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Ararat Davtyan

Edik Baghdasaryan

Diaspora Odyssey: "Come Home" So We Can Cheat You

Caroline Baghoumian is an American-Armenian who has thought about moving to Armenia.

In 2004, via the internet, she found a rental apartment and made the move. Caroline was handed the keys by Nunufar Hovhannisyan, a woman who was looking after the place

Nunufar told Caroline that she was employed in construction, had connections, and could make her dream of living permanently in Armenia come true.

“I entered into an agreement with Nunufar Hovhannisyan to find me a plot of land on which to build a house. I gave her my power of attorney to conduct whatever transactions were necessary. In total, I handed over $539,000 to her in bank deposits and cash. Nunufar doesn’t deny the amount,” Caroline says.

In 2005, Nunufar Hovhannisyan purchased a 550 square meter plot of land at 80/1 Nork 13 Street for $45,000. (It later turns out that the purchase price was actually $38,000-Ed) Work on the house soon started. Over time, Nunufar kept demanding more money from Caroline to finish the house but it remained unfinished. According to the chief of the Yerevan Municipality’s Department of Construction and Land, an on-site inspection revealed deviations from the blueprint. In December, 2010, the building was assessed at 114 million AMD. In other words, some $200,000 less than what Caroline had handed over to Nunufar was actually invested in the construction.

After getting wind of this, Caroline decided to stop her collaboration with Hovhannisyan. The latter, however, argued that Caroline still owed her unpaid wages and went to court, demanding that $40,000 plus penalties be seized from Caroline and given to her.

Caroline was thus caught in the tangled web of the Armenian court system.  They say that to truly understand the current reality in Armenia one only has to spend a day in the courts.

“I asked her why she was demanding $40,000. Maybe I owed her $60,000. For the past 2 ½ years I’ve been asking for sales receipts, invoices, any type of documented proof. But this has no relevance for the judges,” says Caroline. “The most honest judge I ever saw her was Narine Barseghyan from the Appeals Court. She gave Nunufar one week to come up with the paperwork. Nunufar never showed up so the case was returned to the lower court.”

More interesting are the actions of Judge Edik Avetisyan of the Kentron and Nork-Marash District Court. Nunufar’s attorney gave the judge a document alleging to be a “reconciliation agreement” between the parties in which Caroline states that she actually owes the $40,000.

“In court, Avetisyan asked me if I accepted this. It’s all been recorded. I tell him no on five occasions. But the court verifies the fact that I accept the reconciliation statement. But the judge decides not to attach the reconciliation paper to the file which he must,” says Caroline. The higher courts let the decision stand.

The unfinished building still hasn’t been registered but the land is in Caroline’s name. At the demand of Nunufar, the plot can be seized and put on auction to obtain the $40,000.

In the meantime, it is revealed that Nunufar has no construction license, maintained no accounting files, and never entered into a construction contract with anyone.

It also comes to light that Nunufar Hovhannisyan is the daughter of Judge Gayane Karakhanyan’s aunt.

Caroline’s attorney, Gevorg Chakmishyan, says that the absence of a construction contract is sufficient grounds to nullify the construction process.

“In other words, Caroline gave money with which Hovhannisyan performed an invalid transaction. So be kind and return the money. If the money was turned into a building, then hand over the building. This is our grounds for going to court,” says Chakmishyan.

The lower and upper courts have stated that the power of attorney is sufficient grounds for not looking at subsequent transactions. Chakmishyan says this is a kindergarten level legal mistake that was done on purpose.

The attorney says that they have petitioned the National Security Service (NSS) and the Police to look into the matter of fraud. The NSS hasn’t responded and the police have started an investigation but no criminal case has been launched.

Caroline Baghoumian has gone to the Ministry of the Diaspora and the Justice Ministry for assistance. Nothing has changed. A petition was also sent to the President’s Office and they say it has been duly received.

Caroline says that when the police went to detain Nunufar Hovhannisyan, Judge Karakhanyan intervened and the president signed an order to drop the case.

Caroline then wrote the following to President Sargsyan.

“I don’t want to wind up sharing the same fate of those Diaspora Armenians who’ve encountered cheats here and left the homeland after sustaining losses...”

