Davtian refused to answer any questions from an RFE/RL correspondent who visited her home in Ushi, a village 30 kilometers northwest of Yerevan. Her brother laughed off her de jure connection to the company, telling the journalist to look for its real owners elsewhere.
The company called Euroasphalt-1 is one of at least two businesses run by Armenian parliament speaker Alen Simonian’s brother Karlen. The other one, Euroasphalt, had an authorized capital of just over $100 when it was founded by two little-known individuals in March 2018. Karlen Simonian became its executive director early this year.
Euroasphalt won recently two government contracts for rural road construction worth a combined $1.4 million, raising suspicions of a conflict of interest and even corruption. Deputy Prime Minister Suren Papikian assured RFE/RL’s Armenian Service late last month that this was the result of transparent and fair tenders, rather than government connections.
Alen Simonian, who is a figure close to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, condemned media outlets for questioning the integrity of those deals when he spoke with journalists earlier this week. “I don’t answer questions from the yellow press,” the speaker said when asked to comment on his brother’s entrepreneurial activities.
Euroasphalt won one of the contracts worth about 400 million drams ($830,000) after bidding just 50,000 drams ($103) less than another construction company. Speaking with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, senior executives of the defeated firms avoided criticizing the outcome of the contest. They hinted that they do not want to antagonize the government because they hope to win similar tenders in the future.
Vahe Sarukhanian, an investigative journalist who has also written about Karlen Simonian’s involvement in business, described the tiny margin of Euroasphalt’s victory in the bidding as suspicious.
“In the past, the [former ruling] Republican Party’s government was widely criticized for the fact that the organizers of tenders would inform their cronies’ firms that a particular company is bidding a particular amount of money and that they must bid slightly less to win and then sort other things out with them,” explained Sarukhanian.
“I don’t know what happened in this case,” he said. “I have no evidence to voice accusations. But logical suspicions definitely arise and corruption risks cannot be excluded.”
As an outspoken opposition parliamentarian, Pashinian had for years alleged corrupt practices in tenders won by individuals linked to Armenia’s former governments. He claimed to have eliminated “systemic corruption” in the country after coming to power in 2018.
Neither Karlen Simonian nor other Euroasphalt representatives could be reached for comment.
It emerged on Thursday one of the company’s two officially registered addresses is the same as that of a Yerevan apartment where Simonian’s mother currently lives. The other address could not be located.
The speaker’s brother is also the deputy director of the TS Construction company, a concrete producer and supplier. An Armenian civic group revealed recently that it donated over $10,000 to Pashinian’s Civil Contract party during this year’s parliamentary election campaign.