Samvel Aleksanian, a wealthy businessman who was for years closely linked to Armenia’s former leaders, inaugurated three new textile factories in the presence of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Friday.
Pashinian toured their premises in Yerevan, welcoming the expansion of Aleksanian’s textile business first launched a few years ago. He said the Armenian government is ready to assist in its further growth “within the framework of its legal instruments.”
A government statement on Pashinian’s participation in the ceremony said that the new factories employ around 1,000 people and that Aleksanian plans to create 2,000 more jobs there. The tycoon will also open to two similar plants outside Yerevan next year, said the statement.
Aleksanian, 51, is one of Armenia’s richest men who has long controlled lucrative imports of sugar, cooking oil and other basic foodstuffs to the country. He also owns the country’s largest supermarket chain.
Aleksanian, who is commonly known as “Lfik Samo,” used to have close ties to former President Serzh Sarkisian and his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). He was a parliament deputy representing the HHK from 2003-2018, playing a major role in the party’s election campaigns.
Opposition politicians and media for years claimed that he enjoys privileged treatment by the government in return for earning the HHK and Sarkisian many votes in Yerevan’s Malatia-Sebastia district, his stronghold. The blue-collar district was notorious for vote buying, violence and other election-related irregularities reported by the Armenian media.
Pashinian repeatedly lambasted the “oligarch” when he was in opposition to the former regime. In March 2016, for example, he charged on the parliament floor that Aleksanian may be evading “tens of millions of dollars” in taxes through a fraud scheme allowed by Sarkisian. Aleksanian denied those claims.
Aleksanian defected from the HHK faction in Armenia’s former parliament in June 2018 just over a month after Sarkisian was overthrown in the “Velvet Revolution” led by Pashinian. He has not been openly involved in any political activities since then.