Less than two months after an Armenian politician claimed that Vartan Oskanian was a "U.S. intelligence agent" (see the news article in question at the bottom of this page), Armenia's National Security Service (NSS) announced that it has begun an investigation on him, as well as his foreign-funded organization known as Civilitas. Since official Yerevan cannot directly accuse Oskanian of being an agent of Washington, they are instead accusing him of other offenses (which is not to imply that his other offenses are not real).
It's encouraging to see that Armenian officials have finally learned the "Western" way of handling contentious political matters. Being on the receiving end of a modus operandi that the West has perfected throughout the years, namely that of silencing their domestic political opposition by legal technicalities, of course the staff at the CIA-run "Radio Liberty" is crying foul, and their cries may soon be joined by a chorus of cries by Western propaganda outlets such as Asbarez, Armenian Weekly, Hetq, ArmeniaNow, Lragir, Policy Forum Armenia, etc.
Yes, in the big picture what happened to Oskanian is ultimately a politically motivated affair, as it should be. Coming on the heals of the Whore of Babylon's visit to Armenia, the case against Oskanian may also be a clear message to Washington. Perhaps with Moscow's encouragement, Yerevan is clearly signalling to Washington that it will not turn a blind eye to Western operations in Armenia. Needless to say, this has all come just in the nick of time. Vartan Oskanian and his Civilitas were becoming a serious problem. There is an active agenda to seed Armenia for an "Arab Spring", and Oskanian's Civilitas has been one of the centers of the operation.
So, is Vartan Oskanian really working for Washington?
Since I have not personally seen a CIA paycheck made out to Oskanian, I can only look at the man's past, take into consideration his affiliations, observe where he derives his financial support and assess his political actions. Thus, based on what I have been able to observe, it is very clear to me that Vartan Oskanian is one of many operatives serving Western interests in Armenia today. In the big picture, it is not important if Oskanian is a paid soldier for the West or if he is just an opportunist politician attempting to manipulate the political climate in Armenia in his favor. What's important is that his actions in Armenia are ultimately serving a Western political agenda. It should also be mentioned that Vartan Oskanian and Raffi Hovanissian are both graduates of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts. The elite university in question (the oldest of its kind in America) is known to have CIA affiliations. We also know that such elite universities in the West are where Western intelligence agencies recruit their operatives.
Some are now raising the question regarding Oskanian's role in Robert Kocharyan's administration. If Oskanian serves a Western political agenda, what was he doing in Yerevan for so many years?
By giving him a prominent position President Kocharyan was essentially appeasing the political West at a time when Moscow was still relatively weak in the region. Since its independence in 1991 officials in Yerevan has actively sought to play both sides of the geopolitical fence. Every Armenian administration, including the current one, has had officials willing to appease the political West. Needless to say, Levon Petrosian's administration was the worst in this regard. Nevertheless, Moscow reluctantly tolerated this situation throughout much of the 1990s. In fact, the overall political climate in Armenia only began to tilt towards Russia during the mid-2000s. It needs to be said that the parliamentary assassinations of October 27, 1999 may have been a turning point. After the assassinations in question, after Putin's rise to power and after the second Chechen war, Yerevan felt the region's political center-of-gravity shift northwards. Needless to say, the events of August 2008 served to cement Russia's return into the south Caucasus.
Yerevan has been emphasizing its relations with the Bear in recent years. President Sargsyan's current administration is a good reflection of this political tilt. Although Yerevan today continues to flirt with the West, for the first time since its independence, Armenia and Russia are in a firm embrace. While the West controls various international levers in Armenia and some of the nation's political opposition, Moscow controls much of the republic's strategic infrastructure, its economy, its energy and its military.
Which brings me to the following question: Why did Oskanian abandon his position in the Armenian government in 2007?
During a press-conference sometime back in 2007 I vividly recall Oskanian emphatically stating that he will not be accepting any positions in the Armenian government after the 2008 presidential elections. When asked why, he simply said there were going to be some "changes" in the government that he did not want to be a part of. We can only guess as to what he meant.
In hindsight it's now obvious that he was planning on going solo. Seeing that he had already left a significant imprint in Armenia's political landscape, Oskanian was clearly planning a solo performance. Moreover, the "changes" he spoke about may also have had something to do with the institutionalization of Armenian-Russian relations, which occurred soon after Serj Sargsyan took power in 2008. Under President Sargsyan, the last four years has witnessed a great increase in collaborative relations between Yerevan and Moscow, including the historic signing of a major military pact that extended the Russian military presence in Armenia to the middle of this century. Soon after Vartan Oskanian voluntarily abandoned his position in the Armenian government he founded Civilitas, and he has more-or-less been the voice of America in Armenia ever since.
