Ashot Egiazaryan, central to many of our articles on corruption and crime, a former banker and State Duma Deputy from the Russian Liberal Democratic Party, who is currently residing in the USA, claims to be a victim of the Putin regime and, hence, a political refugee, this status guaranteeing him immunity from extradition. He has put forward these claims on the recently created website ashot-egiazaryan.com. The developers of the portal — US PR experts — have done their best to create an image of a businessman, politician, and philanthropist of impeccable reputation.
The key fact used to create Egiazaryan’s image and biography as a political emigrant is his active participation in numerous charitable projects, which came to an end only because he had to leave the Russian Federation.
The official US website lists the names of nonprofit organisations that the businessman alleges to have supported at various times — the list is so long you have to scroll down for quite a bit to see it in its entirety.
Our journalistic investigation has revealed the following: most of the organisations on the list have never received any financial support from Egiazaryan or even heard of him.
We started by sending official enquiries to the organisations that could be easily identified. Here is the list:
— Church of All Saints in Kulishki in Slavyanskaya Square (and two more churches with similar names);
— Derzhavny Orthodox Country Recreation and Retreat Centre in the Ryazan region;
—St John the Evangelist Monastery in Yershovka (Arkhangelsk region);
— Martha and Mary Convent (Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy in Bolshaya Ordynka);
— School of Young Politicians (Moscow High School No. 1306);
— State Clinical Hospital No. 31;
— Moscow State University Mass Media Centre;
— Armenian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Cathedral.
We also tried either to visit some of these places or get in touch with them by phone to find out whether or not they had ever received financial support from Ashot Gevorkovich Egiazaryan or companies affiliated with him.
Svetlana Repina, the chief doctor at specialised orphanage No. 12, which seems to be in most dire need of charitable support, was the first to confirm our suspicions: since 1999, when she began working at the orphanage, “no charitable assistance has ever been received from A.G. Egiazaryan”.
Next came the reply from specialised (corrective) orphanage for children with special needs No. 70. The Director, Yelena Golovanova, wrote: “Ashot Egiazaryan has never provided any aid to the orphanage; he has not organised any charitable events for the children at the orphanage”.
It also follows from the letter written by Yelena Vladimirova, Director of the parish school at the Church of All Saints of the former Novo-Alekseyevsky Convent, that “Egiazaryan has never provided any charitable or sponsorship support to the parish school. He has never transferred any funds to the school’s bank account nor made any funds available to the school by any other method”.
His “helping to construct the Artos Audiovisual studio, which produces educational material for children and published educational literature for children and teenager)” was also ephemeral. There are at least two studios in Moscow with this name and both are, indeed, connected with sound processing, but neither has anything to do with children. Moreover, the Novaya Gazeta correspondents were assured by both studios that they had never heard of Egiazaryan.
The next item on the list is purchase of a bus to transport children from low-income families to the Orthodox summer camp Derzhavny in the Ryazan Region under the auspice of St Philaret of Moscow Orthodox Brotherhood. This is a classic PR masterpiece — the precise details, difficult to fabricate, produce an impression of perfect credibility. However, when asked about Egiazaryan, the summer camp administration said they were unaware of Egiazaryan’s help in purchasing a bus.
And that is quite understandable, because the minibus was not given to the Brotherhood by Egiazaryan, but by his wife, Natalia Tsagolova. We have a copy of a document stating: “Ms N.N. Tsagolova took part in the children’s programmes organised by the Brotherhood in July 2010 and donated financial assistance of 1 million 600 thousand roubles for the purpose of purchasing a minibus”. The former State Duma Deputy’s wife is a very wealthy woman; as Egiazaryan himself said some eighteen months ago, she owns apartments for rent: “There are 3-4 apartments. They bring us good money, which is basically what we live on”. A question arises here: why does the US website name the fugitive oligarch as the charitable donor and not his wife?
Finally, we have several organisations mentioned on the official website that could not be verified because they do not exist. For instance, “providing aid to the K.P. Pobedonostsev school”. There is no such school in Moscow.
We were intrigued by his “providing aid to the Icon Painting School for Women in Moscow”. There is no such school in any reference registers or databases. We asked the seminary’s representative to clarify matters. It turned out that, unlike convents, icon painting schools “exclusively for women” do not, as such, even exist.
“Assisting with the reconstruction and refurbishment of an orphanage in Moscow”, “organising aid for asylee children from the Crimea in 1998”, “organising a benefit evening for orphaned children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities”, “producing a 72-minute religious documentary shot in Russia and Israel”, “providing aid to and maintenance of a residential home for the elderly in Moscow”. None of these “projects” can be verified, since our journalistic investigation was unable to confirm or refute their actual existence.
The list of Egiazaryan “good deeds” includes very real organisations that are well-known in Russia and even internationally. For example, Moscow State University is Egiazaryan’s alma mater, so it is only fitting that he should provide some support. Yet, strangely enough, the University’s press relations office and Vice Provost for Administrative and Managerial Matters told the Novaya Gazeta correspondent that they had “never heard of Egiazaryan” and could not say anything “about sponsorship help from him”.
Let me remind the reader: a criminal case on charges of large scale fraud has been initiated in Russia against Ashot Egiazaryan. He is officially on the international wanted list, since he absconded during the investigation and fled to the USA.
Last week, the deputies issued a warrant for his arrest. Apparently, the next step will be to submit an arrest and extradition request to the US authorities. We believe that is precisely why Egiazaryan is in such a hurry to demonstrate his great achievements in the public services field. He is obviously hoping to use this fact to his advantage in creating the perfect picture of a businessman and philanthropist persecuted by the political regime.
Novaya Gazeta has published numerous articles about Ashot Egiazaryan’s far-reaching connections within governmental and law enforcement structures and his involvement in notorious corruption scandals. The investigation into his “charitable work” has revealed that, in this field, too, he remains true to his signature style.
P.S. Recently, the fugitive Deputy circulated an appeal among the State Duma deputies asking – out of concern for the overall state of democracy in Russia – that the President “give a real signal” or resign from office. Naturally, the most dramatic example of Russian democracy’s poor state is the criminal case against Ashot Egiazaryan. The previous appeal by business circles to the President was voiced, as we all remember, by the wife of Moscow’s former mayor, Ms Baturina, who is now also residing in distant climes. The most ironic thing is that Luzhkov is mentioned as one of Egiazaryan’s chief persecutors in the claims he has filed with the courts in the west.