Hetq: Armenian Nationals In Possession Of Undeclared Dubai Real Estate

Published: 19 April 2023

Palm Jumeirah DubaiDubai’s Palm Jumeirah, a tree-shaped archipelago renowned for its luxury hotels and five-star restaurants. (Photo: Jason Mrachina, Flickr, License)

By Henry Pope

Four high-standing Armenian nationals were found to have engaged in under the table real estate transactions in Dubai in order to hide their wealth, Hetq reported Monday.

Upon examining the data from OCCRP’s ‘Dubai's Golden Sands’ investigation, which found the UAE city state to be “a one-stop shop where the world’s wealthy can avoid taxes, dodge sanctions, launder money, or hide their assets from police or taxpayers back home,” the OCCRP’s partner organisation linked four Armenian oligarchs and government officials to undeclared properties that should have been outside their means.

One such individual is Gagik Beglaryan, who served as Armenia’s Minister of Transportation and Communications between 2012 and 2016.

Hetq reporters uncovered that Beglaryan never declared his three-bedroom Balqis Residence apartment, which is situated on the crescent of Palm Jumeirah, the renowned tree-shaped archipelago famous for its luxurious hotels and restaurants. The most modest of Balqis Residence three-bedroom apartments start at 4.5 million Arab dirhams (US$1.2 million).

Beglaryan acquired this property from 2008 to 2018, revealed data showed.

Presently, in Armenia he is charged with money laundering and embezzlement from several kindergarten buildings in the town of Yerevan. Beglaryan was Yerevan’s mayor from 2009 to 2010.

His younger brother, Hakob Beglaryan also bought an undeclared apartment in Dubai sometime between 2007 and 2017. Hakob ran Armenia’s State Procurement Agency from 2005 to 2012 and later rose to both Deputy Minister of Urban Development and Deputy Chairman of the State Urban Development Committee from 2014 to 2017 before eventually assuming membership in the country’s National Assembly.

Hetq’s investigation revealed that the younger Beglaryan’s two-bedroom luxury apartment at the Fairmont Palm Residence commands no less than 134,000-164,000 Arab dirhams ($36K-45K), before utility bills. He is reportedly still the apartment’s owner, though it currently has no tenant.

Hakob did eventually file a disclosure in 2019, back when  the former Criminal Code was in force, stipulating that the concealment of assets over 1 million drams ($2,500) is an offence punishable up to 4 years in prison.

Hetq managed to speak with an unidentified person on Hakob’s mobile, who, when asked for comment, said: “He’s [Hakob’s] not here. He’s not in the city,” before abruptly hanging up.

The third Armenian national identified is Hrant Davtyan, who was a member of the country's National Assembly from 2012 to 2017 and again from 2018 to 2019.

Hetq’s investigation found that Davtyan owns an apartment in Dubai’s Marina district, an artificial canal built along a two-mile stretch of the Persian Gulf shoreline, adorned with luxury residential towers and villas.

He also owns a seventh-floor apartment in one of the Al Sahab twin towers, bought between 1997 and 2007. This went undeclared when he ascended to the National Assembly in 2012, despite his obligation to do so; it was however, not a crime until July 2017.

Apartment registries list the annual fee for a one-bedroom Dubai Marina apartment as no less than 71,000-87,000 Arab dirhams ($20K-24K). One-bedroom apartments at the Al Sahab complex, meanwhile, start as low as 1.4 million Arab dirhams ($380,000).

Further digging by Hetq, however, revealed that Davtyan hid another Dubai property, this time when it was illegal to do so. A Trident Grand Residence two-bedroom apartment, worth roughly 2.1 million Arab dirhams ($570K), of which he is the sole owner.

He failed to declare it after the law was changed in 2017; when asked by Hetq, he stated that he did not do so because he simply forgot.

Last on the list is Samvel Aleksanyan, a businessman and member of the National Assembly from 2003 to 2019.

Hetq uncovered that he and his wife, Shogherina Mkrtchyan, bought a three-bedroom apartment at Trident Grand Residence sometime between 2012 and 2014, which they subsequently rented out but did not declare until 2019, according to Armenia’s Corruption Prevention Commission.

Annual rental fees for Dubai Cadaster three-bedroom properties range from 147,000 to 179,000 Arab dirhams ($40K-49K) and can be bought for 4.2 million Arab dirhams ($1.1 million).

Although Hetq compiled a set of questions to be delivered to Aleksanyan, the postman reportedly failed to deliver it.

When asked for comment, Armenia’s Prosecutor General’s Office did not confirm whether it was investigating the assets held by Aleksanyan, Davtyan, or Beglaryan, citing confidentiality concerns.