The investigative publication Hetq.am revealed this week that the relatively small firm called EuroAsphalt won a recent government tender for paving rural roads around Aparan, a small town in Armenia’s central Aragatsotn province. It signed a relevant contract with the local government on September 19 after pledging to carry out the road works for 287 million drams ($595,000).
In June, EuroAsphalt was contracted by the Armenian Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures to repair country roads in northwestern Shirak province. The repairs were supposed to cost the state 386 million drams.
EuroAsphalt had an authorized capital of just over $100 when it was founded by two little-known individuals in 2018. Simonian’s brother Karlen became its executive director early this year.
Karlen Simonian also manages another construction company called EuroAsphalt-1. It was registered in February 2021 and was worth 140 million drams at the time.
Deputy Prime Minister Suren Papikian, who served as minister of territorial administration until recently, insisted on Thursday that EuroAsphalt won the two contracts as a result of transparent and fair tenders, rather than its chief executive’s government connection.
“If people have information about corruption schemes, let them make it public, for God’s sake,” said Papikian.
Civic activists see a cause for concern, however. Varuzhan Hoktanian of the Armenian affiliate of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International said that the integrity of tenders won by individuals linked to state officials has long been in serious doubt in Armenia. He said an Armenian Finance Ministry division in charge of state procurements must therefore scrutinize the contracts granted to EuroAsphalt.
“When such tenders are won with amazing consistency by relatives or cronies of state officials there are corruption risks involved,” agreed Artur Sakunts, a veteran human rights campaigner. “This must definitely become a subject of investigation.”
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian for years alleged corrupt practices in the administration of tenders won by such individuals when he was in opposition to Armenia’s former governments. He claimed to have eliminated “systemic corruption” in the country after coming to power in 2018.
Alen Simonian is a close associate of Pashinian. A spokeswoman for the parliament speaker told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Friday that he will not comment on his brother’s business activities for now. She said at the same time that he is ready to answer questions submitted in writing.
Simonian also raised eyebrows when he appointed a businessman and friend of his as chief of the Armenian parliament staff days after becoming its speaker in August.
The businessman, Vahan Naribekian, owns a company supplying furniture to the National Assembly and various government and law-enforcement agencies. According to Hetq.am, the company has won 148 supply contracts since the 2018 regime change.