Photo: Judges A. Sukoyan and E. Avetisyan

Comments (30)

Tina Minassian
Basically 4 years has past fro this article and Carolin is still fighting. She and her daughter lived through a kidnapping and theft by a police officer who's trial is still going on but he will hopefully be sentenced for +15 years. Carolin is still fighting to get the truth out and she won a Նախադեբ case at the vjrabek level and is still going through the courts to finalize her win.
Jack M. Saroyan
Carolin's situation is tragic, but not exceptional. I am also the victim of a corrupt justice system that resulted in giving up a condo that I had invested in and completed a kitchen and one and one-half bathrooms. It all started with a fraudulent contract that the court would not recognize because it was in English. Later, They would not even recognize a bonafide translation that was written in Armenian. All because of bribes to the judges. After having a successful decision by the lower court judges, the defendant would bribe the appeals court and the higher court to reverse the judgement in his favor. This happened repeatedly. Finally, I was advised to give my condo back and get my money back. I am still waiting for all the money that the court ordered to be returned. Diasporan Armenians have learned that Soviet corruption is still alive and thriving in Armenia.
Carolin Baghoomian
NEW UPDATE ON OUR CASE: Basically we have learned that at the higher cessation vjrabek court, the higher ranking judges, who we don't know the names of, have been bribed from day one with, get this: $150,000!!!!! This is why with kilograms and pounds of proof & evidence I have not been able to win except for once which Narine Barserghyan, had ruled in my favor!!!! This is why people like me and Mr. Jack M. Saroyan, have not been successful to bring forward our truthful rights and get our voices heard!!! So I have written another open letter to the President of Armenia. Lets see how far these bribes will go. As we hear judges are in the process of changing. Then what will happen to the hefty bribe of $150,000 that NUNUFAR HOVHANISSYAN has paid(from the money I have given to her) to the head vjrabek judges through her cousin judge GAYANEH KARAKHANYAN, who will be retiring soon and receiving a hefty retirement monthly through the government paid by the people to cheat the people direct at their faces!!! What more can Turkey ask and pray for but a corrupt Armenia who will betray once again when need be!!!!!
Carolin Baghoomian
Just an update....Today's court hearing began without Nunufar Hovhanissyan's lawyer being present. He arrived about 30 minutes late. When asked to present his clients proofs of expenses, he presented other papers that were not even close to expense proofs!!! So as of today presenting proofs is over. Next date there will be questions back and forth and lets see what happens. Oh and her lawyer opted to buy my house!!! I told him your client did not give me my house's deed( vagayagan), so therefore I can not sell it to you and he said it is ok!!!! I guess he will bribe someone to get it later!!!! The corrupt continues!!!!
Carolin Baghoomian
Just an update....The last court hearing Nunufar Hovhanissyan of course did not come but sent a new lawyer so the hearing got delayed for another 2 weeks!!! She has had 3 lawyers until now!!! Until now there has been no proofs from her side about what in the world she did with the money!!! Lets see what happens in two weeks....!?!?!?!
Carolin Baghoomian
HI Victor, I have to say that Hetq did their research. They questioned me a few times during a 2 week period. They did get Nunufar's number & documents from me as well. IF they were yellow journalists then your comment would not have been posted. Also as you can see everyone has a right to post and still no signs of Nunufar, Gayaneh, Sukoyan, Ed Avedissyan and the rest!!! Also I think Herand is wrong since no way I would do this in any other country. I trusted Armenia since it is after all my Motherland!!! So as I trust my Mother I should trust my Land!!! It is sad that Armenia is the size of the county I lived in California yet we can not regulate & govern it with an open face and strict decipline!!! The core of the matter is the court system of Armenia!! I have posted a question to everyone that instead of putting each other down lets brainstorm and see how we can get the court system to have a monitoring body watching over them!!!!???? Alo thanks VArtan I absolutely agree with you!!!! Armenia has to leave the Soviet mentality behind to get ahead!!!
Aram
Yes Carolin, many of us expatriates have had and still do have disappointments in our hayrenik. Life is not easy here not only for us but particularly for the natives. However, keep smiling and may your smile be contagious
