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Opposition Decries Yerevan Mayor’s ‘Corrupt Deals’


Armenia -- The leader of the opposition Luys bloc, Davit Khazhakian, makes a video address on Facebook, November 29, 2019.

An opposition leader claimed on Friday that Yerevan Mayor Hayk Marutian made lucrative concessions to two wealthy individuals previously linked to Armenia’s former leadership in return for their material aid provided to the municipal administration.

Davit Khazhakian, who leads the opposition Luys bloc represented in the city council, denounced the “corrupt deals” amid continuing controversy over at least 21 garbage trucks which were recently donated to the municipality by private entities.

Marutian’s office reluctantly disclosed the donors’ names on Thursday. It emerged that three of the vehicles were donated by Alex & Holding, a company reportedly controlled by the family of Samvel Aleksanian, one of the country’s richest businesspeople.

Citing copies of unpublicized documents obtained by him, Khazhakian said that on November 4 Marutian legalized the unauthorized construction a few years ago of a building occupying 6,000 square meters of land. He said that it formally belongs to Aleksanian’s wife, Shogherina Mkrtchian.

Khazhakian linked the mayor’s decision to Alex & Holding’s donation. “It turns out that the city’s urban development has again been turned into trade,” he charged in a live Facebook broadcast.

The oppositionist also said that another company owned by the family of Gagik Khachatrian, a former finance minister arrested recently on corruption charges, is now building a parking lot for municipal trucks at its own expense. He described that as a payback for a permission to add 10 stories to an office building currently constructed in downtown Yerevan. It was initially supposed to be a 12-story building, he claimed.

Marutian’s spokesman, Hakob Karapetian, strongly denied that. He insisted that the permission was issued by Yerevan’s former mayor, Taron Markarian, in 2017. “That document gave permission for a 75-meter-high structure corresponding to 22 or 23 floors,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Regarding the property registered in Aleksanian’s wife’s name, Karapetian said the mayor’s office is looking into the oppositionist’s claims and will make a detailed statement soon.

The municipality received fourteen trucks from another construction firm called N & S Construction. The Hetq.am investigative publication reported that the company is planning to build a residential complex in Yerevan’s western Davitashen suburb. It said Marutian authorized a land acquisition for the project in March.

Meanwhile, the opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK), the dominant member of Luys, demanded on Friday a parliamentary inquiry into the controversial donations and their possible connection with the construction permits and other “privileges” approved by Marutian.

The pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament did not immediately react to the demand. The mayor is a senior member of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance.

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