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Edik Baghdasaryan

How does the mayor get away with it?

"In December 2003 Yerevan Mayor Yervand Zakharyan signed 150 decisions regarding allocations of land," we were told by a mid-level official in the Mayor's Office, who asked that we not publish his name. Why did the mayor sign so many decisions at the end of the year? The answer is simple - beginning in January 2004, the cadastre price of land in Yerevan went up, and buyers, who are, as a rule, government officials or their relatives, prefer their land cheaper. In some areas of Yerevan the price increased 2.5 times. All our efforts to acquire copies of the December 2003 mayoral decisions have failed; documents like that are kept secret from reporters and ordinary citizens alike.

Hetq has already reported on some of these decisions. Today we present one more. This one is unusual, since the land was given away free of charge, without any payment into the state budget. According to Mayor Zakharyan's Decision # 2452-A of December 15, 2003 , in the area adjacent to Athens Street a "6,000 square-meter plot of land shall be allocated for use free of charge (in perpetuity) to the Center for Promoting the Fight against Terrorism, NGO." The preamble to the decision states that the Center will build an athletic-health complex and an office building. We should point out that this area is adjacent to Tsitsernakaberd Park , where the Monument to the Victims of the Armenian Genocide is located.

Paragraph 1 of the decision reads: "To allocate 6,000 square meters of land. in accordance with Paragraph 2 of Clause 1 of Article 75 of the Land Code of Armenia and with Paragraph B of Article 38 of the 'Procedure of allocating land which is the property of the State or the local communities" adopted by Government Decision # 714 of May 8, 2003." Let us quote the Land Code Article mentioned in the decision: "Land which is the property of the State may be allocated without a tender, for use free of charge (in perpetuity) to benevolent non-governmental organizations and funds for conducting non-profit activity."

But the Center for Promoting the Fight against Terrorism, NGO is not a benevolent organization. Only Yervand Zakharyan himself knows how and why he committed such a violation of the law. By giving away 6,000 square meters of land, Zakharyan has also cost the state $240,000, since the cadastre price for one square meter of land in this area prior to January 2004 was $40 (the market price is $100). We can only suppose he received something in return.

The Chairman of the Center for Promoting the Fight against Terrorism is businessman Georgi Avetisyan, the director of the Uniguard Company, which deals in security systems. He hasn't received any special notice in the fight against terrorism.