Top managers at Armenian nuclear plant face embezzlement charges

By bne IntelliNews July 15, 2016

Armenia's National Security Service (NSS) has completed an investigation into the management of the country's sole nuclear power plant (NPP) and concluded that a number of leaders had "set up an organised criminal group" that took advantage of their positions to embezzle large amounts of money during procurement procedures and cause damage to the state.

The officials in question are CEO Gagik Markosyan, commercial director Rubik Movsisyan, and the head of the repair department Eduard Ghazaryan. The Metsamor NPP is a relic of Armenia's Soviet past and has been closed for long periods of time over the years due to security concerns. Experts are in agreement that the plant poses a threat to the entire Caucasus, but Yerevan has chosen to extend its life thanks to a $300mn loan and grant from Russia in order to maintain what is one of the cheapest sources of power generation in the country.

Electricity tariff hikes are highly unpopular in impoverished Armenia, where citizens organised month-long protests in 2015 that were dubbed "Electric Yerevan" after the Russian-owned electricity utility ENA increased tariffs by 16.7%.

"The crime was disclosed as a result of operative investigation activities implemented by the NSS and the damage caused to the state in the amount of AMD783.6mn (€1.5mn) was fully recovered. The criminal case with the indictment was sent to the court," the NSS statement said. 

Corruption is common in Armenia, where government officials and their relatives customarily own properties and engage in activities that are beyond their legal financial means. The country ranks 95 out of 168 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index.

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