Undue Influence? Former Armenian Police Chief Snatches $3 Million Yerevan House for a Mere $200K
AmeriaBank and a host of business figures are players in this tangled web of give and take
This is the story of how former Armenian Chief of Police Vladimir Gasparyan was able to purchase the private home appearing above for US$ 200,000 when its market value at the time ranged between $3-4 million.
One of the questions to be answered is whether he influenced an Armenian bank to auction off the house, thus allowing its purchase at a price much lower than its market value.
Gasparyan, who was ousted from the post of Armenia’s top cop after Nikol Pashinyan came to power in May, now lives in the three-story house, located on a 2,836 square meter plot of land near Victory Park overlooking downtown Yerevan, with his family.
The house boasts an outdoor swimming pool, huge garage, and adjoining playground.
Hetq’s investigation reveals that Gasparyan was able to snatch the house, which was put up as collateral at AmeriaBank at a liquidation value of $1.8 million in 2013, at a fraction of its market value due to the intervention of several notable players – Arshak Hakobyan (former chief of Gasparyan’s security squad), Hayk Stepanyan (Gasparyan’s main adviser), businesswoman Silva Hambardzumyan, and various AmeriaBank officials.
It’s a tangled story of relatives and bank transactions, but I’ll simplify as much as possible.
The house was first purchased by Gasparyan’s mother-in-law Heghoush Galstyan. The owner of the house, Aghasi Danielyan, was never paid the AMD 900 million he was promised. Gasparyan’s mother-in-law Heghoush Galstyan took out a mortgage with America Bank but failed to make the payments. The bank then seized the house and put it up for auction.
Emil Zouloyan, a relative of Gasparyan’s wife and a former deputy director of the Police Educational Complex, then purchased the house, appraised at $1.8 million for $200,000. A few days later, he gifted the house to Police Chief Gasparyan’s son.
According to Armenia’s State Cadastre, the wife of Albert Yeritsyan (a prominent businessman in Armenia mostly known for the Father and Son Yeritsyan Supermarket), owned the house in 2012. It was obtained in 2013 by Yeritsyan’s friend Aghasi Danielyan. Heghoush Galstyan was the owner in 2014, followed by Emil Zouloyan in 2015 and then by Gasparyan’s son, also named Vladimir.
Yeritsyan decided to sell the house in 2012 because the family business empire had been faltering ever since it was alleged that he played a role in the attempted murder of Gagik Khachatryan, who was President of the State Revenue Committee at the time. This, and the scandals involving his son Robert, turned the local authorities against the family.
Albert Yeritsyan told Hetq that spoke to brokers about putting the house up for sale. His friend, Aghasi Danielyan, another businessman, purchased the house that had been collateralized at HSBC Bank. Danielyan reached a deal with Yeritsyan and took out a $1.6 million loan from the bank, which he used to buy the house.
Yeritsyan then recalled that the house was sold for AMD 900 million.
Danielyan told Hetq that it was Yeritsyan who approached him, requesting that he buy the house. He says that Yeritsyan told him that if he found a buyer willing to pay more, he’d sell it to the newcomer. Danielyan says he agreed to the purchase because he wanted to help his friend. He took the $1.6 million loan (in equivalent AMD) and purchased the house which remained as collateral at the bank.
Later, according to Danielyan, Yeritsyan said that he had found a buyer willing to pay more, but that the house would have to be rebuilt. In 2013, Danielyan received an architectural assignment permit from the Yerevan Municipality.
Danielyan says that Yeritsyan found other buyers and wound up selling the house to two people.
This is when Silva Hambardzumyan comes into the picture. She had just purchased Three bread factories from Yeritsyan and, according to Danielyan, served as an intermediary in the transaction.
“When an actual buyer was found, Yeritsyan said Silva was the go-between,” says Danielyan, adding that the buyer was former Police Chief Vladimir Gasparyan.
Prior to this, AmeriaBank proposed to Danielyan that it assume his mortgage loan at HSBC. Universam Avan Ltd., a company owned by Danielyan, became the debtor and Danielyan was listed as the guarantor.
