Economy 14:57 27/06/2022 Armenia

ANIF uses names of foreigners to cover up shady deals – Pastinfo

The foreign leaders of the Armenian National Interests Fund (ANIF) are unaware of, if not isolated, from the trust management of the shares of the Zangezur Copper Molybdenum Combine (ZCMC), Pastinfo reports.

ANIF, which was established in 2019, is tasked with consolidating and effectively managing the ownership of Armenian state-owned enterprises, promoting export growth and investments in Armenia by providing co-financing in large-scale projects at their initial stage of development. The ANIF Board of Directors has three members, including former Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan, Italian businessmen Isidoro Lucciola and French politician Dominique de Villepin.

Also, the state-run enterprise has an Investment Committee and two of its three members, including the chairman, are foreigners.

According to its official website, ANIF’s mission is to support and empower Armenia’s economic development potential, explore, identify and help develop Armenia’s investment and business opportunities.

“We will still have an opportunity to discuss how investment opportunities in Armenia, or rather whose opportunities, have actually developed over these years. In the meantime, it is only worth noting that the Armenian leaders of the organization seem to be keeping independent foreign members under an information blockade,” the media outlet said.

At a government meeting in January 2022, it was decided to transfer the ZCMC shares owned by it as a result of a “corrupt deal” to ANIF for trust management. According to data from the DataLex judicial portal, a ZCMC shareholder, Zangezur Mining CJSC, filed a number of lawsuits against the company.

Moreover, as Pastinfo reported earlier, a Yerevan court also overturned the decision to lift the ban on the ZCMC shares, approving a suit filed by one of the shareholders.

Notably, in late September 2021, the Syunik Court of General Jurisdiction promptly ruled to lift the ban on the shares, which Industrial Company JSC, a subsidiary of Russian billionaire Roman Trotsenko’s GeoProMining, immediately acquired and donated 15 percent of the equity to the Armenian government. To date, the government has refused to provide an official explanation about the reasons for the so-called donation, keeping the contract secret.

A ZCMC shareholder in the case CC/1766/02/21 demanded an audit in the company, while the same shareholder in the case CC/0700/02/21 demanded ZCMC to provide information and documents on the transaction.

Given that ANIF participates in the ZCMC management, Pastinfo tried to get answers to a number of controversial questions from Italian and French members of ANIF’s Board of Directors and Investment Committee President Khaled Helioui.

However, ANIF refused to share their contact data in gross violation of the law. “Even in response to our verbal request they didn't provide us the phone numbers of their offices or their e-mail addresses,” the news site says, adding the data had to be published on its website.

ANIF offered Pastinfo to send the inquiries to it, promising to pass them to the addressees. “Meanwhile, we still have not heard back from the addressees, thus we can assume that the questions have never been passed to them,” Pastinfo said.

In response to four inquiries sent to ANIF, Pastinfo received an unsigned letter.

"In response to your inquiries regarding ZCMC, please be advised that ANIF, as a manager of the minority shareholder’s stake, is not involved in most of the day-to-day management tasks of ZCMC. Most of your questions, we believe, should be addressed to the company. Shareholder relations are regulated in the manner prescribed by the relevant legislation of Armenia. In response to your questions in this regard, we can inform you that all issues, including the transparency of information, are regulated by the law,” reads the letter.

“We have every reason to believe that the inquiries did not reach the addressee, as the management decided to censor the official letters addressed to the foreign members of the Investment Committee and the Board of Directors, not allowing them to get acquainted with the details of the corrupt political deal. Moreover, ANIF itself realized that the move was illegal, thus no one took responsibility to sign the letter.  In fact, ANIF is using the names of foreigners to cover up all sorts of shady deals,” Pastinfo wrote.

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