Diaspora Philanthropists George Najarian Disillusioned With Armenia
Posted 20 December 2004 - 11:20 PM
[December 1, 2004]
Many people in Armenia know Carolann and George Najarian. These Boston philanthropists have been implementing humanitarian projects in Armenia ever since the 1988 earthquake. A week ago, we received the following letter from them, which we reprint in its entirety.
November 16, 2004
This past week President Robert Kocharian's advisor on corruption, Bagrat Yesayan, toured the US meeting with members of the Armenian-American community. Unfortunately, we were unable to meet with him. Had we done so, we would have told him what follows, a sad, but true account of what we have experienced within Armenia 's legal system over this past year.
Let us first introduce ourselves: our humanitarian efforts in Armenia and Artsakh have spanned nearly 16 years. Our projects began after the earthquake and during the Artsakh liberation war and continue through today, with more than 50 trips to Armenia, the delivery of millions of dollars of medical supplies to both regions; the establishment of the Primary Care Center in Gyumri (1994) and the Arpen Center for Expectant Mothers in Artsakh (1995); hospital renovations; and many other efforts, including the rebuilding of Tsitsernavank, the 4 th c. basilica in Kashatagh (Lachine corridor), assistance to villagers, invalids, veterans, orphans, and schools. The record speaks for itself. Our work has been carried out through the Armenian Health Alliance, Inc. and its supporters as well as through our own private funds.
In response to the Armenian government's pleas to the Diaspora to invest in Armenia , George undertook a project with a young man who he met after the earthquake and with whom he subsequently became friends. (We even brought this 'friend' to Boston to have surgical correction of his infertility for which we paid; he now has two children, thanks to us!) In 1996, after a year of prodding George to finance a business venture, they opened a photo shop as partners – he did the work and George paid for everything. He also introduced George to various people with other business propositions. One introduction led to our purchase of two parcels of land in the Ethnographic Center at Tzoraghugh with spectacular views of Ararat. Throughout this time this 'friend' presented himself to us as an honest person, thankful for the assistance we had given to him and wanting to help George in whatever way he could. We never had any reason to doubt him.
This 'friend' was George's representative, not partner, in the development of these two parcels of land. Thus, he had Power of Attorney to represent George in his absence. However, he used this Power of Attorney to fraudulently privatize in his name these lands and our two newly constructed buildings, in effect expropriating our substantial investment. When we understood what he had done, with the hope of avoiding a legal battle, we tried to negotiate with him for the return of the properties. This failed, despite offers of significant sums of money. Without any other recourse open to us and based on the advice of legal experts in Armenia , we filed a criminal case against him, first with the Yerevan City Prosecutor's Office (September, 2003) and later with the Prosecutor General of Armenia 's office (March, 2004).
We had assumed the facts in the case were obvious -- "open and shut"-- given the evidence of scores of witnesses, bank documents, receipts, etc. We had not anticipated that our 'friend' would enlist the help of well-connected persons in the government who could influence the case through bribes and whatever other means available to them, including intimidating witnesses and threatening lives. In December, 2003, after a long but superficial investigation, the Yerevan City Prosecutor's Office dismissed the case and referred us to civil court. (We suspected the prosecutor had been bribed but could not prove it.) On appeal, the case was reopened at the Prosecutor General level. This time prosecutors agreed we were the victims of fraud. They also found that the 'friend' was guilty of tax evasion. Attempts were again made to hijack the case through dismissal at this point but failed. While the Yerevan City Prosecutor who previously dismissed the case admitted during a meeting at the General Prosecutor's Office, in George's presence, that he made a mistake by dismissing the case, the current prosecutors said that the evidence was too powerful to dismiss, and sent the case to the next phase within the criminal process -- that of acquiring evidence for the trial.
Two investigators were assigned the task of preparing the evidence for trial: witnesses were repeatedly called and subjected to hours of interrogation; George returned to Armenia again to testify – this time for more than 40 hours; and, documents were requested and provided by us for a third time. Again, the investigation dragged on for months and despite mountains of evidence supporting our claims, and little on the other side supporting his claim of ownership, the two investigators doing the work dismissed the case! Their decision, a shabby, crude, and even absurd document completely ignored or marginalized important evidence supporting our claims and falsified facts --openly. We were again referred to civil court. We had information that these investigators were following orders from persons within the government who stand to benefit from expropriating these properties from us.
Prominent legal minds in Armenia , including experts within the government, have advised us that this is a criminal case of fraud punishable under Armenian law. Similar cases, with less evidence, have been fully prosecuted by the Prosecutor General's Office. The attempt to move us into civil court is an attempt to kill the case completely. Under Armenian law, we have no civil case because there is no partnership agreement between the parties – we were not partners with this 'friend.'
It pains us to tell you we did not find an objective, fair justice system in Armenia, but instead we have seen the inside of a system wrought with deceit and corruption that crushes even their own when they try to resist. During this past year, in addition to our direct appeals, others, including a high-ranking member of the Armenian government, have appealed repeatedly for a fair and objective hearing of our case to persons within the judicial system and to President Kocharian himself. The US Embassy is fully aware of the circumstances of our case as are a number of US congressmen who have written to the Armenian ambassador in Washington expressing concern over the conduct of our case – judicial processes must be open and fair otherwise investors will be leery of undertaking investment risk in Armenia .
