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Sara Petrosyan

Bureaucratic Oversight? Relatives of Oligarchs Also Receive Social Benefits

On April 7, 2009, Mushegh Janvelyan, a resident of the village of Koti, Tavush Marz, was sentenced to two years conditional imprisonment for the crime of fraud. An investigation by the Department of Social Oversight at the RoA Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, revealed that Mushegh Janvelyan, considered a benefits recipient, had concealed the true nature of the family income.

Starting in 2005, Mr. Janvelyan hid the fact that he had been employed- “Arzni Pedigree Poultry-Swine-Cattle” (PSC) and that he also owned property in the Kotayk village of Ptghni. The family of Mushegh Janvelyan received social benefits from 2001-2007. In 2006, while registering for social benefits, Mr. Janvelyan has asked to present a statement from the Ptghni Municipality regarding his property holdings in the village, where he was registered as a permanent resident. “The statement mentions the 2,140 square meter parcel of land he owns and his two story house, but fails to note the 1,209 s.m. parcel of agricultural land and another 800 s.m. he owns near the house,” declares the affidavit presented to the General Prosecutor’s Office by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Starting in 2003, the Janvelyan family has received 678,000 AMD in government benefits and the court has since seized the fund suntil the completion of the trial. 12_10-musheghMushegh Janvelyan says, “They asked me if I wished to declare myself guilty of the charge and I responded that I am guilty in so far as I am raising three kids in the border zone. I returned all the money that I had received.” He says the reason that the funds had been seized was the parcel of land in Ptghni that he purchased in 2003. “It was a barren plot of land with no trees. They jumped on this and used it as substantiation to seize the money back. I gladly repaid them so as not to face derision. They stated that I failed to disclose the fact that I owned the land. I concealed nothing – I have three small children that we raise in a border village in a bombed out house. It was my brother’s,” Mushegh states in mid-sentence. When we asked if the socially needy family didn’t find it difficult to pay back the 678,000 AMD all at once to the government, Mushegh replied that his brother Marat Janvelyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the “Arzni PSC”, bailed them out by paying.

Oligarch registers property in brother’s name 12_10-tun Everyone in the village of Ptghni knows that the two-story house and adjoining 2,140 s.m. parcel of land and the 1,209 agricultural plot belong to the famous businessman Marat Janvelyan. These properties, however, are registered in the name of his brother Mushegh in the State Property Register (Cadastre). Ptghni Mayor Arakel Virabyan told us that Marat Janvelyan purchased the 2,140 parcel during the Soviet era and rebuilt the house and that he received the other, 1,209 parcel, during the privatization period. Mayor Virabyan said that the property statement he handed to Mushegh Janvelyan reflected the information registered in the local municipal property rolls. 12_10-tun-1When we visited, there was a Niva auto parked in the yard alongside a mower. “The car’s not registered in my name. It’s registered at a Yerevan address. There’s nothing registered in my name,” Mushegh stated. His wife was quick to add that the hay fields hadn’t been reaped on the border since there was nothing good to reap. Mushegh and his wife Marineh still thought it unjust to be deprived on their social benefits. “I don’t work. The lands are on the border but we don’t work the. I sowed wheat and barley, but it’s now in God’s hand. If it rains, then fine; if not…Rather than saying you’re a village on the border, why don’t they come and look at this house of mine instead of stressing the land all the time,” he said. “We were ill-informed regarding the property and now they say we are criminals. We were getting 20,000 AMD a month. We used it to pay the utilities. It was a good chunk of cash for us,” his wife added. 12_10-tun-2The house of Marat Janvelyan became a target during the 1990-1994 Armenian-Azerbaijani War. “It’s the only house like it in the village. They gave nothing even though they came and photographed the place every year. They didn’t even offer a property appraisal despite the fact that the house is registered as a “vulnerable to collapse” at the Regional Authority,” Mushegh stated. After the house was damaged they moved into their family house. Marat Janvelyan’s relatives had left the village a long time ago. The only ones left is his family. He is still registered as residing in Kotayk Marz. When we asked why they don’t also leave if conditions aren’t suitable in Koti, Mushegh answered, “My mother is still here.” We won’t abandon the family home.” It appears that the Noyemberyan Territorial Social Services were aware of the Niva car and the fact that Mushegh was working. Samvel Beglaryan, Director of Territorial Social Services, stated, “He would go off to Bagratashen with the Niva to bale hay for the farm and then return home for the night. According to the records, he has getting a 30,000 monthly salary. However, Mushegh only appeared on the “Arzni PSC” employment rolls for one year.

