While plundering natural resources, devastating the appropriated territories of Azerbaijan and involving foreign companies in this crime, Armenia sought to assert the fact of the occupation and nourished its hopes to get the occupation regime recognized by the international community. These businesses ran in gross violation of property rights of hundreds of thousands of refugees and IDPs, creating additional obstacles to their return home.
Exploitation of natural resources in Karabakh as well as other business activities in the territory that has been outside the jurisdiction of international law for almost three decades represented a good source of enrichment for the Armenian elite.
In 2016, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry published the report titled “Illegal Economic and Other Activities in The Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan”, dedicated to exploitation of natural resources in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan by Armenia and several international companies. The report provides an exhaustive list of entities doing business in Karabakh as of the time of publishing.
In addition, another report titled “Illegal Activities In The Territories of Azerbaijan Under Armenia’s Occupation: Evidence From Satellite Imagery” was pubslished by Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry and AzerCosmos in 2019.
Images provided in this document demonstrate that illegal activities were conducted not only in NKAO itself, whitch licuidated in 1991, but also across the adjacent districts that had never seen any indigenous Armenian population.
It was not once that Azerbaijan raised this issue on international platforms, the OSCE and United Nations among them, maintaining that any economic activity in the occupied territories is inconsistent with international law and the national law of Azerbaijan, and entails criminal responsibility.
Azerbaijani side also submitted notes of protest to Foreign Ministries of countries where such companies are incorporated but received responses along the lines of “domestic legislation does not allow intervening in private business affairs”.
“It is a weird situation all over: one cannot breach domestic law of the companies represented in Karabakh, but at the same time can easily breach Azerbaijan’s legislation”, said Hikmet Hajiyev, then Head of the Press Service of Foreign Ministry, during the presentation of the MFA – Azercosmos joint report in 2019.
Two reports by Kohelet Policy Forum (KPF) of Israel dated 2017 and 2018 also provide the list of companies operated in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. These reports are titled “Who Else Profits? The Scope of European and Multinational Business in the Occupied Territories“.
The study points out that in all registered cases, foreign business enterprises, quite commonly European ones, actively support the settlement enterprise in the occupied territories. These activities, as a rule, included extracting natural resources from the territories, providing infrastructure support to the occupying regimes, and in general, making them more economically viable.
The companies involved have a global profile and valuable brands.
Activities in Mining Sector
Since mining industry is one of the core sectors in Armenia’s economy, so after the occupation of Karabakh this occupying state actively developed natural resources in all the occupied territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Karabakh boast over 160 deposits of valuable metals (gold, mercury, copper, lead, and zinc), as well as coal, gypsum, vermiculite, colored and trim stone, and cover stone deposits. These resources used to be of great significance for Azerbaijan’s economic potential, but they have been illegally exploited by Armenians and sold overseas for many years.
The list of largest deposits includes gold-copper-pyrite deposits in Gizilbulag, copper-gold, molybdenum deposits in Demirli, Janyatag-Gulyatag (occupied parts of Terter District); gold deposits in Soyudlu, Agduzdag, Tutkhum (Kalbajar District); gold deposits in Vejnali (Zangilan District).
There are also large lead deposits in Mehmana, Shorbulag (Kalbajar), mercury deposits in Sarybulag, Agyatag, Levchay, Shorbulag, Qamishli, Aggaya (Kalbajar, Lachin), Chilgazchay, Narzanly (Lachin).
Back in February 1995, the 2016 Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s report writes, the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia opened a geology laboratory in the occupied territories, which worked closely with the Institute of Geological Sciences of Armenia. The laboratory was tasked to investigate and map the natural resources in those territories and put forward proposals for their exploitation.
Advisor to Bako Sahakyan (then head of Yerevan-controlled separatist regime, also known as “NKR”) on geology issues Grigorii Gabrielyants confirmed that Armenia’s Vallex Group CJSC was even conducting exploration of oil in Nagorno-Karabakh back in the 1990s. The works were halted because the deposits were not commercially feasible. But gold, copper and other precious metal deposits have been developed mercilessly over the entire period of Armenian occupation.
Not only did the large-scale mining business enrich the top brass in Yerevan and unscrupulous international companies, but it also inflicted an enormous environmental damage to the entire region.
In this context, it is worth looking into Base Metals, a subsidiary of Armenian conglomerate Vallex Group. Registered in Liechtenstein, Base Metals exploited the Gizilbulag underground copper-gold mine near Heyvaly village in Kalbajar since 2002. A decade long exploitation of the mine led to its almost complete depletion.