It is impossible to recount all that we have been through this past year. It has been an emotional roller coaster as we faced the fact that persons within this government would participate in this humiliating and base fraud against us. It appears due process of law and the protection of rights and investment are still fragile concepts for the government of Armenia . As we understand other Diasporans have encountered similar problems and have been treated in this same manner. We hope with our case being made public there will be a willingness to discuss these critical issues, and the Armenian government will take the necessary steps to clean up corruption: the judiciary should not exist to guarantee people in power wealth. It is no way to build a country!
Mr. Editor, this is what we would have told Mr. Yesayan had we met with him. Writing this letter is a very painful step for us taken reluctantly after one year of struggling to get a fair hearing of our case. Although we are still in the appeal process, we understand that our property – including the place where we anticipated living out our retirement years – has been taken from us. What you are not seeing, though, are the tears we have shed over knowing that we may never be able to return to Armenia, to live and continue our work, and knowing not only has our property been expropriated, but we as people who have loved and worked for the good of Armenia and its people have been so dishonestly treated. The pain goes very deep.
K. George Najarian and Carolann S. Najarian, M.D.
We met with Carolann Najarian on September 16, 2004 , and she described in detail how their investments in Armenia had been stolen. She said she had met with almost every senior official but none of them had done anything to help. "I will never come back to Armenia ," she told us tearfully. The Court of First Instance of the Kentron and Nork-Marash Communities of Yerevan began its hearing of the case on November 25, 2004. George and Carolann Najarian's representatives are appealing against the dismissal of the case by the Office of the Pr osecutor General. Hetq will follow the case and keep you informed.
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Posted 20 December 2004 - 11:20 PM
[December 15, 2004]
Following a third hearing on December 9, 2004 , the Court of First Instance of the Kentron and Nork-Marash Communities of Yerevan partly allowed the appeal by George Najarian against the Prosecutor General's Office. (See also: Diaspora Philanthropists disillusioned with Armenia). The court decided to reopen the preliminary investigation into the case and to recognize George Najarian as the wronged party.
However, the court dismissed the request to recognize Grigor Igityan as the defendant.
Significantly, the court sessions were held under public scrutiny. The courtroom was always full, with prominent intellectuals, public figures, journalists, representatives from the US Embassy in Yerevan, and even representatives from Nagorno Artsax present.
The President's Office and the Ministry of Foreign affairs have been informed; President Robert Kocharian's advisor on corruption, Bagrat Yesayan, told us that he too is concerned with the case.
The philanthropists, hoping to see justice restored by the law enforcement agencies, appealed to the media as well. In recent months, their story has been told in many publications in Armenia and the Diaspora. Thus, their case has become a headache for the government. Hetq has received a number of letters from people who were displeased with our law enforcement agencies, court system and government.
In August 2003, Arayik Harutiunyan, who represents Najarian, a US citizen, informed the president of Armenia, the prosecutor general, and the minister of foreign affairs that Grigor Igityan, a citizen of Armenia, had fraudulently privatized in his name the plots of land in the Dzoragiugh district containing two newly constructed buildings and the Abovyan Street photo shop that belong to George Najarian. This prompted an investigation by the Yerevan City Prosecutor's Office.
But in December 2003 the city Prosecutor's Office dismissed the case, saying that there was no evidence of wrongdoing. Then in March 2004 the Office of the Prosecutor General of Armenia reopened the case into the misappropriation of Najaryan's property between 1996 and 2003. But on October 9, 2004 A. Nadiryan, a senior investigative officer of the Office of the Prosecutor General, decided to dismiss the case once again.
George Najaryan's representatives asked the court to nullify the investigator's decision. After three sessions, the court accepted their appeal, in part.
Buildings # 4, 11, and 12 (see pictures) are located in the Dzoragiugh ethnographic district of Yerevan. It is an expensive area; a square meter land of land has a market value of more than $100. These buildings cost a few million dollars.
The evidence in the case takes up eleven volumes. There are transcripts of interviews with dozens of people, results of expert examinations, certificates, receipts, banking transactions, etc. In court on December 9, 2004 , Najaryan's representative, Hrair Ghukasyan, stressed: “The investigator was to consider Grigor Igityan as the defendant and George Najaryan as the victim during the investigation. All the evidence on how Grigor Igityan fraudulently privatized George Najaryan's property is present in the case.”
The documentation makes it clear that at the moment they started their joint undertaking, Grigor Igityan was not entitled to the land nor to the buildings constructed there, but the fact is that Grigor Igityan is now the owner of the property. It is also clear how he misappropriated the property. But it seems as if the investigators have an opposite task to accomplish – to prove that Grigor Igityan's privatization of the property was not fraudulent.
George and Carolann Najarian met Grigor Igityan after the 1988 earthquake when they brought humanitarian assistance to Spitak. He was introduced to them as an interpreter, and they subsequently became friends, a fact that both Najarian and Igityan acknowledge in their testimony.
To be continued ...
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Posted 02 March 2005 - 01:01 PM
By Mariam Badalyan
The Appellate Court in Yerevan is currently hearing a complaint that could influence Diaspora relations with Armenia.
