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Vahe Sarukhanyan

Edik Baghdasaryan

Former Armenian Officials Have Not Declared Dubai Apartments

Former Yerevan Mayor Gagik Beglaryan is just one of Armenia’s long-list of politicians and businesspeople who own residences in Dubai, the Emirati desert city known as a haven for tax evasion and money laundering.

Some have purchased expensive properties that were not declared in their financial disclosures.

Armenian oligarchs, politicians, and various government officials have made Dubai their home away from home. They organize their children's weddings there, celebrate birthdays, hold political consultations, reach agreements for deals, and settle disputes. Some of them spend New Year's holidays there with their families. Their wives shop there.

In the summer of 2018, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published Dubai’s Golden Sands, an extensive report on Dubai and its booming real estate market. The report describes Dubai as “a one-stop shop where the world’s wealthy can avoid taxes, dodge sanctions, launder money, or hide their assets from police or taxpayers back home.”

On examining the data, Hetq, the OCCRP’s Armenian partner, found real estate transactions associated with several current and former Armenian officials and businesspeople, raising questions about how some of them can afford such expensive property. The list also includes individuals who have played important roles in Armenia’s economy.

This time, we again obtained the data from OCCRP, which in turn, as last time, received them from the Washington-based non-profit organization C4ADS (The Center for Advanced Defense Studies, Inc.), which studies international crime and conflicts.

The number of Armenians who own property in Dubai is quite large, but not all of them are known to the public. This time, we selected four former high-ranking officials who violated the law by not declaring their Dubai assets.

Former Yerevan Mayor Bought an Apartment on Palm Jumeirah

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Gagik Beglaryan's political career flourished from the early 1990s until 2016. From 1993-1995, and for a short period in 2012, he was a member of Armenia’s parliament. He served as head of Yerevan’s Kentron District from 2002-2009 and later held the post of Yerevan mayor (2009-2010). He went on to become Minister of Transportation and Communications Minister of Transport and Communications (2012-2016).

He is now charged of property embezzlement and money laundering. The criminal case includes the embezzlement of several buildings of Yerevan kindergartens, while serving in the municipality.

On the other hand, the Armenian Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) now wants to forfeiture many of Beglaryan’s properties.

Beglaryan never declared his three-bedroom Dubai apartment at the Balqis Residence, a mixed-use residential and serviced apartment complex on the crescent of Palm Jumeirah. The PGO hasn’t included it in the list of assets to be confiscated.

The real estate subject to confiscation presented by the PGO is located only in Armenia.

According to the data at our disposal, Beglaryan acquired this property from 2008 to 2018. Exactly when is hard to say. Currently, the market price of three-bedroom apartments at the Balqis Residence starts at 4.5 million Arab dirhams (US $1.2 million).

Armenia’s Corruption Prevention Commission (CPC), which accepts financial disclosures from officials, informed Hetq that Beglaryan never declared the apartment. Concealing data subject to declaration has been criminalized in Armenia since July 2017. Beglaryan filed his last declaration in February 2017.

Hetq wrote to Beglaryan, asking why he never declared his real estate in Dubai. We were also interested in when the apartment was bought and what was the reason for investing (acquiring property) in Dubai. Although Beglaryan received our letter, he did not respond. Hetq met with the former official for clarification, but Beglaryan didn’t comment.

The former mayor and minister is not the only one from the Beglaryan family to buy property in Dubai.

Beglaryan’s Brother Also Owns Dubai Apartment

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Gagik Beglaryan's younger brother Hakob Beglaryan also bought an apartment in Dubai. He bought the property between 2007 and 2017. He held the position of the head of the State Procurement Agency and later the Purchase Support Center (2005-2012). The younger Beglaryan also served as Armenian Deputy Minister of Urban Development, the Deputy Chairman of the State Urban Development Committee (2014-2017), and in 2017-2019, as a member of the National Assembly.

Hakob Beglaryan bought a two-bedroom apartment at the Fairmont Palm Residence, a complex of 558 deluxe apartments, townhouses and penthouses.

According to the Dubai property registry, the annual fee for renting a two-bedroom apartment in Palm Jumeirah can cost 134,000-164,000 Arab dirhams ($36K-45K) which does not include utility bills. Hakob Beglaryan still owns the apartment even though it has no tenant. Currently, a two-bedroom apartment can be purchased at the Fairmont Palm Residence starting at 3.3 million Arab dirhams ($900K).

We also wrote to Hakob Beglaryan, via post, but our letter was undeliverable. We then called the former MP's mobile number. After verifying that the person talking to him was a journalist, the person, in Beglaryan’s voice said: "He’s not here. He’s not in the city," and then hung up.

Hakob Beglaryan Never Declared Dubai Apartment

Hakob Beglaryan, according to the Armenia’s Corruption Prevention Commission (CPC), has never declared property in Dubai. After it became a crime to conceal declarable assets in July 2017, Hakob Beglaryan filed three disclosures with the Corruption Prevention Commission. The last declaration which was submitted after leaving the parliament in January 2019 should contain the data of the Dubai apartment.

In February 2019, when Beglaryan submitted this disclosure, the former Criminal Code was in force. It stipulated that the concealment of particularly large assets (over 1 million drams) is punishable by 2-4 years of imprisonment, with or without deprivation of the right to hold certain positions or engage in certain activities for a maximum of 3 years.

Former MP Hrant Davtyan Owns Two Apartments in Dubai

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Hrant Davtyan is one of those Armenians who bought property in Dubai relatively early. He was a member of the National Assembly in 2012-2017 and 2018-2019. Davtyan is one of the persons Hetq wrote about in 2019. However, we wrote that Davtyan, who was still in office at that time, only had one apartment because we had no information about the other one.

