President Armen Sarkissian

Armenian President Wants Government to Return $100 Million Donation

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — President Armen Sarkissian has criticized a pan-Armenian charity for donating to Armenia’s government most of $170 million raised by it for Nagorno-Karabakh during the recent war.

Sarkissian said the unusual move undermined donors’ trust in the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund. He urged the government to release a detailed report on how it has used the economic and humanitarian aid to Karabakh.

Hayastan All-Armenian Fund launched an international fundraising campaign immediately after the outbreak of the war on September 27. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians from around the world responded to its appeal for urgent aid to Karabakh and its population severely affected by the fighting. They donated roughly $170 million to the group within weeks.

It emerged afterwards that the charity, headquartered in Yerevan, redirected more than $100 million of those proceeds to the government. The Armenian Finance Ministry said on November 24 that the hefty donation will finance the government’s “infrastructure, social and healthcare expenditures” necessitated by the six-week war.

In a statement issued on Sunday, December 6, Sarkissian’s office revealed that he objected to the financial contribution approved by most members of Hayastan’s board of trustees headed by the Armenian president. It said he believes the decision left the fund’s donors suspecting that “their trust has been abused.”

According to the statement, Sarkissian has sent a letter to the board members arguing for “urgent steps” that should be taken before the donors’ “trust in the Government and the Fund has been finally lost.”

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“Consequently, according to the President, the Government must submit a clear, detailed, and transparent report on the expenditures made with the transferred sums of the Fund, and this must be done in the most public way,” the presidential office said.

Sarkissian also called for an “urgent international audit” of Hayastan. He said that in case of “negative” findings” of the audit the government should redefine the hefty donation as a “loan” and pledge to eventually reimburse the fund.

“The return of the funds, transferred by the Government to the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund, can significantly change the situation and become a guarantee of restoring the confidence in the Fund,” added the statement.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s office and the Hayastan management did not immediately react to Sarkissian’s concerns and proposals.

Later in November, Hayastan raised in the United States and France $26 million in fresh funds for Nagorno-Karabakh. It attracted the bulk of the donations pledges during an annual telethon broadcast from Los Angeles.

Hayastan has implemented $370 million worth of various infrastructure projects in Karabakh and Armenia since being set up in 1992. Its board of trustees mostly comprises Armenia’s political leaders and prominent Diaspora philanthropists.

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