Well-known American-Armenian philanthropists George and Carolann Najarian are unhappy with an appeal by the General Procurer that could prevent them from pursuing fraud charges in a property dispute.
The complaint has been going on for 18 months
The complaint has been going on for 18 months
The Boston couple (he is a businessman; she, a physician), have undergone an 18-month ordeal in an attempt to demonstrate to the Armenian authorities that property they purchased in Armenia has been embezzled by Grigor Igityan, formerly a trusted friend and business associate who represented the Najarians in Armenia.
The General Procurer, whose office is charged with investigating such claims, has stopped its investigation into whether criminal charges should be brought in the case. Najarian disputed the decision in a Yerevan court of first instance, which decided that Najarian was a victim of fraud and the criminal investigation should continue. The General Procurer, however, appealed the first instance court decision.
Hearings were expected to resume yesterday (February 24), but have been postponed until March 3.
The General Procurer claims the case was entirely a civil business dispute and, because the two parties trusted each other, there was no fraud as defined by Article 178 of the Armenian Criminal Code.
If this view is upheld, the Najarians might be entitled to the disputed property, but there would be no fraud charges brought.
Based on court testimony and information from the parties, here is how the dispute unfolded:
Prior to 2001, foreign citizens were barred from owning land in Armenia and Diaspora Armenians often turned to local citizens to buy property on their behalf. With Igityan’s help, the Najarians purchased two parcels of land at 4 Dzoragiugh Quarter in Central Yerevan through “Hyetechlaser”. The production company was owned by George Najarian and Manuk Manukyan, each with 50 per cent share.Najarian issued Igityan with power of attorney to represent him in his absence and carry out construction work on two lots at Dzoragiugh.
In 2001, the Najarians learned that legislative amendments now made it possible for foreign citizens with special residency status in Armenia to own property. George Najarian decided to register the properties in his name, but it emerged that the property already belonged to Igityan.
Igityan had allegedly used the power of attorney to misappropriate the two buildings and also to proclaim himself sole owner of a photographic shop, a venture founded by the two men as a partnership in 1996 but entirely financed by Najarian.
Igityan gave a different explanation to ArmeniaNow, saying: “I had lent money to George Najarian to cover his loans in the US. I had considerably invested in the photo-shop and at some point also paid for the construction work from my own pocket.”
He claims he was recovering expenses of more than $500,000 by taking ownership of the buildings and the business. The investment of land and construction came to $494,000. Igityan had begun selling part of the property at a price of $600,000, but the sale was suspended by the Procurer.
In 1996, George Najarian invested some $182,000 in a photo business with Igityan. He claims he is still owed $93,000 by Igityan relating to that business. Igityan says the business has operated at a loss since 1999.
Igityan has maintained that money he “loaned” Najarian came from work as a translator and from an inheritance from his wife’s family.
Najarian attorney Ashot Poghosyan points out that Igityan disclosed that he had received an inheritance only last September, at the end of the inquiry. After his claim, investigators say they found evidence that Igityan might have had valuables that were sold to cover his debts. According to Poghosyan, the criminal investigation was stopped, in part, based on that evidence.
“The prosecutor who initiated criminal proceedings against me was fired for bribery a month or so after initiating the criminal investigation,” Igityan says. The General Procurer refutes this, saying the prosecutor concerned was simply rotated to another department without loss of rank.
Igityan says the disputed property was payback for a “loan”
Igityan says the disputed property was payback for a “loan”
Poghosyan says: “This is a simple matter with enough evidence and testimonies against Igityan and justice must prevail whoever is to judge the case.”
Numerous statements from construction workers attached to the case testify that Igityan fraudulently misappropriated part of the money provided by Najarian for building work by making them sign for amounts they never received. In this way, it is alleged, Igityan acquired approximately $600,000 from the Najarians, but paid out only half of that sum.
Igityan has no other witnesses apart from his wife to support his version of events. The Najarians, meanwhile, have drawn many sympathizers, who come to the court to support them.
“It is a shame that honest people like the Najarians receive such unfair treatment. They were with their motherland in its most grievous periods of history – the earthquake and Artsax war,” the writer and publicist Zori Balayan says. “God will punish anyone who dares to mistreat them, including judges and investigators.” For 16 years, Carolann and George Najarian have delivered humanitarian assistance to Armenia, first after the earthquake and then during “the Artsakh liberation war” as Carolann describes it.
They have made more than 50 trips to Armenia, delivering several million dollars worth of medical supplies to both Gyumri and Artsax. In 1994, they established the Primary Care Center in Gyumri and in 1995 the Arpen Center for Expectant Mothers in Artsakh.
Their efforts also included hospital renovations, the rebuilding of Tsitsernavank, the Fourth Century basilica in Kashatagh (Lachin corridor), and assistance to villagers, invalids, veterans, orphans, and schools. Carolann is President of the Armenian Health Alliance, an organization of Diaspora Armenians that provides medical aid to Armenia.
Publicist Bakur Karapetyan remembers how the Najarians endangered their lives during the Artsax war, flying over battle-fields in helicopters to take medicine, food and other supplies to the Artsax people.
“The Najarians did a lot of good things for Grigor. They financed expensive surgery for him, which enabled him to become a father of two daughters and established a photo shop in the center of Yerevan which Grigor was running as a partner,” Karapetyan says. “This is how he pays back their generosity.”