Now, a brief word about Armenia's quintessential oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan and his Oskanian connection.
In what turned out to be one of the more surreal political developments in Armenia in recent times, several months ago we discovered that Captain America, Vartan Oskanian, was joining forces with none-other-than the former arm-wrestler turned billionaire oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan! Yes, Vartan Oskanian and Dodi Gago! Washington must really be desperate!
Just think... The anti-corruption-pro-Washington-pro-West-democratic-crusading Oskanian joining forces with the very kingpin of corruption and oligarchy in Armenia and yet none of our democracy-now yahoos were connecting the dots. Virtually no one in the Armenian news press or in Armenia's so-called opposition was questioning or criticizing this dubious political move. I guess this may be a good example of the effetcs of Washington's mass hypnosis on the masses. Nevertheless, having thus secured Washington's support via Oskanian, arguably Armenia's most ambitious political roughneck then began seeking Moscow's support by publicly reaching out to Russia's president elect Vladimir Putin -
Prosperous Armenia seeks Putin’s support: http://www.panarmenian.net/eng/news/98996/
Back in 2007 Tsarukyan's political party Barkavaj Hayastan became a contender in the presidential race in Armenia. As with all political competitions, Tsarukyan soon began badmouthing his main rival, Serj Sargsyan. However, Tsarukyan didn't stop merely there, Armenia's most ambitious oligarch went a big step further; he also began talking negatively about Russia. Then suddenly on April 12, 2007 two of Tsrukyan's offices blew up! Not much was said about the extraordinary incident by the news press in Armenia. The following inconspicuous commentary about the incident was written by the British agent/rights activist Onnik Krikorian -
Merely days after the explosion it was said that Tsarukyan had flown to Moscow. Not much was said about why he took the trip or what he did while he was there. However, after he returned, he was a new man. He quietly dropped out of the presidential race and began talking highly of Armenia's alliance with Russia. In an interview with a Russian news agency on April 18, 2007 Tsarukyan curiously commented that "we will develop 90 percent of our relations with Russia and 10 percent with Europe and others" -
I am not making any concrete claims here but the progression of events are telling indeed. Anyway, Tsarukyan's political party is back in the presidential race today. By having invited Oskanian to come on board, Tsarukyan seemed to have secured Western/Washington's support. But this time around, Tsarukyan was smart enough to ask for Putin's blessing as well. But it didn't seem to matter much in the end. Instead of Tsarukyan's offices going up in flames this time, what blew-up was Barkavaj Hayastan's Western front-man's reputation and credibility.
Is Former Foreign Minister Oskanian on a pathway to political self-destruction?
There is absolutely no doubt that the May 6 Armenian parliamentary elections were marred by serious irregularities, large-scale bribes and outright fraud. Many political leaders and observers criticized the tainted polls — some with healthy, and some others with ulterior motives. Soon after the elections ended, Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) and Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) came under fire by Armenian former President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. Interestingly, former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, a ranking member of the rival Prosperous Armenia Party agreed expediently.
Oskanian’s all-too-willingness to appease the former Pres. Ter-Petrossyan seems to have back-fired among his fellow PAP members. They questioned Oskanian’s allegiance. Exacerbating the situation for Mr. Gagik Tsarukyan the leader of PAP, Oskanian arbitrarily declared that he “would strongly object to Prosperous Armenia’s establishing a coalition with the ruling Republican Party of Armenia again.” Naira Zohrabyan, the spokeswoman of PAP refuted Oskanian’s statement.
Committing one political fiasco after another, he erroneously boasted: “The reason for my leaving the government is that I was discontent with the situation. Do not think that the authorities longed for my resignation, rather, they (Pres. Sargsyan’s administration) not only offered me a post, but also begged me to stay.” In reality, in early 2008, Mr. Oskanian had reportedly appealed and reportedly even engaged the lobbying services of second Pres. Kocharyan in order to convince Pres. Sargsyan to grant him a cabinet post. Back then despite Pres. Kocharyan’s efforts with then newly elected third Pres. Sargsyan; Oskanian was nixed.
Last week, belatedly speaking out against corrupt oligarchs, he declared: “It seems that people in high echelons of power began to realize that things cannot continue in this way.” Commentators on A1plus.am questioned his honesty: “Some people asked why he did not criticize the authorities when he was holding a high-ranking position in the government?” Oskanian stated: “When I was the country’s foreign minister, I was in no way related to the sectors I am criticizing today.”