Vahe
Of course, this is a sad story about simple-mindedness, greed, lack of law in the young country... Yet the saddest part are some comments posted - from morons like 'levik', 'dodo' etc. - hard to say what made me sicker - reading the article or the comments.
Anna
lav haskatsanq vor Caroline skhal e arel vor vstahel e ayd khabebayin, bayts ur e ays erkri ardaradatutyune? himnvats e miayn khasharqneri u tsanotneri vra ? voghormeli e.
Carolin Baghoomian
HI everyone, Thank you for your continued comments, especially for Madlene, Loosineh, Tina, Aram, Vahe, Anna and all the other positive comments! Yes I was wrong to trust a woman in her sixties (the same age as my Mom), unmarried and with no kids. But so what are we going to do about this court system!!! We can write all we want both positive and negatives. Do you think we embarrassed Judges Gayaneh Karakhanyan, Sukoyan, Avedissyan, Apenyan, Vjrabek judges, or even their puppet, Nunufar Hovhanissyan with this article and our comments!!!??!?!??! Do you think they are in hiding or embarrassed to be seen around Kentron!?!? Do you think they are shameful facing fedahe's and soldiers who died or got wounded so that we can prosper and work together to keep what is ours (this little sectionof land) and gain what was ours but lost because of traitors amongst us!!!??? What is the next step we need to take so that we don't loss another diasporan with the same dreams I had!? Lets come up with suggests on how we, the people, can make the changes we want to see, since if we leave it up to these khasharaker officials they will send us to this department then that and at the end we will loss everything and even hope....Instead of putting each other down lets make this comment section productive. I LOVE ARMENIA FOREVER & INFINITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
arziv
Those septic mouths who refer to the motherland as a s,,; better stay away. We don't need their odoriferous mouths and their rotten expletives. Stay away.
Texaci Hay
Sireli Caroline chem uzum wor bolor texacinerin chapes nuyn chapov ev hiastapves Hayeric ev Hayastanic ! es Qez chem mexadrum wor vstahel es , es inqs vstahum em mardkanc manavand Hayi. Du mexavor CHES ! du ches [email protected] ! ays [email protected] aylevs petq a poxvi !! senc petq a chlini !!! es havatum em manavand wor senc [email protected] sksel enq chhandurjel henc menq texaci hayers.
Sevag
Hi guys, I am a diaspora armenian from Cyprus and I wish one day to live in Armenia. What is happening today in Armenia happened in Cyprus and Greece in the 80s and 90s. Diasporan Cypriots returning from the UK were being ripped off while in Greece the synonim to naievity is amerikanaki. I am sorry to say that this is the 'natural' course developing countries go through. The problem is in the system and it takes time to clean it out.
Levik
I am simply dumbfounded that this poor Baghoumian was naive enough to hand over her power of attorney to this leech Nunufar. Handing over more than $500 K to someone from Armenia without an army of attorneys is tantamount to financial suicide. My heart goes out to Caroline but.....
Մհեր
Լաւ...բոլորս արդէն գիտենք որ հայաստանցիներուն մի ստուար մասը գցող են: Որպէս արդարացում սեպենք որ հայաստանի մէջ ուրիշ ձեւ չկայ գոյատեւելու. Բայց երբ կ՛հաստատուին Ամերեկայ ՚խի են շարունակում՚ այդպէս լինել: Այս է հանելուկը որուն գաղտնիք կը սպասեմ կարդալ:
Tina Minassian
HI tsakoug, corruption from within is only eliminated by getting rid of all in the system. So all judges most go and start with a fresh plate that are voted in by the people. There has to be a body of government that looks over the judicial system and currently Armenia doesn't have that body. Artaradatutun si just a name left over from the Soviet years!!!
Spjurqahaj
Im arajarkn e: mianum en bolor spjurqahajery ev namakov dimum Hajastani Hanrapetjan naxagahin, karavarutjany, azgajin joxovin ev datakan hamakargin, grelov, ete spjurqahajeri iravunqnery chverakangnven ev vnasnery chpoxhatucven, apa mek LUMA angam chenq hanganaki zer cankacac Projekti hamar.
Arziv
Armenia is not a sh..le. This woman Caroline would have been taken for a ride even in her own paradise of america ( a hot bed of high corruption) had she shown the kind of paradigmatic naivete. You don't hand power of attorneys to people you hardly know, and don't squander money on distant projects, unseen and unsighted, be they Hayes or God's servants. The woman got defrauded. Too bad. Don't blame the Armenians for it. The world is a cesspit of corruption,roguery, deceit, exploitation, thievery and skuldugggery. Why should things be any different in Armenia ? Those people who bad mouthed the motherland, better shut up if they don't live there. The country is better off without these paradigms of virtue and incorruptible values. If you live abroad, then what is your trouble lost brother ?