The court’s decision in this case may have a crucial impact on the willingness of other Diaspora Armenians to be involved in Armenia.
“Carolann and George are known and respected throughout the Diaspora,” Moorad Mooradian wrote in a letter to the Armenian Mirror-Spectator in the United States. “Thousands of potential contributors to the betterment of Armenia are wondering if this type of disgrace will triumph over people such as the Najarians, who have been magnanimous toward Armenia. Armenia must not ‘task’ the Diaspora for anything in investments until she can promise that cases like the Najarian’s are history.” The case may also damage Armenia’s image for foreign investments generally. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (California) and Congressman Edward J. Markey (Massachusetts), in a letter to Arman Kirakosyan, Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States, pointed out: “Obviously the ability of Armenia to attract new investment in the future can be harmed if disputes of this nature cannot be satisfactorily resolved in a timely manner.”
The Najarians see the problem from another angle. Carolann Najarian, in an open letter to Transparency International, the anti-corruption organization, wrote: “If the Government feels they can do this (allow an appeal that dismisses fraud) to us with impunity, what are they doing to others who have no funds to fight and no voice with which to protest?”
While the case is heard, the Najarians continue their support for Armenia. They funded renovations to the Primary Care Center in Gyumri, which re-opened on January 26 to provide free medical services and medicines to residents of Shirak Marz.
Posted 08 March 2005 - 08:34 PM
The Government Mafia is very strong and no substantial business venture can be implemented without Mafia approval. On paper indeed Armenian Law on foreign investments is the most liberal ever piece of legislation drafted, however in practice everything is very, very different.
Corruption is present everywhere, but in Armenia is just out of any (usually 4% ) reasonable proportion.
That is the most deterring factor for Diaspora Armenians to invest in the country.
If Armenian politicians were real patriots Armenia could have become Swiss in matter of 5 years with all the potential and resources of the Diaspora.
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Posted 10 March 2005 - 03:34 PM
Corruption isn't the problem, it's the mentality of people and the quick cultural and moral degradation via rabiz from one side, internationalism in the center and middle eastern/oriental imports on the other side.
Everyone is a po#*uist.
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Posted 11 March 2005 - 02:24 PM
By Mariam Badalyan
The Appellate Court of Armenia has denied an appeal by the General Procuracy to stop the Procuracy’s investigation into whether criminal charges should be brought in a dispute between George Najarian, a well known Armenian-American philanthropist and a former business associate in Yerevan, Grigor Igityan. (see Test Case:)
The court proceedings may still continue on the same matter (deciding whether it is a criminal or civil matter) if the General Procuracy decides to further appeal the case in the Cassation Court.
George and Carolann Najarian have been long-time donors to Armenia
Armen Nadiryan, Senior Investigator in especially important cases says they will decide whether to further appeal or not after they see the court decision in written form.
In summary: After 18 months of investigation (including termination of investigation by the Yerevan city Procuracy) the General Procuracy concluded that the case was entirely a civil business dispute and should be resolved in a civil court. Later, however, Najarian petitioned the court against the General Procuracy for stopping the criminal case. A lower court, however, ruled that the investigation should continue, leading to the General Procuracy’s appeal.
If the appeal were successful, Najarian might still be entitled to the disputed property, but there would be no fraud charges brought against Igityan. Najarian claims Igityan embezzled his property (two buildings at #4 and #11/12 Dzoragiugh District and a Photoshop at Abovyan Street founded as a partnership between Najarian and Igityan).
During his concluding speech Najarian lawyer Ashot Poghosyan argued, among other things, that investigators wrongfully considered a receipt to Igityan by Najarian in connection with their photo business. According to the lawyer, Igityan was supposed to pay back the original money, after which the two men were to share the profit as partners. The investigators, however, had considered it a loan made to Najarian by Igityan.
Senior Investigator Nadiryan accused Poghosyan of disclosing pre-investigation secrets and pointed out that the investigators considered all facts in combination, whereas Poghosyan points to single facts separately.
During the hearing the court heard an extract from a letter by Igityan addressed to the President of Armenia, which said that Najarian hired lawyers who were intimidating Igityan’s family and asked the President to take relevant measures in protecting the safety of his family. Poghosyan called the letter a ploy by Igitiyan to distract attention from the main issue of the complaint.
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Posted 11 March 2005 - 08:03 PM
Procure (lat. Procura) is an institute of the Roman law, at present employed in Commercial law as a special representative or agent for a principal with wide range of rights and powers.
PS: I do make a lot of mistakes, but this type of mistakes piss me off!
Posted 22 April 2005 - 01:44 AM
[April 20, 2005]
See also: Igityan's apartment searched following prosecutors' board meeting
The Court of First Instance of the Kentron and Nork-Marash Communities of Yerevan has partially satisfied the claim of US citizen George Najarian, ruling to continue the criminal investigation into the case and to involve George Najarian as the aggrieved party. The Office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Armenia opposed the ruling, filing an appeal with the Court of Review on Criminal and Military Cases. In March 2005, the Court of Review upheld the decision of the Court of First Instance. This time, the Prosecutor's General's Office appealed to the highest court in the Armenian judiciary, the Court of Cassation on Criminal and Military Cases of the Republic of Armenia. The case will be heard on April 22, 2005 .
