Sunday, 23 September

Diaspora Philanthropists in legal spiderweb

Following a third hearing on December 9, 2004 , the Court of First Instance of the Kentron and Nork-Marash Communities of Yerevan partly allowed the appeal by George Najarian against the Prosecutor General's Office. (See also: Diaspora Philanthropists disillusioned with Armenia). The court decided to reopen the preliminary investigation into the case and to recognize George Najarian as the wronged party.

However, the court dismissed the request to recognize Grigor Igityan as the defendant.

Significantly, the court sessions were held under public scrutiny. The courtroom was always full, with prominent intellectuals, public figures, journalists, representatives from the US Embassy in Yerevan, and even representatives from Nagorno Karabakh present.

The President's Office and the Ministry of Foreign affairs have been informed; President Robert Kocharian's advisor on corruption, Bagrat Yesayan, told us that he too is concerned with the case.

The philanthropists, hoping to see justice restored by the law enforcement agencies, appealed to the media as well. In recent months, their story has been told in many publications in Armenia and the Diaspora. Thus, their case has become a headache for the government. Hetq has received a number of letters from people who were displeased with our law enforcement agencies, court system and government.

In August 2003, Arayik Harutiunyan, who represents Najarian, a US citizen, informed the president of Armenia, the prosecutor general, and the minister of foreign affairs that Grigor Igityan, a citizen of Armenia, had fraudulently privatized in his name the plots of land in the Dzoragiugh district containing two newly constructed buildings and the Abovyan Street photo shop that belong to George Najarian. This prompted an investigation by the Yerevan City Prosecutor's Office.

But in December 2003 the city Prosecutor's Office dismissed the case, saying that there was no evidence of wrongdoing. Then in March 2004 the Office of the Prosecutor General of Armenia reopened the case into the misappropriation of Najaryan's property between 1996 and 2003. But on October 9, 2004 A. Nadiryan, a senior investigative officer of the Office of the Prosecutor General, decided to dismiss the case once again.

George Najaryan's representatives asked the court to nullify the investigator's decision. After three sessions, the court accepted their appeal, in part.

Buildings # 4, 11, and 12 (see pictures) are located in the Dzoragiugh ethnographic district of Yerevan. It is an expensive area; a square meter land of land has a market value of more than $100. These buildings cost a few million dollars.

The evidence in the case takes up eleven volumes. There are transcripts of interviews with dozens of people, results of expert examinations, certificates, receipts, banking transactions, etc. In court on December 9, 2004 , Najaryan's representative, Hrair Ghukasyan, stressed: "The investigator was to consider Grigor Igityan as the defendant and George Najaryan as the victim during the investigation. All the evidence on how Grigor Igityan fraudulently privatized George Najaryan's property is present in the case."

The documentation makes it clear that at the moment they started their joint undertaking, Grigor Igityan was not entitled to the land nor to the buildings constructed there, but the fact is that Grigor Igityan is now the owner of the property. It is also clear how he misappropriated the property. But it seems as if the investigators have an opposite task to accomplish - to prove that Grigor Igityan's privatization of the property was not fraudulent.

George and Carolann Najarian met Grigor Igityan after the 1988 earthquake when they brought humanitarian assistance to Spitak. He was introduced to them as an interpreter, and they subsequently became friends, a fact that both Najarian and Igityan acknowledge in their testimony.

To be continued ...

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