Yerevan’s Mayor Hayk Marutian has strongly denied issuing construction permits or giving other favors to businesspeople who have donated garbage trucks and other equipment to the municipal administration.
Marutian came under opposition and media fire after reluctantly naming last week private firms that donated at least 21 such trucks in the last few months.
It emerged that 14 of them came from a construction firm that secured in March this year the mayor’s permission to build a residential complex in a Yerevan suburb. Three other vehicles were made available by a company reportedly controlled by the family of Samvel Aleksanian, one of Armenia’s richest businessmen.
Davit Khazhakian, an opposition member of the city council, claimed on Friday that Marutian legalized on November 4 the unauthorized construction a few years ago of a building formally belonging to Aleksanian’s wife. He said the mayor must be held accountable for this and other “corrupt deals.”
Marutian rejected the claims in a live video address aired on Facebook later on Friday. He showed documents purportedly disproving any connection between the donations and any building permissions.
“The city accepts donations from all law-abiding people in the Republic of Armenia, regardless of whether or not they have any relations with the municipality,” the mayor’s spokesman, Hakob Karapetian, insisted on Monday. “It’s only natural that some, if not many, of them have because they live and work in this city.”
“There are numerous organizations that have received permits in recent months but have not donated anything to the city,” Karapetian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Conversely, there are organizations and individuals that have made donations but have not received permits or anything.”
The official also denied that the mayor’s office had decided to keep the donors’ names confidential for fear of an opposition outcry.
Despite these denials, the opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK), of which Khazhakian is a senior member, began collecting on Monday the signatures of parliament deputies in support of a parliamentary inquiry into what it calls “corruption risks.” LHK leader Edmon Marukian said the mayor has failed to “dispel the suspicions” about his controversial decisions.
The LHK wants the National Assembly to set up an ad hoc commission tasked with determining whether Marutian made lucrative concessions to the donors in return for their material assistance to the municipality. This and the other parliamentary opposition party, Prosperous Armenia (BHK), have enough votes in the parliament to create such a commission.
The BHK’s Arman Abovian did not say whether his party will back the LHK initiative. But he did criticize the municipal authorities for what he described as a lack of transparency.