The Court of Cassation may either uphold the decisions of the two lower courts, or send the case back to the Court of Review for adjudication by a new panel.
Ashot Boghossian, the Najarian's lawyer, believes that the Court of Cassation will uphold the decisions of the two lower courts. However, there are circumstances that suggest the reverse may be true.
The Appeal of Cassation submitted by the General Prosecutor's Office is almost identical to the Appeal of Review submitted previously, with the same arguments, which were entirely and firmly rebutted in the Court of Review's decision on the appeal. This suggests that the prosecutor General's Office has certain expectations of the Court of Cassation.
In its appeal, the Investigative Department of the Prosecutor General's Office, referred to a letter from Grigor Igityan addressed to the president of the republic as additional grounds for substantiation. The letter describes a number of incidents, of which the Prosecutor general's office singled out only one: George Najarian, through his representative, offered $150,000 to Grigor Igityan against the “return” of the buildings at issue. That is, the Prosecutor General is trying to maintain that Igityan committed no fraud.
Meanwhile, study of the case material and discussions with George and Carolann Najarians suggest that the Prosecutor General's Office stubbornly rejected requests by the Najarians' attorneys to involve George Najarian as an aggrieved party and to bring charges against Igityan. First, the Najarians were assured that the case was going forward and that it would soon be resolved, and then later, in private discussions with the Najarians, officials from Prosecutor General Office tried to persuade the Najarians that there was no evidence of crime in Igityan's actions, and advised them to reach a settlement. In addition, The Prosecutor General Office adamantly refused to make the materials of the case available to the Najarians' attorneys for review, and the materials were made available only during the hearing in the Court of First Instance, after the Najarians appealed the General Prosecutor's decision to dismiss the case.
It is also apparent that the Prosecutor General's Office did not verify whether or not Najarian had made such an offer, since the case was dismissed, no one was questioned afterwards, and the case materials contain no evidence of such an offer. It is yet to be known why the Prosecutor General's Office, for the purpose of backing its decision, is throwing this incident at the highest court of the county, an incident which, in addition to having no legal significance, has not even been verified.
Igityan's letter states: “Under the cover of a partnership, Najarian extorted large sums of money from me for many years, which I provided to him, not only for the purposes of that partnership, but also for Najarian's and his wife's personal use.” Apparently, the true nature of the partnership is a secret reserved for Igityan and the Prosecutor's General Office alone, since Igityan stated exactly the opposite in his recent testimonies, i.e., he had no partnership with George Najarian. Igityan's statement also suggests that the Najarian family survived only thanks to his help, and that Carolann Najarian's humanitarian projects were conducted using his money. As of today, the Prosecutor General's Office has yet to verify the sources of Igityan's wealth, while, according to invoices and other documents in the case, Igityan earned only $10,000 in the last ten years.
In his letter, Igityan also accused the media, specifically, the newspaper AZG and the TV channel Armenia, for conducting a “campaign of provocation and slender” against him.
The 1992 Bilateral Investment Treaty signed between the USA and Armenia in Washington , DC , the provisions of which were kindly interpreted at our request by the US Embassy in Yerevan , establishes an agreed-upon legal basis to protect and encourage investments between the United States and Armenia . According to the Armenian Constitution, the treaty prevails over Armenian legislation. The Treaty establishes most-favored-nation (MFN) and national treatment standards for investors from both countries, which means that Armenia and the U.S. must grant each other's nationals treatment no less favorable than those granted to its own or third country nationals. The treaty establishes international legal standards for expropriation and compensation for expropriation. These rights apply to direct and indirect state measures tantamount to expropriation or nationalization, and thus apply to "creeping expropriations" that result in a substantial deprivation of the benefit of an investment . The Treaty calls for prompt, adequate, and effective compensation in such cases of expropriation, such compensation being equivalent to fair market value of the expropriated investment immediately before the expropriatory action was taken or became known (whichever is earlier), be paid without delay, including interest. The Treaty states that each country must provide effective means of asserting rights and claims with respect to foreign investments from the other country. The Treaty guarantees access to binding international arbitration (without first resorting to domestic courts) for investment disputes between the government of one country and a national or company of the other. The Treaty grants the investor the freedom to choose to resolve disputes with the host government through international arbitration . The Treaty prohibits discriminatory treatment by the governments of the United States or Armenia against investments by nationals of the other state and guarantees fare and equitable treatment of investments in accordance with international law.
Meanwhile, in the Najarians' case, the Prosecutor General's Office not only failed to secure most-favored-nation or national treatment standards, not only failed to provide effective means of asserting their rights and claims, but instead, judging from the decisions of two courts, committed violations of law during the investigation and deprived the Najarians of their rights, subjected the Najarians' investments to “creeping expropriation”, with no compensation (the fact is that for about two years now, Igityan has denied the Najarians access to the Dzoragyough buildings, and obstructed their construction workers from trying to prevent the damage of the buildings), providing an unverified incident described only by Igityan as “additional evidence”. In this regard, the Court of Review decision specifically provides the following: “Through not recognizing George Najarian as an aggrieved party the investigation committed a material breach of the law, due to which George Najarian was deprived and distanced from his rights guaranteed by the law, and the principle of full, fair and thorough investigation was breached, influencing on the correct decision on the case. While recommencing the investigation the investigative body shall involve George Najarian as an aggrieved party, and shall fully and fairly examine the evidence based on the facts brought by George Najarian, and through analysis of each piece of evidence obtained, compare such with other evidence and through examining the source of each piece of evidence obtained, and through evaluation of each piece of evidence by its association and permissibility, through merging evidence for the purposes of the case, the investigative body shall come to an appropriate conclusion.”