But many observers are wondering, how come he has now closely associated himself with PAP’s Tsarukyan, one of Armenia’s top oligarchs? Can anyone function in Armenia without being closely associated with the oligarchs? Twenty years have passed since Armenia’s independence from the former Soviet Union. Yet, unfortunately Armenia has not been able to free itself from the yoke of corrupt leaders and plunderers. So why is Mr. Oskanian shedding crocodile tears and for whom? Is it because the current powers-that-be refuse to co-opt him?
Now that he is elected as a Member of Parliament, it is widely anticipated that he will milk to the max his new position by constantly barraging Armenian readers and viewers with endless chains of press conferences fueled by petty personal interests and political vendettas. As if his dismal popularity both in the homeland and Diaspora wasn’t worrisome enough, a few days ago, he himself triggered a new wave of anti-Oskanian criticism. He said to Today’s Zaman Turkish daily: “If the problem over the Nagorno-Karabakh could be solved by Armenia and Turkey, then Turkey could open its border with Armenia.”
Was he hinting at his 2007 anti-Armenian declarations as FM? Back then he had ignited widespread indignation in Armenia, Artsakh, and the Diaspora, when he expressed willingness to “hand” the liberated Armenian Karvadjar in Artsakh to Azerbaijan. Exposing ex-FM’s true persona, in late 2011 the whistleblower website Wiki Leaks released a classified cable sent by U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch on February 25, 2010 to report on a meeting with former FM Oskanian.
During the meeting, the cable said, Oskanian accused Pres. Sargsyan of “mishandling the entire process. In Oskanian’s view, the controversy surrounding the protocols has prevented any movement on Nagorno Karabakh. … Oskanian criticized the manner in which President Sargsyan has handled the entire process. According to him, the President ‘put the cart before the horse.’”
“Oskanian did not understand why … Pres. Sargsyan began the process with Turkey so publicly, and how unprepared he was for the negative public reaction. … the President should have expended his political capital with Armenian citizens and the Diaspora to persuade them that some of the Nagorno Karabakh territories must be returned to Azerbaijan. … Oskanian said this had been his plan as Foreign Minister,” the cable says.
In response to the ambassador’s question on how to move the process forward, Oskanian responded that the “protocols cannot be left in abeyance. … He truly hopes the protocols will be ratified by both sides.”
Going further back, in a May 2000 article titled “Exchanging Meghri With Karabagh: Good Idea or Political Suicide?,” Harut Sassounian, Publisher of The California Courier blasted then FM Oskanian for the latter’s treasonous idea on giving Meghri to Azerbaijan. During a community forum in Glendale, California, Oskanian had tried to “sell” the Meghri Plan: “There are many rumors about the resolution of the Karabagh conflict. There are criticisms alleging that the Armenian authorities want to give Meghri to Azerbaijan. In fact, there is a small degree of truth in those rumors. Such a proposal on the exchange of territories has been made to the Armenian Republic, to the President of Armenia. … It has been rejected… But when people say that it’s treasonous to even think about it … This proposal has a certain logic. … because this proposal is worth thinking about.”
To which Sassounian swiftly responded in his commentary: “There isn’t much to think about in this proposal. Armenia is basically being asked to cede to Azerbaijan one of the most strategic parts of its already tiny territory in return for (Artsakh) Karabagh. This would be exchanging one Armenian territory with another. We would be cutting off Armenia from Iran, strategically a very important access to the outside world. By ceding Meghri, we would also be helping the Turks to achieve their age-old dream of Pan-Turkism, linking Turkey through Nakhitchevan and Meghri to the Turkic Republics of Central Asia. … I am confident that both Iran and Russia would strongly pressure Armenia not to go ahead with it in order to safeguard their interests. …Armenia has nothing to gain and much to lose from such an exchange.”
Why would any sitting President or future leaders re-engage his services fully knowing that during his decade-long tenure as FM, Oskanian has caused considerable political damage to Armenia?
Oskanian was Foreign Minister for too long, without having achieved any substantial gains for Armenia. Furthermore, Armenia squandered away many valuable opportunities for diplomatic gains in the international arena and even sustained self-inflicted damages thanks to FM Oskanian’s mishandling of several cases at the United Nations and elsewhere. He repeatedly failed in giving timely guidance to Armenia’s ambassadors. On many occasions, Armenia’s succeeding Permanent Representatives at the UN were deprived of effective political orientation because of their incompetent FM’s chronic inaction. And as a result, they have missed golden opportunities to cast important votes. Yet they simply abstained from voting causing an Armenian political retreat in the international arena.
