A Russian-based company that controlled Armenia’s largest sports and concert arena until last year on Friday denounced the Armenian government for selling it to another firm and pledged to challenge the move in court.
Yerevan-based lawyers for the BAMO construction group owned by Armenian-born businessmen said the government has no right to again privatize the Karen Demirchian Sports and Concert Complex until the end of their ongoing court battle.
“We will continue to pursue the case in Armenian courts,” one of them, Armine Hakobian said. “If we don’t succeed here we will certainly continue the court battle in the European Court of Human Rights.”
The sprawling arena built in 1983 and commonly known as Hamalir was first sold to BAMO in 2005. The company paid $5.5 million for the facility and pledged to spend over $40 million on its renovation.
The government renationalized Hamalir last year, citing BAMO’s failure to repay a $25 million government loan. The company rejected the decision as illegal, taking the government to court.
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian’s cabinet announced on Thursday that Hamalir as well as about 10 hectares of adjacent land will soon be sold to a newly established private firm for $30 million. It said the company, NTAA Investment Group, will also invest over $100 million in expanding the facility and turning it into a big entertainment center.
The government did not explain why it has not held a tender before selling Hamalir to the highest bidder.
Also, very little is known about NTAA. The company was registered in Armenia last month and is officially owned by one person, a certain Armen Gevorgian. Its mailing address is identical with that of Gevorgian’s apartment in a rundown residential building in Yerevan. A woman living there said that Gevorgian is not at home when she was contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday.