The Armenian Meda Washed, Cleaned And Edited The Topic Of Money Laundering

Gagik Aghbalyan

The topic of corruption, which has received a great response in international press during the last the days, one of the main characters of which is Armenian businessman Ruben Vardanyan, is almost absent in the Armenian media agenda.

We’re talking about money circulation through the Troika Dialog. Hetq published an extensive article on the money laundering mechanism called Troika Laundromat. An Armenian organization that is a member of the International Network of Investigative Journalists has described in detail how the “laundromat” is a great corruption scheme, forging signatures without the knowledge of Armenian citizens who go abroad for work.

Ruben Vardanyan is the central figure of the investigative network of journalists, OCRP’s investigation.

He is well-known in Armenia with business investment, social and humanitarian initiatives (IDeA Foundation, UWC Dilijan School, Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, FAST Foundation, etc.).

Vardanyan is a member of the Board of Directors of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and the Board of Directors of Ameriabank (Armenia).

The publications about the well-known philanthropist and businessman in Armenia should have been interesting to Armenian mass  media. But television companies were practically silent about the“Troika Laundromat,” while online media was partially silent.

Online media

The OCCRP and Hetq investigation was touched upon by Civilitas, RFE/RL Azatutyun, and A1plus.

Particularly, the website of the Prime Minister, armtimes.com, citing Hetq, practically published the entire article about the Troika Laundromat.

Hraparak partially quoted the Guardian’s reference to Ruben Vardanyan’s offshore company.

Hraparak has not touched upon Hetq’s investigation of deals involving the falsification of Armenian citizens’ signatures.  

The media also published a Facebook post made by business-consultant, Areen Apikyan, about the scandal surrounding Ruben Vardanyan, stating that it has nothing to do with the businessman and Armenia.

When you enter the words “Ruben Vardanyan,” “Troika,” and “Laundromat” in News.am’ search bar, you are not provided with any information on the latest journalistic investigation.

Instead, a publication about the “Azerbaijani Laundromat” appears from 2017. This is an OCCRP investigation into Azerbaijan. The Armenian media reacted to this topic in a timely manner. A quick search in Armenian media will find numerous publications on the topic of Azerbaijani origin.

Mediamax touched upon the work of the OCCRP and Hetq after Ruben Vardanyan’s office made an official response. What we have to say about the material is contained in the refuting text. References to Hetq were made actively.

168.am and Factor.am did something similar, with no active reference to any of the source sites. 168.am has commented on the topic in its blog, referring to Pastinfo.

Tert.am has not entered the “laundromat” issue at all.

Google’s sophisticated search hows Panorama.am has released Vardanyan’s office statement. However, after trying to open a page it turns out that it does not exist. Articles about the topic were posted on Aysor.am and in Aravot, but they are not currently available for the reader.

On television

There was no word on the topic on the March 4 agenda of Public Television’s “News” news program, two hours after the publication of the Hetq investigation, whereby the name of the affiliated company and a well-known businessman in Armenia has appeared in the focus of international journalistic investigations. Instead, 60 minutes have been broadcasted about the Brazilian carnival and the orange battles in Italy.

Public TV’s “News” did not address the issue of business deals with fake signatures of Armenian citizens in the March 5 agenda. 19 minutes of the main release of that day were allotted to the Prime Minister’s visit to Brussels, 16 minutes to Vazgen Sargsyan’s 60th anniversary. They also touched upon the arrival of  fast response vehicles from Japan. No word about “Troika Laundromat.”

After appointing Petros Ghazaryan, Public TV’s news and analytical program director, on December 12, 2018, he told Media.am that the quality and content of the news would be brought up to global standards.

“We must be equally unbiased, impartial, objective and interactive,” Petros Ghazaryan said.  

Private TV stations such as Armenia, Yerkir Media, TV5, Kentron and ArmNews did not even talk about the journalistic investigation or Ruben Vardanyan’s name.

Armenian TV’s response to OCCRP’s work was more active in the case of the “Azerbaijani Laundromat.” A quick search on the internet helps to find the Aliev’s Azerbaijani corruption schemes on British media outlets published by Armenia TV.

Shant and Horizon touched upon the investigation of the Troika Laundromat and the statement released by Ruben Vardanyan’s office.

Gagik Aghbalyan

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