It is also absurd that on countless occasions, as the foreign minister of a land-liberating state – Armenia – Oskanian obstinately mislabeled the liberated Armenian lands as “occupied” territories! In reference to Oskanian’s 2007 championing of the so-called Madrid Principles, David Boyajian, a leading Armenian American activist asked: “Does Oskanian have any guiding principles at all?”
In 2004, when UK Amb. Thorda Abbott-Watt denied the Armenian Genocide there was total silence at the Armenian Foreign Ministry. When criticized for his timid muteness then FM Oskanian claimed that he had given a diplomatic note “strongly criticizing” the British amb.’s denial. But later it became clear that contrary to his allegations Oskanian had simply given a friendly note advising the denialist UK Ambassador to ignore the Armenian Genocide issue.
One wonders if Oskanian is more sensitive to his own personal interests at the expense of the Armenian people. His over-zealous attempts to appease Turkey and its cronies make Armenians wonder if he is qualified to hold any diplomatic or government post. Recently over 2000 students in Turkey were poisoned by toxic milk provided free of charge by Ankara. Is it possible that Oskanian too drank tainted Turkish milk?
A debate is raging on throughout Armenia and the Diaspora on whether this week’s criminal investigation of Republic of Armenia’s Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian has any merits or it is politically motivated.
Mr. Oskanian and his Civilitas Foundation are accused of failing to report US$2 million donations received from the sale of 100% shares of Huntsman Building Products, LLC JSC owned by the U.S.-based Polymer Materials and Huntsman International corporations, and for misusing important portions of the funds donated for charitable purposes. The National Security Service (NSS) press service announced it launched criminal proceedings for “money laundering based on Article 190 Para 3.1 of the Criminal Code of Armenia.”
The NSS also charged that US $1.135 million representing a sizable chunk of the $2 million proceeds from the sale of Huntsman Building Products, LLC JSC “was transferred to the bank accounts of Civilitas’ founder Vartan Oskanian and member of the board of trustees Tigran Karapetyan. Besides, Civilitas Foundation, breaking its own statutes and rules, has submitted no financial report in 2011 on the charity money allotted by Polymer Materials and Huntsman International corporations,” reported ArmTown.com news service. The NSS underlined that it has ordered “tax inspections and is taking other measures to ensure an objective and comprehensive investigation.”
In response to the criminal case initiated against him, Mr. Oskanian stated Tuesday: ”Today the National Security Service issued a statement trying to prove that the criminal case they have initiated is not politically motivated. I repeat that it is clearly politically motivated and I want to say the following: ‘money laundering,’ ‘Oskanian,’ ‘Huntsman’ are words that cannot be placed together in one sentence. In order for there to be money laundering, there must first be dirty money. In this case, the sources of the funds are known, the buyer is known, and the transfer of the funds to me and to Civilitas according to the donor’s wishes has been transparent and electronic. The attorneys have said that no tax obligation was created as a result of the transaction. And the donor’s funds ‘shall be considered as a donation and the Recipient has the right to use in its discretion and for the implementation of its statutory objectives.’ Only those with political motivations will attempt to reduce a good man’s good work to political currency.”
Armenia’s Prime Minister Tigran Sagsyan was quoted by RFE/RL to have told reporters that he ruled out political motivations in the case. “Nobody has been charged. We are only talking about clearing up some circumstances.” “Unfortunately, when the state tries to carry out some actions to clarify phenomena hidden behind one or another piece of information people immediately allege a political subtext,” he said. Since it’s too early to arrive at a conclusion, for now I would like to limit the scope of this article to asking a set of $2 million-questions.
- Was there a contract between Mr. Huntsman, Mr. Oskanian and The Civilitas Foundation on the terms of the allocation of the donated funds?
- If there was a contract, what are the terms of the agreement? Mr. Oskanian can help clarify matters by making a copy of the contract public.
- Did Mr. Oskanian misallocate any portions of the $2 million Huntsman funds by earmarking them for personal use?
- Did he use any portions of the $2 million Huntsman charitable donation to finance his May 2012 political campaign?
On other financial issues, namely other funds raised during the last three years, I wrote to Salpi H. Ghazarian, the Director of The Civilitas Foundation asking to provide answers to couple questions:
- What are the sources of income itemizing the amounts of donations received for the last three years?
- How were the received funds disbursed for the last three years?