According to Danielyan, Silva Hambardzumyan was supposed to purchase the house for Gasparyan for $2 million. Hambardzumyan’s role ended when Gasparyan’s representatives found out that the house belonged to Danielyan, not Yeritsyan, as Hambardzumyan believed.
Danielyan says that before finding out who the house belonged to, they had already paid Yeritsyan $2 million. Hambardzumyan, in a taped interview with Hetq, also confirmed that Gasparyan’s reps had paid Yeritsyan a $2 million down payment and that the sale price was $3.2 million.
Yeritsyan has denied receiving any money.
Gasparyan issues threats
Danielyan says that Gasparyan’s reps got in touch with him in 2013 and negotiations started. Getting nowhere, the two met in 2014. Danielyan claims that Gasparyan told him that the money had been paid to Yeritsyan, but that he would get it back.
“He said I’d get my money back personally and pay me,” Danielyan recalls.
At the urging of Gasparyan, and after being threatened by him, Danielyan sold the house to Gasparyan’s mother-in-law Heghoush Galstyan at a contract price of AMD 900 million. When Danielyan demanded the money, he says the Gasparyan family started to threaten him.
Danielyan says they threatened to turn his kids into drug addicts, among other things.
At the same time, Danielyan sold Universam Avan to Silva Hambardzumyan. Thus, the company remained the debtor but Hambardzumyan was the new guarantor of the loan. The house itself remained as collateral, now under the name of Heghoush Galstyan, and two other properties were collateralized – one under the name of Danielyan’s son and the other under Hambardzumyan’s sister.
According to an agreement reached between Aghasi Danielyan and Heghoush Galstyan, the former never received the AMD 900 million.
In 2016, Danielyan lodged a formal complaint against Yeritsyan, and not Gasparyan, who was police chief at the time, arguing that Yeritsyan had deceived him and sold the house to Galstyan.
A criminal case was never launched based on Danielyan’s complaint. Appeals to higher courts proved fruitless.
AmeriaBank’s role in the transaction
Realizing that he’d both lost the house and the money, Danielyan stopped payments on the loan. AmeriaBank again had the house, with a 2014 market value of $1.8 million, appraised again. This time, it was valued at AMD 500 million ($1 million).
Danielyan says the bank illegally organized several auctions in 2015. With no potential buyers, the house was devalued and eventually sold for AMD 100 million to Emil Zouloyan.
After registering the house in his name, Zouloyan gifted it to Gasparyan’s son Vladimir Jr. Since the son was a minor at the time, the transaction papers were signed by Zouloyan, Vladimir Gasparyan Sr., and his wife Sousanna.
In 2015, AmeriaBank sued Danielyan for $1.256 million. Danielyan says he never received court date notices and he was absent for most of the trial. The court found in favor of AmeriaBank.
Danielyan filed a countersuit against the bank, demanding that he been freed from all loan obligations. A lower court found in his favor, but the decision was overturned by the Court of Appeals. The Court of Cassation threw out Danielyan’s appeal.
Danielyan says that AmeriaBank representative Artak Avanesyan swung the Court of Cassation against him since Avanesyan is the son of Vardan Avanesyan, a member of the court’s civilian chamber.
AmeriaBank wrote to Hetq saying that the bank saw no conflict in Artak Avanesyan’s actions and said that under the law it is not legally required to notify the former owner of the property or its current guarantor of any upcoming auctions. Thus, the bank claims that there were no “secret” auctions as argued by Danielyan.
AmeriaBank also denies that Gasparyan played any role, or intervened, to have the house put up for auction.
As things stand today, the house is under the control of the Gasparyan family. Aghasi Danielyan’s bank accounts and those of Universam Avan Ltd. have been frozen for non-payment of loan obligations. Danielyan has also not received the AMD 900 million Heghoush Galstyan paid Yeritsyan for the house.
None of Vladimir Gasparyan’s financial disclosures ever mentioned the house at 2/5 Papazyan Street. The fact that the house was gifted to Gasparyan’s under age son was by no means accidental. The law does not require the minor child of a government official to declare “gifts” received, even if they are million-dollar homes.