95 USD), and sold the same land area to “Geoteam” CJSC in 2015 for 82,069,000 AMD (164.000 USD). Whereas the grandson of the Village Head’s uncle, Arkady Kostan Mkrtchyan, sold the plough land with an area of 643 square meters to “Geoteam” for 10 million 377 thousand AMD (around 21.000 USD) in May 2015.
The friend of the village community head, Ararat Vachen Hakobyan, sold 6496 square meters of plough land belonging to him and his family to “Geoteam” for 70 million 830 thousand AMD (around 142.000 USD) in July 2015.
Another local government official, the current member of Jermuk Community Council Armen Grigoryan, bought 3.5 hectares of land areas from Gndevaz Community for 192,000 AMD (around 400 USD) in April 2009, which he sold for 11 million 317 thousand AMD (22.000 USD) to “Geoteam” CJSC in 2015. Armen Grigoryan is also Director of Jermuk Community Employment Center.
Mkhitar Vachagan Arsenyan, the cousin of Ashot Arsenyan – Founding President of “Jermuk Group” CJSC, former MP, former Republican Party member, sold his 4704 square meters of plough land to “Geoteam” for 13 million 334 thousand AMD (around 26.000 USD) in 2015.
Zareh Navasardyan also carried out large land purchase and sale transactions. First, in 2011 Zareh Navasardyan acquired two land areas with a total area of 1.4 hectares from Sedik and Arthur Yeghoyans, paying 1 million 400 thousand AMD (around 3000 USD). Then, he sold these land areas to Geoteam for 53 million 323 thousand AMD (around 107.000 USD) in 2015.
Our attention was also drawn to the trade carried out by Gagik Stepan Vardanyan. In May 2015, he sold two pieces of arable land with an area ofonly 6,100 square meters to “Geoteam” for 57 million 400 thousand AMD (around 115.000 USD), and a 1.3 hectare pasture for 80 million 131 thousand AMD (around 160.000 USD).
Another expensive transaction was carried out by Mamikon Burtel Harutyunyan, who sold his 3,948 square meters of plough land to “Geoteam” CJSC for 15,150,000 AMD (around 30.000 USD) in 2015.
In April 2015, Felix and Khoren Khachatryans sold their land areas to “Geoteam” CJSC. Felix Khachatryan sold two land areas with a total area of 1.2 hectares for 35 million AMD (around 70.000 USD), whereas Khoren Khachatryan sold land area with an area of 8,302 square meters for 61 million 350 thousand AMD (around 122.000 USD).
All the above mentioned transactions are available in a table at this link.
In general, the extent of Gndevaz Community lands, which were alienated by auction and then sold to Geoteam CJSC, is 22.3 hectares. Lydian Armenia has spent about 3.5 million USD on the purchase of land sales.
According to the response to the inquiry received from Jermuk Municipality, at present “Lydian Armenia” company owns 950 hectares with the right of lease, 1105.9 hectares with the right of site development, and 154 hectares with the right of ownership. The company annually pays 205 million 597 thousand AMD (around 412.000 USD) as annual land tax, rent and usage payments to the community budget.
This is a translation of the journalist investigation published in Hetq.am on 30 January, 2021.