I received no response from Ms. Ghazarian. After couple more emails an assistant pointed to the last three years’ financial statements posted on the website (civilitasfoundation.org). The statements failed to provide answers to my questions. I further continued my research and noticed that there are three entities using the name “Civilitas.” The first one is The Civilitas Foundation (www.civilitasfoundation.org) headquartered in Yerevan, Armenia; the second is The Civilitas Global (www.civilitasamerica.org) headquartered in Glendale, California, USA; and the third is The Civilitas Foundation also headquartered in Glendale, California, USA.
I again wrote to Ms. Ghazarian asking for clarification whether “these three organizations are affiliated with each other in any way? If they are affiliated,” I further requested that she provide USA Armenian Life Magazine with “the 2009, 2010 and 2011 annual tax returns of all three of them.” I also called the Glendale offices of The Civilitas Foundation and The Civilitas Global in order to get some information. The first time, the telephone was answered by a male voice. As soon as I introduced myself he hung up. After about 30 minutes, I placed a second call. This time a female voice answered. She hung up also.
Because of the fact that this case has already triggered dozens of questions; it’s irrelevant whether the criminal case against Mr. Oskanian is politically motivated. It is even more irrelevant because of the clear fact that The Civilitas Foundation seems to have been used as a political spring board by Mr. Oskanian during his forced “retirement” from public office (2008-May 2012) by Pres. Serge Sargsyan’s administration. So, wasn’t the creation of Civilitas politically motivated?
As for Mr. Huntsman, he may be anxious to get to the bottom of this more than anybody. Any mishandling of the funds or a portion thereof may definitely become a source of embarrassment and may even cause a tax audit by the Internal Revenue Service in the United States. Besides Oskanian’s reputation, Mr. Huntsman’s good reputation stands to be tarnished if the proper transfer and use of his donated funds have been misused. Mr. Oskanian owes it to himself, his people in Armenia and the Diaspora, and to Mr. Huntsman to clarify the disbursement of the Huntsman funds by itemizing the expenditures made out of these funds.
Finally, it is hopeful that PM Sargsyan realizes that if this investigation is not allowed to run its course and it gets abruptly derailed, The NSS, and in general, Armenia will suffer irreparable damage to its reputation and international standing. No such case that has criminal and national security ramifications should be abruptly shelved just because some backroom deals may be made between various factions in the government.
No amount of political bullying should interrupt proper investigations of these accusations. Whether these accusations are politically motivated or not the process should be completed. The National Security Services of the Republic of Armenia should prove its independence from all political parties in Armenia by going through the entire process of investigating and if necessary litigating the case against all wrongdoers, including Oskanian.
Why is there Widespread Interest in the Criminal Investigation of Former Foreign Minister Oskanian?
As the news of the criminal investigation of former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian of Armenia broke out last week, a floodgate of news and analysis inundated the electronic and print media in Armenia and the Diaspora. Nearly ten days after the initial media frenzy, the widespread public and media interest in the issue is still gaining steam. One may wonder, why this case triggered literally hundreds of news articles, commentaries, letters-to-the-editor, and blog entries? Here are the key issues that may help explain the phenomena:
- Armenia continues to be the center of attention and the main focus of concern for millions of Armenians in the homeland and the Diaspora;
- What direction will this fledgling democratic state and society take?
- Will Armenia go through radical changes in terms of taming the issue of corruption on all levels, and is the criminal investigation case against Mr. Oskanian an integral part of the anti-corruption campaign?
- Is Armenia’s intent to crack down not just on Oskanian and his Civilitas Foundation, but also on a host of civic and political personalities, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) that are suspected of engaging in questionable political and financial activities in service of foreign interests, to the detriment of Armenia’s national security?
- Whether Mr. Oskanian and his personal assistant Salpi Ghazarian, the current Director of Civilitas Foundation, be afforded due process and a fair trial.
