Yerevan Mayor Hayk Marutian criticized a state anti-corruption body on Wednesday for deciding to investigate allegations about his conflict of interest.
A newspaper report published this week claimed that in breach of Armenian law Marutian continued to ran a private firm while being elected mayor as a result of the September 2018 municipal elections in Yerevan.
Although the mayor’s refuted the report, Armenia’s recently formed Commission on Prevention of Corruption decided on Tuesday to launch a formal inquiry in connection with it.
Marutian said that there is no need for such an inquiry. “To spend so much time, money and public resources on something that is obvious … They could have paid only 3,000 drams ($6) and seen on the state registry that I stopped being the director of that company before being elected mayor,” he told reporters.
“If I’m not mistaken, the head of that commission was nominated by the [opposition] Bright Armenia Party (LHK),” said the mayor. “I don’t want to see a bias there. Nevertheless, I would like to note this fact.”
Davit Khazhakian, a member of the city council representing the LHK, is a harsh critic of Marutian, having repeatedly accused him of corruption and mismanagement. Last month Khazhakian sparked a scandal by revealing that private firms have donated two dozen garbage trucks to the municipal administration.
Khazhakian claimed that donations were made in return for construction permits given to them. Marutian strongly denied such a quid pro quo.
The 43-year-old mayor on Wednesday also dismissed the opposition politician’s subsequent allegation that the municipality has also accepted cash from private donors. “This is yet another disinformation,” he said. “No cash was transferred to the municipality in any way.”
Marutian acknowledged instead another donation. He said that the municipality will receive five snowplows from a mineral water company, Jermuk Group, which was recently allowed to build apartment blocks in Yerevan.
“Donations and constructions are not connected with each other,” insisted the former TV comedian affiliated with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance.
Jermuk Group is owned by Ashot Arsenian, a wealthy businessman who was close to former President Serzh Sarkisian at least until the latter was toppled in the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” led by Pashinian.
Khazhakian again put Marutian on the defensive last week when he revealed that a company belonging to the nephew of a senior municipality official has won a tender for trash bins organized by the mayor’s office. The official, Ararat Khachikian, resigned a few days later.
Marutian claimed that Khachikian himself asked to be relieved of his duties and denied any conflict of interest in the choice of the supplier. “We have thousands of tenders and I don’t follow such processes,” said the mayor.