Scandal with Amulsar: Vardanyan aims at plundering Armenia

Politics Analytics 24 February 2023 14:11 (UTC +04:00)
Scandal with Amulsar: Vardanyan aims at plundering Armenia
Elchin Alioghlu
Elchin Alioghlu
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, February 24. Ruben Vardanyan, the Russian billionaire of Armenian origin, having realized that his operations on barbaric looting of copper and gold deposits on the territory of Azerbaijan (deposits currently are on territory of country's Tartar district) have ended, is now considering plundering Armenia itself, Trend reports.

He succeeded in resuming the exploitation of the Amulsar gold deposit in the Armenian city of Jermuk, near Gisirdagh.

According to Armenian Economy Minister Vahan Kerobyan, a trilateral agreement was signed between the government of Armenia, Eurasian Development Bank and the Lydian Armenia company worth $250 million on exploiting the Amulsar deposit. In accordance with the terms of the deal, in exchange for the right to exploit Amulsar, Lydian Armenia will transfer 12.5 percent of its shares to the Armenian government.

The above-mentioned company operating in Armenia is a subsidiary of Lydian International company, officially registered on the island of Jersey [an island country near the coast of north-west France], which means that it is an ordinary offshore company.

Lydian Armenia company presents itself as the successor to the GeoTeam company in Armenia, but with an different name. However, according to the documents, Lydian Armenia is a company owned by Orion mini Finance, registered in the US, and Ocisco Gold Royalties, registered in Canada.

Lydian Armenia has promised to invest as much as $400 million in the exploitation of the Amulsar deposit which has 89.3 million tons of ore, 73,733 tons of gold, and 294,367 tons of copper.

The investigations show that among its large shadow shareholders, there are Resource Capital Funds, Orion Mine Finance, Franklin Templeton Resources, and some other institutional and private shareholders.

Armenia's environmentalists and non-governmental organizations for environmental protection emphasize that Ruben Vardanyan also stands behind the exploitation of the Amulsar deposit along with the mentioned institutions. It is also noted that if exploitation of Amulsar begins, it will cause a catastrophic blow to the environment in Armenia and lead to serious consequences.

Since 2017, Armenian environmentalists have been trying to prevent the resumption of work in Amulsar. To calm the media, the public, and especially environmentalists, the Armenian government ordered an international examination of the Amulsar project, paying the Lebanese ELARD company ("Earth Link & Advanced Resources Development") $400,000 (!).

After a year of research, ELARD, without publishing a final report, stated that "the exploitation of the Amulsar deposit does not assume unmanageable risks to the environment."

However, it soon became known, that the ELARD researchers were only using the materials and studies conducted by the local Armenian structures earlier. In other words, the Lebanese corporation relied on the existing research and monitoring methods rather than conducting its own.

"Despite all the optimistic statements of the government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the risks associated with the exploitation of Amulsar have not yet been calculated and are indeed underestimated. I can only say that once the exploitation starts, we will lose Jermuk and Lake Sevan as resort areas," Armenian environmentalist Silva Adamyan noted.

Armenian environmentalists also emphasize that after the start of work at the Amulsar deposit, serious problems will arise with the safe soil collection as it will contain toxic cyanide compounds.

Lydian Armenia company is also engaged in exploiting the Kela deposit in Georgia. At least, the documents claim so.

Back in 2010, Lydian International registered another subsidiary on the island of Jersey - Lydian Resources Georgia Limited, which further established a limited liability company (LLC) in Georgia's capital Tbilisi, Georgian Resource Company LLC.

A little later, on October 4, 2011, the Georgian Resource Company LLC obtained a state license for the exploitation of the Kela deposit with a total area of 720.7 hectares near the Zoti village in the Chokhatauri district.

However, Lydian Resources Georgia Limited was subjected to administrative liability for failure to submit a report on the results of the geological exploration and mining project. On February 20, 2017, the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources appealed to the Tbilisi City Court for the company's violation of the requirements of the legislation.

The name of the former "state minister" of the separatist regime in Khankendi, Ruben Vardanyan, is regularly discovered when looking into the activities of the Armenian Lydian firm, which have been followed by countless scandals, charges of corruption, and legal violations.

The Armenian media, environmentalists, and experts consider Ruben Vardanyan one of the "shadow coordinators" of the project of the Amulsar deposit's barbaric looting under the guise of its "exploitation". To be precise, the environmentalist and representatives of the media are sure that Ruben Vardanyan is one of the owners of the Lydian Armenia company.

However, Vardanyan denies all the accusations.

"I have not had and do not have any connection with Amulsar. It is truly curious when my name and the name of Nubar Afeyan are associated with Amulsar since it is very easy to check who the shareholders of Lydian are," he said in an interview with the First Channel of Armenia.

But after a while, Vardanyan said that AmeriaBank, of which he is a member of the board of directors, provided the scandalous Lydian company with a loan of $7 million. However, according to the some documents, Vardanyan issued a loan to Lydian Armenia in the amount of $24 million, not just $7 million.

Moreover, Vardanyan, as a partner, attracted Amber Capital company, registered in the UK and owned by Armenian businessman Joseph Ugurlyan, to the exploitation of Amulsar.

In the spring of 2021, he bought a stake in Lydian Armenia for $60 million from Armen Sargsyan, who was the president of Armenia at that time. It is worth the be noted that prior to his election as the president of Armenia, Armen Sargsyan was a director of the Lydian International company.

Does that mean that Ruben Vardanyan, who relentlessly tries to deny his participation in this 'project', invested as much as $84 million in the exploitation of the Amulsar deposit just as a gesture of goodwill?

If yes, then why is he hiding it? Too many questions with no answers from Ruben Vardanyan.

As usual, he prefers to lie…