Wednesday, 19 September

The Najarians are Stuck between the Courts and the Prosecutor General's Office



The Court of First Instance of Yerevan's Kentron and Nork- Marash Districts, Judge Pargev Ohanyan presiding, has ruled to terminate the decision by the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Armenia to dismiss the case against Grigor Igityan. Other courts have issued similar rulings in the past, but the rights of businessman and benefactor George Najarian have yet to be restored. Two years on, the Najarians' case keeps going back and forth between the courts and the Prosecutor General.

On May 10, 2004, the Office of the Prosecutor General initiated a criminal case against Grigor Igityan accusing him of the appropriation through fraud and abuse of trust of the photo shop at 32 Abovyan Street and the buildings #4 and #11/12 in the Dzoragyough Ethnographic District of Yerevan, all of which had been acquired and built by George Najarian, as well as of tax evasion (See also: "Two Years On, No Resolution in the Najarian Case").

On October 9, 2004, Armen Nadirian, a chief investigator on cases of special importance, found no corpus delicti in Grigor Igityan's actions and made the decision to dismiss the criminal case against him.

On April 22, 2005 the Court of Cassation of the Republic of Armenia (Armenia's highest court) on Criminal and Military Cases overturned the decision to dismiss the case, saying that it was unlawful because the investigation had been biased. The Court of Cassation ruled as follows: "While restarting the investigation the investigative body shall involve George Najarian as an aggrieved party, and shall fully and fairly examine the evidences based on the facts brought by George Najarian ." The court went on to list exactly how the evidence was to be examined, evaluated, and used to arrive at a just conclusion.

On May 18, 2005 the Prosecutor General's Office overturned its own decision in accordance with the court's directive, reopened the investigation, and assigned the same investigator, Armen Nadirian, to head the investigation as the chief investigator on cases of special importance. Four months later, in August 30 th , 2005, Armen Nadirian again made a decision to dismiss the criminal case, again using the same basis - that there was no evidence of criminal activity.

Representatives of George Najarian appealed that decision directly to the presiding prosecutor. On September 15, 2005 Armen Nadirian responded by letter saying: "Your appeal, on the grounds of being unsubstantiated, has been denied through the October 15, 2005 decision of the Head of Investigation Department of the Republic of Armenia General Prosecutor's Office."

George Najarian's representatives, Ashot Poghosyan and Hrayr Ghoukassian, responded: "We consider the decision to dismiss the case illegal, unsubstantiated, and groundless. The prosecution again carried out a superficial, partial, sketchy, and biased investigation. After restarting the proceedings the investigators never took a single substantive or serious action."

They added, " In an apparent attempt to create the illusion of a genuine investigation, for more than three months the prosecution was busy clarifying circumstances that have nothing to do with the commission of fraud by Grigor Igityan. For example, when individuals who provided affidavits before the investigators as witnesses were recalled to testify, they were asked questions about how they had arrived on the premises of the Prosecutor General Office the first time and how many of them had come at one time. Throughout the investigation, the entire chain of actions constituting evidence of the fraud committed by Igityan, as well as the measures aimed to conceal such evidence, were ignored."

"The investigators have protected Grigor Igityan by all possible and impossible means. Instead of addressing material breaches of criminal law proceedings previously committed by the investigators, the investigators committed new and more serious breaches. This simple case has been for more than two years through investigation and in the courts, but the property of a benefactor and foreign investor in the Republic of Armenia, George Najarian, remains expropriated. This situation represents a serious breach of the US - Armenia Bilateral Investment Treaty provisions," Ghoukassian said in court on October 28 th .

Referring to the objections to Najarian's appeal filed with the court by the Chief of the Department of Investigations of the Prosecutor general's Office, Ghoukassian described the document as having "zero legal force" since it does not meet the standards of the Civil Procedure Code Article 290."

"The prosecution failed to even comprehend, throughout one-and-a-half years of investigation, that the expropriation of Najarians' property was committed by Igityan, rather than by the prosecution , while the prosecution was obligated to prevent such expropriation under Armenia's international treaty obligation, or at least take measures to compensate the damages imposed, which the prosecution systematically failed to do, through an abuse of its power."

One fact alone illustrates the way the prosecution performed under the decision of the Court of Cassation-throughout a four-month investigation the prosecution failed to question George Najarian in his capacity as the aggrieved party.

The November 7, 2005 decision by the Court of First Instance of the Kentron and Nork-Marash Districts of Yerevan in effect obliges the to conduct a genuine investigation. As for the Prosecutor General's Office, it appears to having only one goal, to protect Grigor Igityan.


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