Britain lets Armenian president’s family own luxury properties using dark money

Feb 9 2024

The opulent streets of London, long associated with the rich and famous, have become the backdrop for yet another tale of hidden wealth and offshore companies. Recent investigations have unveiled a network of luxury properties owned by the family of Armen Sarkissian, the former president of Armenia, nestled behind the veils of opaque offshore firms.

In a report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), it was revealed that Sarkissian’s relatives, including his wife and sons, own multiple high-end properties in London’s affluent neighborhoods. The ownership, hidden behind offshore entities registered in the British Virgin Islands, has come to light following new transparency regulations enacted in the United Kingdom in 2022.

The properties, including a five-story mansion on Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, and several other prestigious residences, are purportedly owned by Sarkissian’s sister, Karine Sargsyan. These revelations raise questions about the origins of the wealth used to acquire such prime real estate and the implications of using offshore structures to obscure ownership.

Sarkissian, a successful businessman prior to his political career, claims that he entrusted his wealth to his sister in the 1990s, earned from ventures in software development and video games. However, discrepancies arise as the properties were not declared in Sarkissian’s asset declarations during his tenure in public office, as required by Armenian law.

Moreover, previous investigations have uncovered undisclosed assets and foreign citizenship held by Sarkissian, further complicating the narrative. Allegations of constitutional violations regarding foreign citizenship are under scrutiny by Armenian authorities.

The intricate web of offshore companies extends beyond real estate ownership, revealing connections to corporate assets and business ventures. Sarkissian’s family has been linked to companies involved in importing major international brands in Armenia, Georgia, and Uzbekistan, indicating a broader network of financial interests.

Additionally, the transfer of ownership within these corporate entities, particularly to Sarkissian’s son, raises concerns about the transparency and legality of such transactions. Questions linger about the true beneficiaries and motivations behind these intricate financial maneuvers.

The revelations underscore broader concerns about the role of the United Kingdom as a haven for illicit wealth and dark money. Despite recent legislative efforts to increase transparency, the ease of establishing opaque corporate structures and concealing beneficial ownership highlights ongoing challenges in combating financial secrecy and corruption.

As investigations continue into Sarkissian’s family wealth and offshore activities, calls for greater accountability and scrutiny of individuals holding public office resonate. The case serves as a poignant reminder of the intricate nexus between wealth, power, and opacity, and the imperative of robust regulatory frameworks to safeguard against abuse and exploitation.