A Russian-Armenian fund planning major business projects in Armenia insisted on Thursday that it has not received any investments from a controversial businessman blacklisted by the United States for his alleged ties to organized crime.
The U.S. Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions on the ethnic Armenian businessman Ruben Tatulian and nine other Russian nationals late last week. The department's Office of Financial Assets Control (OFAC) accused them of involvement in “serious transnational criminal activities.”
Tatulian was among three dozen Russian-Armenian entrepreneurs who issued a joint statement in January voicing support for Prime Minister Karen Karapetian. They also pledged to join an investment fund which one of them, the Moscow-based billionaire Samvel Karapetian (no relation to Karen), set up afterwards.
The fund, called the Investors Club of Armenia (ICA), formally began its operations this spring. The ICA’s managing company, Fora Capital, is controlled by Samvel Karapetian.
In written comments to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Fora Capital’s Yerevan-based executive director, Paruyr Amirjanyan, said neither Tatulian nor any other Russian-Armenian businessman has invested in the ICA so far. He said the fund will need large-scale investments only after completing ongoing preparations for the launch of its first projects in Armenia.
“The fund’s shareholders have not been registered to date,” wrote Amirjanyan.
Amirjanyan also said that only those individuals who have no criminal records and have not been involved in money laundering or terrorism financing will be able to invest in the ICA.
An Armenian deputy minister for economic development said in May that Tatulian is one of 30 “members” of the ICA. However, a spokesman for Prime Minister Karapetian flatly denied this on Monday.
The premier promoted the ICA during its official presentation held in Yerevan in March. He said it will attract “healthy and long-term investments” in the Armenian economy. Samvel Karapetian also attended and spoke at the event.
According to Amirjanyan, the fund is currently preparing for the launch of its first two projects. “Given the complexity and scale of the projects, [the preparations] will continue for another 10-14 months,” he said.
One of them is the construction of a major hydroelectric plant on the Debed river flowing through Armenia’s northern Lori province. The ICA has so far pledged to invest $22.5 million in the $150 million project. It hopes to attract the rest of the required funding from other private investors as well as international lending institutions.
The Robbins Company, a U.S. manufacturer of giant tunnel-boring machines, announced in October its intention to participate in the planned work on the 76-megawatt facility. Its president, Lok Home, signed a relevant memorandum of understanding with an energy firm owned by Samvel Karapetian in Yerevan. Energy Minister Ashot Manukian and U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills were also present at the signing ceremony.
Robbins would become a second U.S. company involved in the Armenian energy sector.