Officials declare – “It’s an abomination”

Samvel Beglaryan, who’s headed the Noyemberyan Social Services Agency in Tavush since 2000, says that in terms of social benefits eligibility registration, the agency must take into account the family’s actual place of residence and there, in Koti, the Janvelyan family lives in less than adequate conditions. He views the fact that Mushegh Janvelyan also receives a stipend an abomination since the family is well known throughout the country for the business they own – the “Arzni PSC”, located in the village of the same name in Kotayk Marz. Marat Janvelyan has made a name for himself as something of a benefactor, especially in Kotayk. V. Baghdasaryan, who heads the Department of Social Oversight at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, told us, “If the brother of a known oligarch is getting a stipend it’s just not right. It’s a question of morality.” As a result of the investigations conducted, 17,000 salaried working individuals came to light when a 16,000 family pensioner data base was being upgraded. One of those names was that of Mushegh Janvelyan. The department conducted the investigation on a five year basis and according to the findings some 3.8 million AMD must be seized in overpayments just in the Noyemberyan district alone. 12_10-h_gishyanHripsimeh Gishyan, Inspector of the Noyemberyan Social Services, stated, “Fourteen such cases were revealed in our jurisdiction. Some of them voluntarily paid back the funds. For the rest, the government passed Decision 723 on June 26, 2009, to seize an amount going back one year prior to the discovery. Also, two criminal cases were filed; one against Mushegh Janvelyan and another against a resident of Noyemberyan who was working as a shoemaker at the military base. How should we have known that they were in fact working?” Mr. V. Baghdasaryan, in a letter to A. Nikoghosyan, who heads the State Interests Department at the RoA General Prosecutor’s Office, noted that, “Had Mushegh Janvelyan, starting in 2001, properly disclosed the fact about the 1,209 s.m. piece of agricultural lands, the two story house on the 2,140 parcel of property and the 800 house parcel to the territorial social service agencies, then the family of Mushegh Janvelyan would have been considered ‘well-off’ by these social agencies and thus, would not have been included in the social benefits registry.” The letter went on to say, “We should also mention that Mushegh Janvelyan was employed at “Arzni PSC” from March 20065-March 2006 and concealed this revenue source.”

Chickens traded for social benefits

Mushegh’s wife Marineh told us, “We got the benefits quite easily. They came to the house for a visit and registered us as eligible. We promised them some chickens and eggs in return. We went and handed the stuff over. We got the benefits again. They wanted payment again and we gave it. Otherwise, they would have said no more benefits.” A criminal case was also filed against Social Services Agency Inspector Hripsimeh Gishyan, but it was later dropped. Appearing as a witness in court, Gishyan testified that she had no knowledge of the 1,209 and 800 square meter property registered under the name of Mushegh Janvelyan, and that he never presented her with an affidavit to that effect, as obligated to do. Once every quarter, the State Property Registry (Cadastre) is required to issue a statement regarding property purchases made by residents but the Noyemberyan Special Security Agency never received such a notice. Thus it had no knowledge regarding the property registered to Mushegh Janvelyan. 12_10-s_beglaryanSamvel Beglaryan, Director of the Noyemberyan Territorial Social Services Agency, chalks the whole matter up to imperfections in the system that entrusts the upholding of justice to a citizen demanding monetary assistance. Citizens filing for social benefits are asked to be truthful when filling out the required forms and to disclose all their assets and revenues in order to assess their eligibility and to certify, to the best of their knowledge, that what they have written is accurate.

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