BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Maybe he didn’t think he would be caught.
Maybe he was too arrogant.
Maybe he was too cocky.
Maybe he was too plain dumb.
Maybe he thought he was untouchable.
Maybe he is the most flagrant.
Maybe someone was out to get him.
Maybe he thought the stories about his less than savory doings while fighting for Artsakh in the early years would be forgotten.
Maybe he was so full of himself that he couldn’t see the resentment his grotesque activities engendered.
Maybe he has no heart or conscience.
Maybe he is just the tip of the iceberg.
Maybe he will rat out others like him.
Maybe he is just a good representative of the oligarch class and its sense of impunity.
So many maybes, and only one certainty – the oligarchs in the Republic of Armenia will no longer have free rein to wreak misery upon the citizens of the country as they please to satisfy their rapacious economic gluttony.
Of course all this is about Manvel Grigoryan, the “oligarch” and kingpin of Etchmiadzin who was busted last weekend. No doubt you have already seen the YouTube video of footage from the bust. Rooms full of boxes of canned food. Other boxes contained clothing. The crates full of guns and ammunition, even grenades and RPGs, belong on the front lines, not a room in a vacation home. Then there were the dozens of cars and other vehicles packed together warehouse-style that were “owned” by this guy, including some military-use jeep-like vehicles. Let’s not forget the stacks of property deeds shown in the video.
The stash of foodstuffs, munitions, clothing, vehicles, etc. that were found on properties he owns is mind-bogglingly revolting. These supplies and materials had come from all over the country and Diapsora. Some of the boxes full of these supplies seen in the footage still had notes in children’s handwriting on them, children who had worked to gather them for the soldiers on the front during 2016’s 4-day war. Then, to learn that the canned meats were being fed to the wild animals Manvel has caged up – viewers are treated to shots of bears and a tiger (there may have been more) – is beyond despicable. Remember that the backdrop to this story is that we learned, shortly after that 4-day war, that many soldiers on the front were lacking in essentials, both human and military.
As if all this were not shameless enough, after Manvel was arrested, his family and followers took to the streets to protest his “unjust” treatment. The Republican Party of Armenia, of which he is a member and sits in parliament as one of their deputies, issued a statement expressing “concern” about the “impropriety” of arresting a member of parliament. Recall that they have immunity unless stripped of it by parliament. But it turns out that while this technicality is true and valid, there are other countervailing technicalities that enabled law enforcement to act in the way it did. He has since been stripped of his immunity.
We must resist the temptation to simply sneer at these crocodile tears being shed over a (falsely asserted) lack of due process of law by people who have done nothing but abuse, break, or circumvent the country’s laws for years. Riding roughshod over anyone’s rights, even someone as debauched as Manvel, would simply perpetuate the cycle of lawlessness and impunity that has marked the country’s quarter century of independence. It is good to see that the new government and law enforcement are acting properly.
While you may be ready to wretch, the chatter one hears, though unconfirmable at this point, is that Manvel is not even the “richest” of the oligarchs who have been sucking the country dry. But, I suspect he may have been one of the most blatant, overt, and open about his ill-gotten gains, time will tell (hopefully this is not just a one-off instance of law enforcement).
This depth of depravity may be hard to fathom for many Armenians in the Diaspora who are used to thinking in nurturing, loving, and caring terms about their homeland. It should serve as a stark and painful wake-up call to drive more alert engagement with Yerevan.
Let’s all get busy finding ways to build up the homeland’s economy now that corruption there seems to be getting serious attention and response. This kind of input will create conditions enabling locals to remain and Diasporans to resettle there.