Armenian media outlet Hetq reports that, once other copper deposits in Karabakh got depleted, Base Metals launched the development of Kashen copper and molybdenum deposit in the north of the region (not far from Agdere) in 2013.
Vallex Group is chaired by Russian businessman of Armenian descent Valery Mezhlumyan, one of tycoons who had until recently shared the sweetest pieces of Karabakh’s pie. Back in December 2014, Mezhlumyan was personally awarded by Serzh Sargsyan, the then President of Armenia, with the Medal of Merit to the Motherland.
The largest gold ore deposit developed by the Armenian occupation regime was Soyudlu (dubbed by Armenians “Sotk”), located in the frontier area, with the largest part sitting within the formerly occupied Kalbajar District of Azerbaijan and the balance in Vardenis District of Armenia.
Since 2007, the deposit has been operated by GPM Gold (Russia), a company of GeoProMining, one of the largest private investors in Armenia.
It was founded by Siman Povarenkin, who, until recently, used to be also its majority shareholder. Interfax reported in July 2020 that Povarenkin sold his share to businessman Roman Trotsenko, who acquired a share in the company’s stock a year back. According to Kommersant, the deal enabled Trotsenko to accumulate 98.5 percent stock by paying around $176 million.
The company acquired a license from the Armenian government for development of the part of field within Armenia, but in reality, extended its operations to the other part that belongs to Azerbaijan. Satellite images demonstrate how the operation have expanded in the field throughout occupation.
The company tried its best to retain Azerbaijan’s resources under control; according to the Turkish media outlet Yeni Şafak, GeoProMining, unwilling to give up its revenues, attempted to prevent the de-occupation of the district in autumn 2020 by accumulating sizeable troops and mercenaries there.
Swiss-Armenian jeweler and businessman Vartan Sirmakes, a major investor in Armenia’s economy, is directly involved in the illegal development of the Soyudlu deposit.
Sirmakes is a co-founder and CEO of the world-renowned Swiss watch producer, Franck Muller Group. Having set up the world’s only representative office of Franck Muller in Armenia, he invested dozens of millions of dollars in Armenian economy. Sirmakes is also a main financial donor to the Armenian community in Switzerland; he heavily funded the separatist regime, which was created by Armenia in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
Apart from Soyudlu, he was also involved in the illegal development of the Vejnali gold deposit in Zangilan District. The gold illegally produced in Karabakh was subsequently put to sale at exchanges, with profits deposited in Swiss banks.
Interviewed by Sputnik Armenia in August 2019, Sirmakes said he was going to build a gold refinery in Armenia and produce gold bullions, which constitute a legal tender (like US dollar or EUR) to be accepted throughout the financial community.
Among the companies listed in the very same report “Who Else Profits?” by Kohelet Policy Forum Aurubis (Germany), Caterpillar (US), FLSmidth (Denmark), and Tashir Group (Russia) were also conducting illegal operations in the formerly occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
Aurubis is Europe’s largest copper producer and the world’s second-largest copper recycler with a registered annual revenue of $16.8 billion. At least 25 percent of Aurubis AG stock is controlled by Salzgitter AG, a German company, one of the largest global steel producers. A control package in the latter belongs to the federal state of Lower Saxony.
“Annually, Aurubis purchases and imports 10,000 metric tons of blistered copper from the Armenian conglomerate Vallex Group, the largest taxpayer in [the occupied] Nagorno-Karabakh, which provides up to 35 percent of taxes to the budget (that is, the budget of the puppet regime set up by Armenia in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan) and jobs for 1,200 people”, the report writes.
Caterpillar, a company incorporated in the United States, is the global leader in construction machinery and America’s largest employer with a registered annual revenue of EUR 39.3 billion. In Karabakh, Caterpillar supplied construction machinery that was used to build settlements, strategic roads, and various infrastructure for illegal mining.
FLSmidth (Denmark) is a mining equipment supplier and mining consultancy service provider. It has reported annual revenue of $3 billion. In Karabakh, the company worked at Kashen mine, a facility operated by Armenian Vallex Group through its subsidiary Base Metals.
Tashir Group, a Russia-based conglomerate that brings together over 200 entities operating in different sectors (construction, development, wholesale trade, energy, engineering, finance, entertainment). It was founded by entrepreneur Samvel Karapetyan, an Armenian national. Tashir Group in 2015-2016 acquired Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA), the national power distributor. In November 2017, the Group announced its plans to “invest $2 billion” in Armenia’s energy sector. It supplied Nagorno-Karabakh with electricity generated in Armenia via ENA.