Gagik Melikyan
I am wondering if Caroline has left her brains at home before flying over to Armenia. Giving a power of attorney to someone she barely knows ... If you do the same in the United States, I can assure you that there will be people who would take advantage of you. It is not about Armenia, it is about the nature of human beings. While in Armenia, be as careful with your financial decisions, as you are here in the United States. Don't unjustifiably badmouth our Motherland!
Mike
People are missing the point of the story. Sure there are hustlers and cheats like Nunufar in every country ready to pounce and prey on simpleminded people like Caroline. But the sad part is that Armenia's corrupt judicial system backs up the Nunufar's and others, either due to familial ties or because they get kickbacks, whatever. Yes, the system stinks but the system endures because everyone from top to bottom benefits to varying degrees. Finding an honest judge or lawyer in Armenia is as hard as finding a virgin in Las Vegas...
Մհեր
Վայ այն Սիրիահայերուն որ կուգան Հայաստան եւ միտք ունին տուն ու տեղ գնելու: Որու՞ն պիտի վստահին այս գործարքները կատարելուն համար: Իրե՞նք ալ պիտի խաբուին Մայր Հայրենիքում:
Tina Minassian
Hi Mike, Yes exactly!!! The diasporans come here feeling this is THEIR LAND, THEIR PEOPLE, and we are all related in a way. BUt should we repeat the 1915 genocide and stab each other on the back!!! Look what happened to Kirk Krikorian!!! He brought all his millions here! Why because he is Armenian. Should we let the white genocide continue in its horific way!?! Or should we help each other move back and keep our culture and people. IT is the diasporan Armenians that got the country on its foot again. The government has to understand it is the diasporans that will keep this country going. SO they better make it work for them so they can do their good deeds and everyone benefits. WHY CAN'T ARMENIANS WORK TOGETHER LIKE THE JEWS!!! LETS WATCH AND LEARN FROM THEM(JEWS)!!!! IF ONLY 10% WE WOULD GAIN SO MUCH!!!!
toto
ay spurqahayer gan chischta zer het hamazain em vor xapum qzum en ekeq mi zevi es xuschan [email protected] heraznenq xekiz vor voch zes xapen vochel texaziqin sovi matnen
Vartan
This is ironic. I think the Prezident have to read this article before inviting Armenians to invest in their homeland. Monday, July 30, 2012 Sarkisian Wants More Citizens, Investment From Armenian Diaspora Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian addresses the Armenian community in London, 29Jul2007. 30.07.2012 President Serzh Sarkisian urged ethnic Armenians around the world at the weekend to become citizens of Armenia and invest in its economy in large numbers, saying that would greatly contribute to `the power and prosperity of the motherland.' Sarkisian made the appeal as he addressed several dozen Diaspora Armenians in London after attending the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. `Your prominent professional, economic and human abilities have already made you the participants of the great Armenian march. However today you have a new opportunity - dual citizenship,' he told a reception organized by the Armenian community in Britain. `I don't know how many of you in this hall hold a dual citizenship. I urge you to become citizens of the Republic of Armenia too and directly participate in all processes of the motherland building,' he said. Armenia allowed dual citizenship as part of a package of constitutional amendments enacted in late 2005. This was supposed to strengthen the country's links with several million Diaspora Armenians scattered around the world. Thousands of them have applied for Armenian citizenship since then. `I have said on many occasions and repeat it now: come to the motherland, invest in the motherland,' Sarkisian said in his speech. `Make your profit and at the same time build the country of our common dream. By creating jobs, you will help to prevent emigration which is a matter of concern for us all.' Greater Diaspora investments in the Armenian economy have been hampered by the country's flawed business environment. Like other potential foreign investors, many Diaspora Armenians have been scared away by government corruption and other serious problems with the rule of law. Sarkisian and his government have pledged to step up their efforts to improve the domestic investment climate. `We are ready to create opportunities for investments; we create mechanisms so that Armenians from the Diaspora can make a profitable business in Armenia,' the president said in London. `Our task is to move from charity to a mutually beneficial partnership.'
Herand
