Here’s yet another story of official wheeling dealing on a local level in Armenia.
It has now come to light that former Shnogh Village Mayor Haykaz Kochinyan was paying 1.2 million AMD ($3,000) every year from 2007 to 2011 out of the community budget in gas expenses for a car that didn’t run and that was parked in the mayor’s outside garage for the years in question.
Don’t be surprised to learn that the gas station Kochinyan was paying the money to is registered in the name of his sister and a relative of the former Toumanyan Police Chief Artoush Boshyan.
Kochinyan purchased the Mercedes S-500 from his son Edgar in 2007 for 4.9 million AMD. The car was in no condition to be driven.
What’s even more appalling is the 4.9 million to purchase the Mercedes was lifted from the community budget as well. In total, 10.9 million in taxpayer money was spent to buy the car, on repairs and gasoline.
All for a car that has been sitting, rusting away, in the mayor’s parking lot.
Naturally, we asked around to find out how community money had been allocated for so many years for a car that couldn’t be driven.
Here’s the incredible response of Svetlana Javakhyan, chief accountant of the Shnogh Municipality.
“Yes, I was the one signing the gasoline payment vouchers, but does that make me responsible?”
To add insult to injury, Javakhyan knew the Mercedes was a heap of junk and she couldn’t provide us with any mileage logs for the car.
Three years after purchasing the Mercedes, Mayor Kochinyan bought a 2005 Niva from village resident Garnik Mashinyan for 4.260 million; again using taxpayer money.
Current Shnogh Mayor Hovik Sahakyan says the price paid was way above the actual value of the Niva.
The mayor’s office has also unearthed another swindle by Kochinyan.
It seems that a non-workable tractor had been abandoned in a field after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It lay rusting in a nearby field.
The craft former mayor registered it in the name of fellow village resident Arayik Avetyan in 2010. Lo and behold, that same year, 3.740 million was allocated from the Shnogh budget to buy the 23 year-old tractor.
Kochinyan was then able to get his hands on 8,000 liters of diesel at a cheap price through a government subsidy arrangement designed to assist farmers.
The diesel, according to accountant Javakhyan, was then handed over, for safekeeping, to Samvel Hobosyan, who was renting the diesel station owned by Haykaz Kochinyan.
Tractor operator Sarbek Amirjanyan told this reporter that none of the 8,000 liters was ever sold to local farmers at reduced prices as per the government program. In fact, none of the people we talked to in Shnogh ever saw any of the diesel fuel.
Today, Shnogh residents are also up in arms about another sleight of hand that the former mayor got away with while in office.
They are demanding that Kochinyan return 400 square meters of the second floor of the local outpatient clinic that he illegally privatized in 2005. It seems that Kochinyan had plans to turn the space into his own medical walk-in clinic.
Kochinyan had struck a deal with the temporary director of the outpatient clinic and was supposed to pay 600,000 AMD within three days of signing the contract.
Kochinyan hasn’t paid a dime in the past seven years.
Current Mayor Sahakyan says the community desperately needs the space and that he is committed to having it returned to the public clinic.
In the meantime, as Shnogh residents uncover more dirt about their former mayor, law enforcement at the regional level do their best to shovel it back under and out of sight.