The mayor of an Armenian village affiliated with the opposition Yelk alliance on Wednesday accused the family of his pro-government predecessor of illegally privatizing land that belonged to the local community.
Garik Sargsian of Nor Kyank, a village in the southern Ararat province, said he has filed lawsuits in a bid to restore public ownership of the two plots of land. He said they were sold to the wife and the daughter of the former village mayor, Mayis Abrahamian, at a fraction of their market value.
The privatization deals were approved by the local council years before Sargsian defeated Abrahamian in a mayoral election held last September. Those decisions were supposedly signed by most members of the council.
The 30-year-old mayor, a rare opposition member running a local community in Armenia, and his lawyer, Rustam Badasian, said they suspect that at least some of those signatures were rigged.
“With our lawsuits, we are demanding the annulment of these deals whereby communal land was sold,” Badasian told a news conference in Yerevan. He said they have also asked the Armenian police to launch a criminal investigation into a possible forgery of the signatures.
“We have reasonable suspicions that they are fake because the signatures put by several of the current councilors … under council decisions adopted after November 2016 and before November 2016 clearly do not match each other,” explained the lawyer. One council member has already admitted not having signed the privatization deals, he claimed.
Abrahamian, who is a member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), strongly denied the corruption claims, saying that his successor is simply keen to discredit him. He insisted that the land acquisitions were legal and that no signatures were forged.
“There was a tender in 2004 and my wife won it and bought that land,” Abrahamian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“Why is only my wife’s name being circulated?” complained the former village chief, who now holds a senior position in the provincial administration. “Other people also bought [village land.] Why isn’t he talking about them?”