The reasons for widespread and unquenched public interest may also lie in the track record of Mr. Oskanian from the early days in 1991 as a junior official at the Foreign Ministry of Raffi Hovannissyan, under Pres. Levon Ter-Petrosyan; as Deputy Foreign Minister in the last two years of Pres. Ter-Petrosyan’s administration (1996-1998); his overnight desertion of Pres. Ter-Petrosyan and submission to then newly elected Pres. Robert Kocharyan as Foreign Minister (1998-2008); then begging the newly elected Pres. Serge Sargsyan in 2008 to reappoint him as Foreign Minister. Upon Pres. Sargsyan’s adamant refusal, Mr. Oskanian established The Civilitas Foundation. Many observers agree that subsequent to his dismissal or non-reappointment as Foreign Minister, Mr. Oskanian used Civilitas as a springboard to eventually stage a political come-back. All along, Mr. Oskanian presented himself as a Foreign Minister who:
– Didn’t get involved in the internal affairs of Armenia, yet in the waning days of the Kocharyan administration, during a controversial press conference, he infamously justified and white-washed the March 1, 2008 post-presidential election killings of many innocent and peaceful Armenian citizens;
– Had nothing to do with shady business dealings;
– Abstained from getting involved in financial wheeling-and-dealings;
– Is a patriotic Foreign Minister and a ‘model’ Armenian politician, but made many anti-Armenian declarations, such as his willingness to ‘return’ the liberated Armenian Karvadjar region to Azerbaijan, and to hand the strategically indispensable region of Meghri in southern Armenia to Azerbaijan effectively cutting-off Armenia from the outside world via Iran, in return for the latter’s recognition of the already liberated territory of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabagh);
– Is a ‘role model’ for many aspiring young Armenians and portrayed himself as a ‘champion’ of democratic values, while associating himself with Armenia’s oligarchs and monopolists, and most recently – very openly with Mr. Gagik Tsarukyan, the leader of Prosperous Party of Armenia.
– Is a ‘model citizen’ of Armenia, yet, shockingly, accused of corruption. In an interview with Armenpress news agency, Gorik Hakobyan, the Head of the National Security Service pointed out the refusal of Mr. Oskanian and the foundation’s director Salpi Ghazarian to give testimony. Mr. Hakobyan said that instead of “promoting the revelation of the truth, they choose the behavior of a Mafiosi clan structure.”
News coverage of this scandalous affair emanated from all three segments of Armenia’s and Diasporan media: pro-government, opposition, and independent.
Contrary to Mr. Oskanian’s expectations, several opposition media outlets refused to embrace his ‘cause’ as a ‘victim of political persecution.’ They singled out Oskanian’s double-standards and condemned his political opportunism. They also accused him of having his hands soaked in the blood of March 1, 2008 innocent victims in Armenia.
As developments on this case unfolded, three major groups emerged among those following the Oskanian criminal investigation:
1) Oligarchs, Usurpers, Ego-centric Careerists and Opportunists
This group is mostly made-up of individuals who are egocentric and care less about the well-being of fellow Armenians. This group is composed of two camps: Those in power and those in opposition. Depending on which sub-group one belongs to, the members of both camps either conditionally approve the criminal investigation case against Mr. Oskanian or they blindly side with him.
2) Politically Illiterate, Naive and Gullible Patriotic Armenians
This group is mostly made-up of individuals who are patriotic and care about the well-being of fellow Armenians. Yet they are terribly misinformed about the inner workings of intra-national and international politics and what transpires in corridors of power. This group too is composed of two camps: Those who are sympathetic towards either the corrupt elements in power or towards Mr. Oskanian and his fellow camp members based on the limited information that they have or choose to have.
3) Politically Literate, Alert and Pragmatic Patriotic Armenians
This group is overwhelmingly made up of individuals who are patriotic, care about the well-being of fellow Armenians, and mostly tend to be well-informed about who’s who both on intra-national and international levels. Let’s focus on members of this group who are active in the Diaspora. These individuals make a distinction between the American humanitarian-patriotic forces and neo-conservative parasites of economy and politics. They are keenly aware of the fact that these so-called American neo-con circles actively finance hundreds of NGO’s that are directly or indirectly involved in political programs in various countries pushing forward their paymasters’ corrupt agendas. Members of the politically literate, alert and pragmatic patriotic Armenians have already identified several treacherous Armenians in U.S. and Armenia who have wittingly or unwittingly become cronies of the neo-cons. The politically savvy Armenians care less about the corrupt elements in power and Armenian neo-con elements in opposition. They firmly believe that Oskanian is a former member of the corrupt elements in power and a new member of the Armenian corrupt elements in opposition. The politically savvy patriotic Armenians actively seek the elimination of corruption, cronyism, monopolies, usurpers, impoverishment and treason that threaten the foundations of the Armenian statehood. They also tend to see the beginning of the process of mutual elimination for the ultimate benefit of Armenians and Armenia as a whole. They tend to ‘welcome’ the current process through which justice is being served in an ironic way.
What is one’s personal approach to the Oskanian case? It all depends on which group he feels he belongs to. As for Oskanian, which group does he belong to? Does he fall in Group 1, 2, or 3?
Former Armenian FM behaves like mafia member - head of secret service
Armenia’s former FM and Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) MP Vartan Oskanian as a skilled diplomat with rich political experience, attempts to astray the society’s attention and present himself as ‘an innocent victim’ of political pursues, Armenia’s National Security Service head Gorik Hakobyan said in an interview with Armenpress, commenting on the criminal case instigated against Oskanian and Civilitas foundation set up by the latter.