By submitting an Appeal of Cassation, the Prosecutor General's Office effectively refused to comply.
According to the US Embassy in Yerevan , the obligations of the treaty are applicable to all political subdivisions of the parties, such as state and local governments. That is, the Najarians are entitled to apply to international courts, including those of the United States , for the protection of their rights.
Carolann Najarian is in Yerevan now. I asked her if she had taken her case to the US court. She answered, “We have tried hard right from the beginning to keep this case within the framework of the Armenian judiciary. We hope we will not be forced to do otherwise.”
Posted 22 April 2005 - 11:16 AM
By Emil Danielyan
Armenia’s highest court on Friday declared illegal state prosecutors’ refusal to launch criminal proceedings against a local man who allegedly defrauded a U.S. philanthropist of Armenian descent and his wife.
The Office of Prosecutor-General suffered a rare judicial setback when the Armenian Court of Appeals upheld two lower court rulings ordering it to renew a criminal investigation into the alleged misappropriation of real property claimed by George Najarian. The law-enforcement agency appealed both rulings but will now have to comply with them.
Najarian’s wife Carolann welcomed the latest verdict as a “great victory for the judicial system of Armenia.” “I was ready to leave Armenia and never return,” she told a news conference. “However, after considering that for some time as a real possibility, I realized that my love of Armenia and Armenia’s people had to be separated from the criminal who was trying to rob us of our investment.”
The Najarians, who have engaged in extensive charitable work in Armenia and Nagorno-Artsax for the past 15 years, have been pushing for a fraud case against their former Yerevan-based representative, Grigor Igitian. The latter is the formal owner of a photo shop and two buildings currently constructed in downtown Yerevan.
The Najarians insists that in reality the lucrative property belongs to them and that they registered it in Igitian's name in 1996 because Armenian law at the time did not allow foreigners to own land in the country. They claim to have invested $500,000 in the assets.
Igitian, however, says he himself raised most of the money working as an English-language interpreter and receiving a large inheritance several years ago. The prosecutors backed his claims when then they closed the inquiry last October. The three court rulings have dealt a blow to the credibility of their arguments, however.
One of Najarian’s attorneys, Ashot Poghosian, accused the prosecutors in his earlier courts remarks of covering up the “large-scale fraud” and intimidating key witnesses. “We had to cope with pressure [from prosecutors],” he repeated on Friday.
The other Najarian lawyer, Hrair Ghukasian, said he hopes the prosecutors will now conduct a new inquiry in earnest. He said they have all the evidence to indict Igitian and hand the property to the Diasporan couple.
The prosecutors have so far declined to publicly comment on the case. “We had information that these investigators were following orders from persons within the government who stand to benefit from expropriating these properties from us,” the Najarians wrote in an article published by Armenian-American newspapers last November.
Carolann Najarian did not personally implicate anyone in the alleged cover-up on Friday, saying only that “it must be somebody very powerful because evidence in this case has been very clear.”
(RFE/RL photo: Poghosian and Najarian speaking at the news conference.)
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Posted 22 April 2005 - 12:56 PM
This is good, realy good. I felt so much sympathy towards that woman and her cause. Everything about her is so right, that it would be a horrible act of injustice to treat her like that.
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Posted 22 April 2005 - 01:21 PM
i like to see government of Armenia - who will have a special agency for problems like this
so many of Diaspora Armenians are getting &*^&68, and not only Armenians but also Others who try to invest or work in Armenia or Armenians.
Posted 30 April 2005 - 12:46 PM
By Zhanna Alexanyan
An Armenian higher court has upheld a previous court’s decision that criminal charges should be pursued in the case of a Diaspora couple’s two-year legal battle against a former Yerevan associate.
Last week, the Cassation Court for Criminal and Military Cases ruled that an investigation should continue into whether local businessman Grigor Igityan is guilty of defrauding well-known American-Armenian philanthropist George Najarian, of Boston.
Carolann Najarian says she believes in Armenian justice
Carolann Najarian says she believes in Armenian justice
The court decision means that the Prosecutor General’s Office must re-open its investigation into whether Igityan illegally took possession of property he had purchased on behalf of Najarian. Igityan has maintained that he had rightful ownership and that assuming the property was recompense for a loan that he had made to Najarian. (For details of the claim, read Appeal Deniedand Test Case)
The Prosecutor General had appealed a lower court ruling, claiming that there was no grounds for pursuing prosecution against Igityan. Without criminal charges, the Najarians might have been able to reclaim the property, but Igityan would not face punishment.
In addition to a partnership with Igityan in a photo shop, Najarian invested in two properties in the Yerevan district of Dzoragyugh. At stake is an investment of $500,000 for the two buildings.
