Thursday, 21 November

Armenian MP Vardan Ayvazyan: Thousands of Dollars’ Worth of Investments in Tbilisi Go Undeclared

Vardan Ayvazyan, a Republican Party MP in Armenia’s parliament and Chairman of the Standing Committee on Economic Issues, has invested thousands of dollars in Tbilisi businesses and real estate without noting them in his financial disclosures.

Ayvazyan, who hails from the Tabatzghour village in Georgia’s Borjomi region, utilized his close ties with the government of Mikhail Saakashvili to cement deep business roots in the country.

According to data Hetq obtained from the Georgian Real Estate registry, Ayvazyan registered a 112-square meter apartment on the sixth floor at 1 Petre Kavtaradze Street, regarded as one of the more fashionable neighborhoods in the Georgian capital.

Ayvazyan paid 125,600 Lari (US$50,000) for the unfinished apartment on May 5, 2008. When purchased, the apartment had a market value of $84,000. The building also includes office space. Construction hasn’t been fully completed on the building, whose apartments remain empty.

On the day we visited the address, only a small store on the ground floor was open for business. Laborers were still working on the building.

There is no mention of this apartment in any of the financial disclosures filed by Ayvazyan. If we are to believe his disclosure for 2015, the MP is your average citizen with an annual income of 7.8 million AMD in wages. This begs the question, so where did he get the 13 million AMD and $72,000 noted in the same disclosure?

MP Ayvazyan was obliged to disclose his assets when he took office. In 2012, when he was reelected a deputy of the parliament on the proportional electoral system from the Republican Party of Armenia, he concealed his true wealth.

In his 2012 disclosure, Ayvazyan only noted that he owned a 50% share in a company and that the dividends were in Georgian Lari.

In addition to the abovementioned property, Ayvazyan has founded two companies in Georgia – Ltcher (Lakes) and Unicum LLC. The first has leased a lake in Tabatzghour to farm fish and has banned local Armenians from catching fish in the lake. (See: Fishing Rights at Stake: Tabatzghour Residents Take Company Owned by MP Ayvazyan to Court). The second company is building a huge fish market in Tbilisi. (See: From Lake to Table: Armenian MP Builds Fish Market in Tbilisi).

Ayvazyan founded Unicum in 2011 and is the sole shareholder. In 2012, after the Georgian parliamentary elections, Ayvazyan registered the shares under the name of his son Souren Ayvazyan. The MP transferred his Ltcher shares to his nephew Armen Ayvazyan.

While Souren is registered at the same Charentsavan address as his father, and must thus file a financial disclosure as a “related individual”, he has never done so.

To build the fish market, the Ayvazyans purchased a 8,234 square meter plot in Tbilisi valued at 555,000 Lari ($209,000 at today’s exchange rate).

The land was purchased from the Georgian Ministry of the Economy with the stipulation that Ayvazyan would have to invest 1.5 million Lari ($566,000) by 2013.

In 2012, changes to the contract saw the plot decrease to 7,880 square meters. Unicum purchased the land for 532,000 Lari ($201,000 at today’s exchange rate).

The Tbilisi fish emporium, billed as the largest operation of its kind in the region, was scheduled to open in September 2015. Its doors remain closed.

Top photo: Tbilisi building of Ayvazyan’s apartment, MP Vardan Ayvazyan

(Nino Bakradze contributed to this article)

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