Politics 14:35 03/05/2022 Armenia

Armenian government does not clarify how it became recipient of 15% ZCMC shares – Azatutyun

Azatutyun, RFE/RL's Armenian service, has reflected on the transfer of 15% shares of the Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine (ZCMC) to the Armenian government, saying the latter refuses to clarify how it became the recipient of the stake.

“The government does not clarify whether it became the recipient of 15% of the Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine due to donation or, as Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said a few weeks ago, as a result of recovering the stolen funds,” Azatutyun says.

Earlier in April, Pashinyan said 15 billion drams were paid to the state budget during the investigation of the ZCMC case.

“The Republic of Armenia, the people are the owner of the Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine. Doesn’t this mean that we are bringing back what’s been looted? This too is the return of the stolen assets,” Pashinyan said.

However, the government provided a different explanation for several months before Pashinyan's statement. It was officially announced that Armenia's mining giant had been sold and the new owner decided to detonate its 15% stake to the Armenian government immediately after the deal.

Azatutyun submitted an inquiry to the government in a bid to reveal how it gained 15% ZCMC stake – through donation or the recovery of stolen assets as Pashinyan claimed. However, the prime minister's office didn't give a straight answer to the question, only stating that the question is related to the criminal case being investigated by the State Revenue Committee and data on ZCMC is confidential, thus it cannot be shared.

Azatutyun also sent an inquiry to the State Revenue Committee, but no response has been received to date.

Earlier in March, Chairman of the State Revenue Committee Rustam Badasyan announced at the cabinet meeting that unprecedented 15 billion drams were returned to the state budget as part of the case into the mining company’s failure to fulfill its tax obligations. Badasyan, however, said nothing about the return of shares.

On the basis of the evidence obtained during the criminal probe, the former director of ZCMC was charged and the latter confessed to the crime. The company was obliged to pay 15 billion drams, which it made no objections to, he said.

The 15 billion drams were paid by former ZCMC Director Mher Poloskov, after which the criminal case against him was stopped.

“The following question arises: if the issue of tax evasion is settled, what is the criminal case based on which the prime minister's office refers to, refusing to provide data on the Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine?” RFE/RL's Armenian service wrote.

“The main question why the new ZCMC owner – Russian billionaire Roman Trotsenko's GeoProMining Armenia – decided to make a lavish donation and transfer 15% of its shares to the Armenian government also remains unanswered,” it added.

Azatutyun also submitted a request to GeoProMining Armenia to find out whether the company has any expectations from the government in exchange for the donation. The company has not yet responded.

CivilNet journalist Mkrtich Karapetyan, who has sent three requests to the prime minister's office to see the donation document, has also been denied access to it. The government has denied his requests, arguing that it is a trade secret. The journalist has sued the government over the case.

"Since everything is confidential and the government has persistently refused to provide any information for six months, this should already raise doubts. Now they say a lot of things, for example, some unconfirmed reports suggest that the state may give up its dividends in the combine or as compensation at all," the journalist told Azatutyun in an interview.

“Nikol Pashinyan promised to act transparency when he came to power in the 2018 “Velvet Revolution. One of the key provisions of the election manifesto of the ruling Civil Agreement party was institutionalization of the fight against corruption, transparency and accountability of the government," Azatutyun noted.

Source Panorama.am
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