I think this lady is stupid ------- If she was not cheated in Armenia she would have been cheated in the U.S ------ So between these two possibilities maybe it was better that the money was stolen in Armenia ------- There are so many knowledgeable builders in Yerevan from the diaspora --- Berfore handing over $539,000 some research and investigation is required !!!
TIna Minassian
Hi Loosineh, Are you referring to the Soseh 28/1 & 28/2 Ararat Towers buildings in Arabkir????!!! I have heard horror stories about them!!!
Carolin Baghoomian
HI everyone, Thank you for all your comments. My dream was to live in my country. The one that my ancestors lived and breathed in. Well at least the one that still existed under our name. I have not lost hope. I love this country. It needs a lot,a lot of work. We have to help each other. Nunufar H. told me I would never smile again and I would never enjoy this house. I guess she knew she would gift her belongings(apartment and lands) to her realtives and then go to court against me where Gayaneh K. would help her breeze through winning without proofs and evidence! She has never appeared in court. ONly her lawyers and she does have 2 of them! Even Kima, Gayane's sister, told us that Gayane stopped the police from taking Nunufar! It is amazing that a judge has more power than the President's order of a criminal investigation!!It is hard to trust anyone now, since after 2 lawyers who worked both ways, the police investigation taking orders froma judge( probably also bribes), no written response from vetzerort bajen, anvdangutun, artaradatutun's nagharar, and the worst part is going back to the President's office, and Ms. Aida Asaduryan, the head person there, can only tell me that the President has no power over the courts. That is the main excuse I heard everywhere. Courts are not monitored and no one has control over the courts! Diasporan minister Ms. Hagopyan said why didn't you come to me when you got here. I said that was back in 2004 and you have only existed since October 2008!!! She said she knows Edik Avedissyan the judge who is also a kavartzeh adn she will speak to him! Is that how business is conducted in Armenia!?! I have yet to see a serious body of government in this country. I will not put a stop to my life and wait for Armenia to heal. So meanwhile I have laid my own tiles, made my own walls out of duff and beautiful basalt rocks just laying around all over the property. I have installed toilets and sinks and this experience has shown me that I can do just about everything I put my mind to. I have enjoyed every minute of it. I am raising chickens, turkeys, and rabbits. My daughter is enjoying life in Nork Marash. I will fulfill my dream of starting a business and employing 501 people. I will not trust anyone in this country except one person who really saved me with his expertise. That person is Mr. Gevork Chakmishian, my lawyer. You are welcome to ask me any question since I think people learn from other people's experiences, mistakes and misfortunes. So if you are thinking of living in your country, Armenia, and stopping the White genocide that continues after 1915 Genocide Massacre, please feel free to ask the most simpliest or complex questions. I took a risk and with that risk I gained priceless experience met the nicest people in the world!! :) I am still smiling!!
Loosineh
Dear Tina Minassian well, the ones I know are in Avan, i guess. If I am not mistaken (i don't remember exactly). I hadn't heard about Soseh and Ararat towers but there you go! another case!
Berge Jololian
My heart felt regrets to Caroline. Why is the perception of Diaspora Armenians and in particular those in the US, think that doing business in Armenia or anywhere else in the world any different than conducting business say in the US? Would you trust and hand in money blindly to anyone in the US? Ofcourse not! People are people everywhere. If you give me a chance, I might be tempted as well. Americans say, good fences make good neighbors! It is no different in Armenia or anywhere else in the world. I also understand that diaspora Armenians grow up to learn to trust each other - and that is wonderful - we always rejoice to meet another Armenian - but, please, don't be naiive! Just becuase we are Armenians does not mean we are immune from all the human temptations. Hire a lawyer, conduct business in Armenia like you would anywhere else in the World. Best Wishes!
Madlene Minassian
Carolin Jan, I have lost contact with you. Please find me on facebook (Madlene Minassian) I would love to reconnect. I am so sad to read this. I remember the passion and love and dreams that went with this house and your LOVE for this country. How can we reconnect?

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