If Igityan is found guilty of embezzlement and fraud, he could face up to eight years in prison.
Igityan, who Carolann Najarian describes as a man who, 10 years ago was wearing clothes handed down from her husband, has maintained that he purchased the disputed property with money his wife gained from inheritance.
Carolann Najarian said at a press conference that Igityan, who had been the couple’s interpreter, early on had asked the Najarians to buy him a car and a house – which they refused. She also said the relations between the three were such that Igityan had called her and her husband “mama jan” and “papa jan”, terms of endearment.
Najarian lawyer Ashot Poghosyan says the case centers around misplaced trust.
Known for many years of philanthropy in Armenia and Artsax, the Najarians’ reaction to their legal problems has been seen as troublesome for future investment by Diaspora and the case has been monitored by Non-Governmental Organizations such as Transparency International and the Eurasia Foundation.
“The outcome of the case is a matter of honor not only for us, but also for Armenia in general,” Carolann Najarian said. “These two years have been a period of moral and psychological suffering for us to a degree that after 16 years of benevolence we were ready to break off our ties with Armenia and never return.
“However after a while we realized that we are quite attached to the people here since those cold and dark years when we supported people in Armenia and Artsakh.”
She further said that other Diaspora investors are closely observing their case and that “If we leave they will follow us.”
Though far from settled, Carolann Najarian had praise for the latest developments, calling the Armenian legislation “good” and saying she is confident that the law favors the Najarians’ position.
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Posted 29 July 2005 - 12:12 PM
I am amazed and very dismayed with this news and the poor Doctors the Najarians; however I am not surprised. Alas, things like this should happen in our only hope, which is our Republic. Armenians, my father used to say were so honest and so just, completely civilized and honorable people. They were good in the old country, he used to say; alas the barbaric Turks put an end to our old country. But the 70 year old soviet regime seems to have destructed the mores and the good ethics of some of the Armenians in eastern Armenia. It is sheer shameful that some of the people of Armenia and also some of the high level personnel make our beloved Armenia to be less than what it should be. My dear bretheren of Armenia we have already been persecuted enough from the Turks, the Azeris and the Soviets. Let us support one another and be kind and just to each other for the sake of our newly developed country and our beloved Armenia and the Armenian people. By acting in a corruptive manner you are making Armenia and Armenians look much less alluring and good. It is shameful and unfair to all of us in the Diaspora, to all the Armenians in the Republic and especially to your forefathers who have been good, kind, honorable and just.
Please Armenian people in Armenia have Christianity in your hearts and in your everyday life. For Christianity does not allow to cheat and to be dishonorable. And I say; "ESPECIALLY BE KIND TO YOUR FELLOW ARMENIANS, BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN PERSECUTED ENOUGH BY MANY ENEMIES THAT SURROUNDED US THROUGH CENTURIES; LET US NOW BE UNITED, BE FAIR, BE HONORABLE AND JUST WITH ONE ANOTHER, SO THAT WE CAN CONTINUE TO BE PROUD OF OUR LONG LIVED HERITAGE AS WELL AS OUR DYNAMIC CIVILIZATION".
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Posted 23 August 2005 - 11:36 AM
By Emil Danielyan
Armenian law-enforcement authorities remain reluctant to prosecute a Yerevan resident accused of defrauding two prominent Armenian-American philanthropists despite court rulings that recognized the latter as “victims” of an apparent crime.
The attorneys for George Najarian and his wife Carolann accused Armenia’s Office of Prosecutor-General on Tuesday of artificially dragging out its criminal investigation into the alleged misappropriation of real property claimed by the two U.S. citizens. “They are taking all possible and impossible measures to drag out the investigation,” one of the two lawyers, Ashot Poghosian, told RFE/RL.
“In effect, they are not implementing the decision of the courts and requirements of the law,” said the other lawyer, Hrayr Ghukasian.
The case is having a growing resonance in the Armenian community in the United States. Some of its prominent members sympathetic to the Najarians regard it as a litmus test of the Armenian government’s stated commitment to the rule of law and.
The Najarians, who have engaged in extensive charitable work in Armenia and Nagorno-Artsax for the past 15 years, have been pushing for a fraud case against their former Yerevan-based representative, Grigor Igitian, for the past two years. Igitian is the formal owner of a photo shop and two buildings currently constructed in downtown Yerevan.
The Najarians, however, insist that in fact the lucrative property belongs to them and that they registered it in Igitian's name in 1996 because Armenian law at the time did not allow foreigners to own land in the country. They claim to have invested $500,000 in the assets.
Igitian says he himself raised most of the money working as an English-language interpreter and receiving a large inheritance several years ago. The prosecutors accepted the explanation last year but were forced to take up the case after losing a court battle with the Diaspora benefactors in April. Armenia’s Court of Appeals upheld at the time two lower court rulings that gave weight to the fraud allegations.
The prosecutors formally reopened the probe on May 18 but did not bring any charges against Igitian. Sources close to the inquiry say they instead questioned and even bullied witnesses whose earlier testimony substantiated the fraud claims. They allegedly threatened to imprison at least one of them.
The Najarians’ lawyers again took the prosecutors to the court last month, demanding that Igitian be formally charged and that they be allowed to be present at the interrogations of the fraud suspect and witnesses. The district court in central Yerevan rejected the demands as “unfounded” on August 16.