Hetq Query Forced Davtyan to Declare One of the Apartments

Based on the data we had, we wrote that Davtyan owns an apartment in the Dubai Marina district, an artificial canal built along a two-mile stretch of Persian Gulf shoreline lined with luxury residential towers and villas. Davtyan owns a seventh-floor apartment in one of the Al Sahab twin towers. 

Davtyan bought the property somewhere between 1997 and 2007. When he became a member of the National Assembly in 2012, he did not declare this apartment, which he was obliged to do. As we’ve noted, concealing data subject to declaration was not considered a crime until July 2017. This loophole allowed many Armenian officials to hide the facts. It was the Corruption Prevention Commission that informed Hetq that Davtyan failed to declare his Dubai apartment until 2018.  Hetq’s digging into the matter also played a role in getting Davtyan to come clean.

Davtyan reentered the parliament in the summer of 2018, when one of his party members refused the mandate. Afterwards, Hetq asked him about the property he bought in Dubai.

He confirmed to Hetq that he has property in Dubai, but said it wasn’t registered under his name, suggesting the name of a family member may have been used.

“We bought it probably some 15 years ago,” he said. “I think it measures 86 square meters.” The data shows that the property is registered in his name.

After this conversation, in September 2018, Davtyan filed a financial disclosure with the CPC, listing the Dubai apartment for the first time, years after buying it. We recently learned from the commission that the property declared in 2018 is jointly owned property. Our data shows that Davtyan and his wife are the owners.

According to Davtyan, the apartment was purchased around 2003, fifteen years before his conversation with Hetq.

We learnt from the Dubai property registry that the couple leased the property, which currently has a tenant. According to the registry, the annual fee for renting a one-bedroom apartment in Dubai Marina can be 71,000-87,000 Arab dirhams ($20K-24K). One-bedroom apartments can be purchased at the Al Sahab complex starting at 1.4 million Arab dirhams ($380,000).

When becoming an MP in 2018 and leaving the parliament in 2019, Davtyan submitted declarations listing this apartment. Thus, he did not commit a violation.

But now we come to his second Dubai apartment. Hrant Davtyan bought a property in Dubai, about which he did not inform either the Hetq journalist or the Corruption Prevention Commission.

Davtyan's Second Dubai Apartment

Davtyan bought an apartment in the Trident Grand Residence apartment building in Dubai Marina between 2011 and 2015. He is the sole owner of the two-bedroom apartment, which he rents out.

According to the Dubai Cadaster, the annual rental fee for a two-bedroom apartment in Dubai Marina can be 103,000-125,000 Arab dirhams ($28K-34K). The cost of similar Trident Grand Residence apartments starts at 2.1 million Arab dirhams ($570K).

According to the cadaster, there’s a dispute related to Davtyan's property since August 2022, and a ban has been placed on actions related to the apartment (sale, new lease).

The fact that Davtyan did not declare this property in 2018-2019, when he served as a deputy for the second time, should attract the attention of Armenian law enforcement officers, because Davtyan's actions fall under the scope of the Criminal Code.

Hetq sent questions both to the Beglaryan brothers and to Hrant Davtyan.

Davtyan did not respond to our letter, but suggested that we meet in person, which we did. During the meeting, he said he failed to declare his second apartment in Dubai because he simply forgot.

Davtyan has Armenian neighbors, who are known in Armenia, at Trident Grand Residence. We’re referring to former MP, businessman Samvel Aleksanyan and his wife, Shogherina Mkrtchyan.

Hrant Davtyan’s Brother Also Purchased Property in Dubai

Hrant Davtyan’s brother, Hovhannes Davtyan, bought an apartment in Dubai in 2009-2013. The one-bedroom apartment is in Summer Cluster of a mixed-use urban development called the Seasons Community.

According to Dubai Cadaster, the apartment is rented out. The annual fee for renting a one-bedroom apartment there can cost between 50,000-61,000 Arab dirhams ($14K-17K). The purchase price for one-bedroom apartments in Jumeirah Village Circle starts at 425,000 Arab dirhams ($116,000).

Despite the official cadastral data, that Hovhannes Davtyan is the current owner of the apartment, Hrant Davtyan told us his brother sold the house.

Samvel Aleksanyan And Shogherina Mkrtchyan are Neighbors of Hrant Davtyan

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Businessman Samvel Aleksanyan was a member of the National Assembly from 2003 to 2019. He and his wife, Shogherina Mkrtchyan, bought a three-bedroom apartment at Trident Grand Residence between 2012 and 2014.

They rented out the apartment. 

According to the Dubai Cadaster, the annual rental fee for a three-bedroom apartment in the Dubai Marina area ranges from 147,000-179,000 Arab dirhams ($40K-49K). The sales price for something similar starts at 4.2 million Arab dirhams ($1.1 million).

We have learned from the Corruption Prevention Commission that neither Aleksanyan nor his wife has ever declared real estate in Dubai. This will cause legal problems for them because in 2014 they were already the owners of that apartment, but they did not declare the property until January 2019 when Aleksanyan left the parliament.

As in the case of other officials, in the case of Aleksanyan, Hetq compiled questions and sent them by mail to his registration address. However, the postman failed to deliver it to the former official. Hetq met the businessman who told us that he had previously forgotten to declare his property in Dubai.

The Prosecutor General’s Office did not confirm whether it is investigating the assets of Samvel Aleksanyan, Hakob Beglaryan or Hrant Davtyan, arguing such information is confidential.

In any case, this publication of ours can become a basis for law enforcement to start investigating the property and income of the mentioned officials and their related persons, or if already launched, to expand the investigation’s scope, going beyond the borders of Armenia and including the undeclared property mentioned above.

Collage: Tirayr Muradyan

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