“Oskanian hurried up to declare on the very first day of the interrogation that the instigated criminal case is nothing else but a political order. Hence, he hurried up to astray the society’s attention attempting to politicize the criminal case and create an image of ‘an innocent victim’ of political pursues,” Hakobyan said.
As for the fact that Oskanian and the foundation’s incumbent head Salbi Ghazarian declined from providing testimonies, the secret service head said that law provides them with that opportunity. However, it seems strange that the foundation heads, whose mission is to reinforce civil society, establish law and justice in Armenia, as well as disclose truth, instead choose a behavior similar to a mafia clan representative.
Asked what the base of Oskanian’s statement is, Hakobyan said that the PAP MP simply tries to astray the society’s attention from the main issues by making all this fuss and present himself as ‘an innocent victim’ of political pursues. Oskanian avoids facing the facts. However, the existing issues in the case cannot be left unanswered regardless of anyone’s wish.
Vardan Oskanian is Suspected in Money Laundering
Armenian former Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian's office released a message where Vardan Oskanyan tells he was called to the National Security Service and was asked some questions. The message especially says: ''The National Security Service of the Republic of Armenia has summoned me to offer testimony in relation to a criminal case regarding money laundering, involving myself and the Civilitas Foundation, which I founded.
From the start, the Civilitas Foundation has been transparent, and operated in accordance with the spirit and the letter of Armenian law. Since its first days in 2008, the Civilitas Foundation's programs have been supported by the governments of the Netherlands and Poland, the foreign ministries of Norway and Germany, the international development organizations of Switzerland and the UK, the US Embassy in Yerevan, the OSCE Yerevan Office, as well as other well-known organizations, corporations and individuals.
This has been public information. The government agencies of the Republic of Armenia clearly could not have been ignorant about these relationships. I find it strange and astonishing therefore that my work and the work of Civilitas can in any way be linked to money laundering or illegally acquired funds. Even more astonishing is that such a question is being raised at a time when I have entered politics''. Oskanyan considers that the criminal case that has been opened is politically motivated.
“I find it strange and astonishing that my work and the work of Civilitas can in any way be linked to money laundering or illegally acquired funds,” he said. “Even more astonishing is that such a question is being raised at a time when I have entered politics.” “It is obvious to me that the criminal case that has been opened is politically motivated,” he added.
The NSS, which is the Armenian successor agency to the Soviet KGB and normally deals with very serious criminal cases, confirmed the summons and the launch of criminal proceedings against Oskanian and Civilitas. But it declined to comment further.
Oskanian insisted that Civilitas’s activities have always been transparent and legal. “Since its first days in 2008, the Civilitas Foundation's programs have been supported by the governments of the Netherlands and Poland, the foreign ministries of Norway and Germany, the international development organizations of Switzerland and the UK, the US Embassy in Yerevan, the OSCE Yerevan Office, as well as other well-known organizations, corporations and individuals,” he said. “This has been public information. The government agencies of the Republic of Armenia clearly could not have been ignorant about these relationships.”
Civilitas’s four-year activities have focused on the analysis of political and economic developments in and around Armenia as well as public discussions featuring politicians, intellectuals and other public figures. The think-tank also launched an Internet TV station targeting mainly young Armenians last September. Among members of its Honorary Board are Canada’s former Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, Israel’s former Education Minister Yossi Sarid, Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, U.S.-Armenian rock singer Serj Tankian and Turkish human rights activist Murat Belge.
Oskanian, who served as foreign minister in former President Robert Kocharian’s administration from 1998-2008, resigned as Civilitas head earlier this year, shortly after announcing his return to the political arena and joining the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). He has repeatedly criticized the Sarkisian government’s economic and other policies since then, provoking angry reactions from some senior members of the president’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
A Syrian-born former U.S. citizen, Oskanian was particularly critical of the government in the run-up to the May 6 parliamentary elections. He was instrumental in having the BHK, until now a member of the country’s governing coalition, denounce the Armenian authorities’ handling of the vote jointly with two major opposition forces. He also strongly backed the BHK’s subsequent decision not to join a new government currently being formed by Sarkisian.
The BHK is led by Gagik Tsarukian, a millionaire businessman believed to be close to Kocharian. This is why some Armenian analysts have linked Oskanian’s membership of the BHK with the ex-president’s alleged plans to stage a political comeback. The BHK’s decision to quit the government has only stoked that speculation.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the chief spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), chided Oskanian for claiming that the National Security Service (NSS) has opened a criminal case on alleged money laundering by himself and his Civilitas Foundation think-tank for political purposes. “I want to ask the distinguished deputy not to see political reasons for everything,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We must learn not to make political evaluations of legal matters.”
