Armenian Law Enforcement Unable to Track Source of Credit Suisse Millions
Nina Minasyan, a citizen of Armenia, was only fourteen- years old in 1997 when a bank account was opened for her in Switzerland. By 2013, her account in Credit Suisse bank contained millions of Swiss francs.
Sixteen months after Hetq broke the story, the true source of the millions continues to baffle law enforcement in Armenia.
Information about Minasyan’s account was contained in a leak of banking data from Credit Suisse, the prominent Swiss lender where it was held. The data was provided to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung by an anonymous source and shared with Hetq as part of the Suisse Secrets cross-border journalistic investigation. The project focused on dubious figures from around the world — including criminals, former officials and oligarchs — who have exploited Swiss banking secrecy to stash their millions in the country’s banks.
Minasyan's work history, the fact that she does not own any business, and her family circumstances raised several questions for Hetq.
While Hetq did not find any substantial evidence that Minasyan played the role of a proxy, the unexplained nature of her enormous wealth raises the question of whether her name was on the account as a cover for someone else. For a developing country like Armenia, where many experience economic hardship and income inequality, such unexplained wealth becomes a question of public interest.
Hetq recently asked the Armenia’s Corruption Prevention Commission (CPC) whether criminal proceedings were initiated in connection with the facts presented in our investigation. We wondered if there were any suspects, arrested or interrogated individuals.
The CPC replied, “that no information was obtained about the existence of data pointing to the characteristics of a possible apparent crime, so no report about the crime was submitted to agencies implementing criminal proceedings."
Hetq also sent a request to the Central Bank of Armenia, noting that there are large sums of money in the Minasyan’s bank account at Credit Suisse, and we suspect that it may have been opened for the purpose of money laundering.
Hetq asked the Central Bank whether there were transfers from Armenian banks to Minasyan’s Swiss bank account, and whether Nina Minasyan made transfers from the Swiss bank to Armenian banks. The Central Bank replied that the requested information is bank secret.
The Central Bank's Financial Monitoring Center (FMC) should have checked the information provided to the bank, and if it found reasonable suspicions, it should have informed local law enforcement authorities. The FMC does not inform other bodies about the results of its study.
We also contacted Credit Suisse and asked if they checked the source of Nina Minasyan's money. The bank gave a standard answer that when opening an account, they check the source of origin, and the rest is a bank secret.
Of note is that Tsoghik Zakaryan, Minasyan’s mother, worked for Armenia’s State Property Management Committee for twenty-two years. She headed the committee's internal audit department until 2021. Zakaryan also worked for Armenia’s Central Bank in 1996-1997.
Nina Minasyan, her mother and brother, claim Hetq’s revelations are false.
The Suisse Secrets investigation revealed that Credit Suisse had opened bank accounts for numerous criminals and corrupt politicians.
This and other scandals crippled Credit Suisse. To prevent the bank from collapsing, the Swiss government negotiated with another Swiss giant, UBS Group, to purchase of Credit Suisse in June this year, ending Credit Suisse's more than 170 years of independent existence.
Top photo: Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images