Democracy Watch: ANIF Dissolution Raises Questions on Investments and Governance

Democracy Watch: ANIF Dissolution Raises Questions on Investments and Governance



By Tigran Grigoryan and Karena Avedissian


The Armenian National Interests Fund (ANIF) is set to be dissolved, with its management transitioning to the State Property Management Committee.


ANIF is a governmental organization established in 2019, with a mandate “to consolidate and effectively manage the ownership of Armenian state-owned enterprises, to promote export growth and investments in Armenia by providing co-financing in large-scale projects at their initial stage of development.”


Initiated during a meeting chaired by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on March 14, the dissolution process of ANIF raises questions about the rationale behind this decision and the fate of ANIF’s investments and subsidiaries, which remain unexplained by the government.


ANIF’s major investment in the national airline Fly Arna ended in failure, as acknowledged by Pashinyan earlier this year. The airline had ceased operations and had its license suspended, despite the Armenian government’s infusion of at least 4.8 billion drams (around $13 mln) into the project.


Furthermore, ANIF co-financed the Hard Rock Café in downtown Yerevan, using at least $500,000 in public funds. However, concerns raised by the International Monetary Fund question the wisdom of investing public resources in the hospitality sector.


In another venture, ANIF partnered with the Emirati company Masdar to develop a solar power plant. Despite these plans, construction has yet to commence, and inquiries made by CivilNet in March regarding Masdar’s future intentions remain unanswered.


In 2023, the State Control Service conducted an inspection of ANIF. CivilNet discovered that during these inspections, ANIF engaged consulting firm Ernst and Young to conduct a study on salaries in similar funds worldwide, spending $30,000 for this purpose.


Presently, the Investigative Committee is conducting a criminal investigation into certain activities of ANIF, although no charges have been filed as of yet.


Minister’s Retired Mother Constructing $230,000 Mansion


The construction of an additional upscale mansion, valued at approximately $230,000, is nearing completion in a neighborhood of luxurious residences near Yerevan’s Avan administrative district. The owner of this mansion is 67-year-old retiree Olga Sanosyan.


In March 2023, according to a Hetq investigation, Olga Sanosyan, the mother of Gnel Sanosyan who is the Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure, purchased a 1000 square meter plot of land in Arinj village, adjacent to Avan. She bought it for 19.2 million drams ($50,000), which is about half the market value. Both this year and last year, the price per square meter in Arinj was roughly 100 dollars. Hence, the plot’s estimated value would be $100,000 or 38.9 million drams.


In 2021, Gnel Sanosyan submitted his income and property declaration to the Central Election Commission as he was a parliamentary candidate from the Civil Contract Party. At that time, he declared ownership of a house and three land plots in Tsakkar village, Gegharkunik Province, totaling 2,800 square meters. He also declared a 2002 Mercedes-Benz. His declared financial assets included only 2.5 million drams and 70 thousand rubles ($900). Gnel Sanosyan has yet to submit his 2023 declarations for himself and cohabiting persons to the Corruption Prevention Commission.


Gnel Sanosyan’s mother doesn’t live with the minister’s family, which means she isn’t required to submit a declaration. However, questions still arise about how retired Olga Sanosyan is funding the acquisition of a land plot and the construction of an expensive house.


In response to Hetq’s questions, Gnel Sanosyan said, “The house is being built by my brothers for our parents. My father and two brothers have been working in Russia for years; my brothers are still employed there. The purchase of the land and the construction of the house are financed with their earnings.”