The NSS, meanwhile, released some details of the investigation conducted under a Criminal Code clause dealing with “legalizing particularly large amounts of revenue obtained in a criminal manner.” In a written statement, the security agency said the case stems from a nearly $2 million donation which Civilitas received from two U.S. companies last year. The sum was transferred from proceeds from the sale of their Armenian subsidiary, Huntsman Building Products.
The NSS claimed that Civilitas failed to declare the donation to tax authorities. It added that it has ordered tax inspections and is taking other measures to ensure an “objective and comprehensive investigation.” Oskanian was quick to brush aside the allegations. “In order for there to be money laundering, there must first be dirty money,” he said in a statement. “In this case, the source of the funds is known, the buyer is known, the transfer of the funds to me and to Civilitas according to the donor’s wishes have been transparent and electronic. The attorneys have said that no tax obligation was created as a result of the transaction.”
In a separate interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Oskanian insisted that his Yerevan-based foundation did disclose the donation in its 2011 financial report which he said was drawn up by an independent accounting firm. “If tax authorities have some suspicions, there are other ways [to verify them,]” he said. “The fact that the National Security Service deals with it means that there definitely was a political order to fabricate something against Oskanian or Civilitas. I can’t find any other explanation right now.”
Asked who he thinks issued the alleged order, the ex-minister said, “I don’t want to name names.” The BHK, of which Oskanian is a senior member, effectively endorsed his allegations of political pressure. “We do have concerns that there may be some persecution,” BHK spokesman Tigran Urikhanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We will be closely monitoring developments. If we see any inadequate action, we will immediately draw a conclusion, issue a statement and take steps.”
That the case is politically motivated was also suggested by Levon Zurabian, a leading member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). “If we lived in a democratic state this would be seen as a normal process,” Zurabian told a news conference. “Yes, law-enforcement authorities can look into the legality of NGO funding. But since we have precedents [of politically motivated prosecutions] I will not be surprised if it emerges that this is indeed political persecution.”
Oskanian, who served as foreign minister in the administration of former President Robert Kocharian from 1998-2008, has stepped up his criticism of the government since joining the BHK earlier this year. His name was second on the list of the party’s candidates for the May 6 parliamentary elections, a fact which some analysts link with BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian’s reputedly warm ties with Kocharian. The latter has signaled over the past year his desire to return to active politics.
The BHK stoked more speculation about Kocharian’s political comeback when it decided to pull out of President Serzh Sarkisian’s ruling coalition after the parliamentary elections. Media commentators have speculated that the ex-president, Tsarukian or even Oskanian could challenge Sarkisian in next year’s presidential election. “It’s too early to talk about that,” Oskanian said when asked about his possible participation in the presidential ballot. “I have not raised such an issue so far. After all, it’s the Prosperous Armenia Party that has to decide.”
A spokeswoman said the PAP leader stressed that he will take “all the steps prescribed by law in order to protect the rights and interests of his fellow party members.” The PAP chairman also reportedly appreciated the Civilitas Foundation’s “activities toward establishing democratic values and pluralism in Armenia.” “And, if necessary, Gagik Tsarukyan expressed a readiness to also invite a team of internationally-renowned lawyers and attorneys to Armenia,” the statement said.
Oskanian insists that the current criminal proceedings on money laundering charges are a retribution for his hard-hitting criticism of the government in the lead-up to the May 6 parliamentary elections. Some political observers also view it as a warning to Oskanian, who has not ruled out the possibility of making a presidential bid in 2013 in several media interviews. Government representatives deny any political implications behind the criminal investigation. Meanwhile, Civilitas Foundation Director Salpi Ghazarian last Friday was summoned to the National Security Service (NSS) to testify as a witness.
Ghazarian, however, refused to give testimony, claiming that given the nature of the NSS statement that refers to “committed violations”, she was in a de-facto state of being a suspect rather than a witness and, therefore, could refuse to testify. Oskanian, too, had refused to testify after being twice summoned to the NSS last week. In her comments to media, Ghazarian insisted that the charges against Civilitas, which she described as the most transparent foundation in Armenia, were a “political order”.
But the foundation’s representative stopped short of naming names. In this regard, she brought up the issue of CivilNet TV launched by Civilitas last September, implying it could as well be a case of restricting freedom of speech. “But it won’t work,” she concluded.