by Alexandr Avanesov
National Security Service of Armenia must seriously look into Unibank's financial flows, Manvel Ter-Arakelyan, the owner of Old Erivan Restaurant, told reporters, on 1 July.
He said a bank with a similar name operates also in Azerbaijan, therefore, his company applied to the National Security Service (NSS) on 10 June for an inquiry into the fact. Ter-Arakelyan stressed that there can be no two banks with the same name in the world. In addition, he said, the NSS must look into the activity of Hugo Minderhoud, a citizen of the Netherlands, who had headed the Board of Directors of a big Azerbaijani bank for 7 years (2000-2006). For some unknown reason, he left his job, arrived in Yerevan and now heads Unibank's Department for Internal Audit and Risks. "It is the same as if my executive officer moved to Baku and sold khinkali there, which is unreal," he said. Ter-Arakelyan recalled that the Department for Internal Audit deals with nearly all the financial flows, including in the territory of Nagorno Karabakh, where Unibank has two branches. It is noteworthy, he said, that the bank removed all the data on the Dutch citizens from its official website on 20 June. A relevant request was submitted to the NSS of Armenia 20 days ago, but no reply has been received yet.
The businessman is sure that the NSS must look into another offshore scandal involving the bank. At the beginning of the year, 43% of the bank's shares belonged to a certain person registered in Cyprus offshore. Another 12.285% of shares belonged to the owner of the bank Gagik Zakaryan and his partner, certain Peskov. However, in early 2014, all them sold their shares to that very offshore company in Cyprus. Actually, Zakaryan sold his shares to himself, gained extra profits and continues to head the bank. "All of us remember the offshore scandal involving ex-PM Tigran Sargsyan. Do these two deals differ from each other? " Meanwhile, Ter-Arakelyan thanks Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan for the efforts to settle the dispute between his restaurant and the bank. "No results, so far, " he said.
To recall, Prime Minister Abrahamyan earlier expressed an intention to put an end to the growing conflict between Old Erivan Holding and Unibank. The prime minister told reporters that he received Manvel Ter- Arakelyan once again lately and discussed a possible peace treaty with the bank. The conflict between Unibank CJSC and Old Erivan Holding LLC has moved from the administrative to the criminal field. Unibank CEO Vardan Atayan and the owner of Old Erivan Manvel Ter-Arakelyan have sued each other. The trials are held at the General Court of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts, Yerevan. Earlier, Manvel Ter-Arakelyan has repeatedly mentioned in his interviews that the company was recognized bankrupt intentionally, hinting at an attempt of illegal takeover of his company by some Canadian Armenians and a group of local officials by means of the bank.
According to hetq.am website of investigator-journalists, on 25 May 2009, Unibank and Old Erivan Holding made a credit agreement with a 2-year grace period for the interest and the main amount of the credit. The owner of the holding says the bank sent him two options of repayment schedules: a short-term (nearly 44 million drams monthly) and a long term (32 million drams monthly). Ter-Arakelyan chose the second option and signed the agreement. Later, he found out that the bank delivered him the first option by mistake. Afterwards, the bank admitted its mistake and sent the second option, which was also signed by Manvel Ter-Arakelyan. "Actually, two agreements were signed, but only the one that was signed the last (the second option) is valid. They knew very well that the first option was invalid," Ter-Arakelyan said. Afterwards, Ter-Arakelyan, went on, he received an offer from another bank on more preferential terms and decided to redeem the credit provided by Unibank.
Unibank agreed to admit the money. However, approximately in a month, on 17 June, the bank notified Old Erivan Company that they did not fulfill their liability to the bank and failed to pay nearly 44 million drams on 25 May as required. Therefore, the bank notified that the mechanism of fines and pennies was launched. "It turns that the first option of the agreement is valid and I have to pay 44 million drams. In such case, why the bank charged also the amount stipulated in the second agreement from my account? In addition, there is 305,000 drams balance on my account. If, as you [Unibank - editor's note] say, I was to pay 44 million drams, then there should not be any balance on my account. You should have charged the entire amount, and it would not be enough. Meanwhile, you notify me of fines," says the owner of the holding. According to him, Unibank CEO Atayan on the basis of the first agreement applied to the 6th Department of the Police and claims that Manvel Ter-Arakelyan fabricated the bank's seal and his own signature to seize Unibank's funds. "He [Vardan Atayan - editor's note] casts doubt on my signature and the bank's seal under the second agreement. He will answer for such allegations. We have applied to the Prosecutor's Office over it," Manvel Ter-Arakelyan said.
Meanwhile, Unibank has disseminated a statement wherein it accuses the owner of Old Erivan Holding for organizing a "Black PR campaign" against the bank to evade the credit repayment.