Under Armenian law, a criminal inquiry can proceed indefinitely as long as nobody has been charged in connection with it. “It’s been two years since the Najarians began fighting with the prosecutors and with no suspects identified by the prosecutors, only God knows how long this investigation will last,” said Ghukasian. “I am bewildered also because they are not denying that there is sufficient evidence [to prosecute Igitian].”
Meanwhile, the Najarians, who hailed the April court ruling as a “great victory for the judicial system of Armenia,” appear increasingly frustrated with the latest turn of events. They have initiated a campaign of open letters to President Robert Kocharian and other senior government officials. A sample letter, already signed by some U.S. citizens of Armenian descent, demands an end to “the corrupt practices of the Armenian Prosecutor-General's Office which have, in effect, led to the expropriation of their investments and are causing Armenia to lose face internationally.”
“Armenia’s top law enforcement officials cannot be involved in unethical and illegal practices if Armenia is to be considered a democracy,” reads the letter.
The corruption allegations were effectively dismissed by a senior prosecutor on Tuesday, however. “If there are concrete facts of corruption in this case, you should appeal to me personally,” Mihran Minasian, head of a special anti-corruption unit within the Prosecutor-General’s Office, told reporters in Yerevan. “I will study them thoroughly and respond to you as soon as possible.”
“But generally speaking, the fact that a particular prosecuting structure finds a positive or negative solution to an issue alone doesn’t mean it is definitely corrupt,” Minasian added.
In an article last November, Carolann Najarian alleged that the investigators are “following orders from persons within the government who stand to benefit from expropriating these properties from us.” But she did not name anyone.
The letter supporting Najarian and her husband also warns that “foreign investors will only invest in a just, fair, and democratic Armenia.” According to lawyer Poghosian, the authorities’ handling of the case creates a totally different image of the country. “I can’t think of a worse message to people who want to help or invest in Armenia,” he said.
(RFE/RL photo: Carolann Najarian and Ashot Poghosian speaking at a news conference in April.)
Posted 01 September 2005 - 03:48 PM
Najarians are now forced to take drastic actions
[June 15, 2005]
Last week Armenian-American businessmen and philanthropists Carolann and George Najarian were in Yerevan . They discovered that regarding their court case no progress has been made. They sent a letter to General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepyan expressing their surprise that nothing had changed regarding their case (See also: The Court of Cassation Will Hear the Najarians' Case).
The Najarians have decided to appeal to the US Court System to defend their rights. In this case, the Republic of Armenia would be accused of wrongdoings.
June 6, 2005
His Excellency Aghvan Hovsepyan
General Prosecutor of the Republic of Armenia
Dear Mr. Hovsepyan:
After investigating our case regarding the fraudulent misappropriation of our property for many months, and after interrogating witnesses, including us, for scores of hours, the gathering of hundreds of documents and, after the humiliation of having to confront the criminal during the course of this investigation, your subordinates made an illegal decision to dismiss the case, and claimed that there was no crime committed against us, and suggested we go to civil court.
The courts' ruling terminating your subordinates' illegal decision was appealed by your subordinates twice. The public court hearings on the case made it obvious that your subordinates have acted as the representative of the criminal through the whole process. The court hearings showed, as well, that the decision your subordinates made to dismiss the case was based on falsified evidence aimed at supporting the criminal while all key evidence and proof confirming that a crime was committed against us, was ignored. Specifically, one of the arguments used in court by your subordinates for defending the criminal was the fact that we offered him a settlement, a settlement which you personally led Carolann Najarian to believe was the only way to regain our properties during your last meeting with her.
As a result of actions by your subordinates, and almost a two year long process over an obvious crime committed against us, our property has been expropriated and remains expropriated, while your subordinates continue helping the criminal to escape from justice.
Three levels of Armenian courts confirmed through public hearings that our property was misappropriated and expropriated; your subordinates violated the law, deprived us from our lawful rights, impeded the fair investigation of the case and wrongly dismissed the case. However, instead of obeying court decisions after coming into force more than a month ago, your subordinates continue to violate the law, ignore the court decisions, and summon witnesses who previously gave accusing testimonies against the criminal, with the express purpose of exerting pressure on them to change their affidavits. They have also denied lawful petitions from our representatives to be part of the course of the case, have refused to name the criminal and now, even are trying to interrogate our lawyers in response to their lawful appeals – which is, as you know, illegal under Armenian and international law. We are also aware of your subordinates' attempts to illegally influence persons involved in the decision making on the case.
The practice of protecting the criminal, keeping our property expropriated, violating the law and Armenia 's international treaty obligations and intimidating witnesses and lawyers thus destroying Armenia 's reputation by your subordinates must stop immediately. We demand the lawful and public hearing of this case. The continued denial of this, our lawful right, is forcing us to submit this case for resolution to international courts, a process which we have, up to now, patiently sought to avoid.
K. George and Carolann Najarian
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Posted 01 September 2005 - 06:10 PM
That would be a good lesson to see a few judges and prosecutors internationally embarassed, though if you think about they have no shame, and only the international image of Armenia will be tarnished. They dont care about anything, only their money.
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