Between 2008 and 2017, Tashir Group built a hospital and a medical center in the occupied territories; it also donated $5 million to Karabakh’s puppet regime after the Four-Day War in April 2016.
According to Hetq, the mining industry accounted for 13.7% (47 billion drams or $97.6 million) of the puppet regime’s budget. Asbarez reports that Karabakh mines have been the main driver behind the unrecognized entity’s economic growth over the last few years. A 7% growth was recorded in January-September 2017 alone.
Activities in Telecommunication Sector
The telecommunication sector used to be the second largest economic sector in terms of scale of illegal business in the then occupied Karabakh. Developing communications and favorable roaming services facilitated links to the occupied region, thus boosting illegal resettlements of ethnic Armenians from both Armenia and other countries of the globe to the occupied lands.
According to the 2016 Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s report, Armenia illegally assigned its unique numbering code +374 to the occupied territories, thereby exploiting Azerbaijan’s radio frequencies.
Furthermore, contrary to Recommendation E.212 of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which provides the authority to ITU to assign and reclaim MCC and MNC codes, Karabakh Telecom CJSC used the codes 283 (MCC) and 04 (MNC) for the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
Karabakh Telecom CJSC was established in 2002 by Lebanese businessman Pierre Fattouche (sole shareholder). According to the company’s website announcement dated September 2013, it extended its cellular communication and internet service network to the then-occupied Zangilan District.
In January 2015, Director-General of Karabakh Telecom CJSC, Karekin Odabashyan, said the town of Shusha, then under occupation, had been connected to fibre-optic network, and presented it as a major achievement in IT sector. He also shared the company’s plans to extend the coverage to other towns and villages under occupation. In his words, it would contribute to “the comprehensive development of areas”, “to ensure growth in the social, economic, cultural and other fields.”
“There are stable rules in the international telecommunications. Therefore, currently roaming [between Armenia and the occupied territories] cannot be eradicated. However, we have been constantly working towards reducing roaming tariffs”, he said.
Odabashyan also informed that in 2014 Karabakh Telecom CJSC assisted in the amount of one billion drams ($1.9 million) to the process of settlement in the occupied Karabakh, which is in its own right a violation of international law. The Foreign Ministry’s report writes that the funds were channeled to various fields, including health, education, construction of churches, security forces, etc.
Apart from Armenian ventures, dozens of foreign companies with global outreach operated in telecoms sector in Karabakh at different times. Among them are Vodafone (UK), Orange (France), VimpelCom (Russia/Netherlands) etc.
The report writes that Armenia’s mobile operators provided roaming services to Karabakh Telecom CJSC at reduced tariffs.
These included Armentel (a subsidiary of the Russian Vimpelcom under the “Beeline” brand), Viva Cell MTS, and Orange Armenia, a subsidiary of Orange Group of France.
“There are a number of other international IT service providers that have illegal roaming relations with or facilitate operations of Karabakh Telecom CJSC. Among them are Movisar (Argentina), Zain Bahrain (Bahrain), Etisalat (UAE), Netmechanica (USA), Alcatel-Lucent (France-USA), Comfone (Switzerland), Mobile Telesystems OJSC (Russia) and some others”, the report maintains.
Information on some telecommunication companies in Karabakh is provided in the reports “Who Else Profits?” by Kohelet Policy Forum.
The report writes that Orange S.A., a company registered in France and having a reported annual revenue of $44.9 billion, has operated in Armenia since 2009 through a direct subsidiary, Orange Armenia. The company actively cooperated with the puppet regime of “NKR”, asserting the statehood of this unrecognized entity in its documents.
It provided roaming services in Karabakh through a special agreement with Karabakh Telecom, a company based in the occupied territory and dedicated primarily to serving it, the report writes.
The company’s press release announcing price reduction in the service said that “its goal was to make things more “convenient” for Armenians traveling to Karabakh, including Armenian Army soldiers located there.” Apart from telecom services, for many years Orange S.A. helped to run a fundraiser for strategic infrastructure projects in the NKR, supporting the settlement enterprise building in Karabakh.
Vodafone, a UK-based company with a registered annual revenue of $54.5 billion, has been active in the post-Soviet markets and has partnered with Russia’s MTS since 2008. In Armenia, MTS-Vodafone operates through VivaCell-MTS, which supports the improvement of services between Armenia and occupited Karabakh by greatly lowering roaming tariffs. It also supported philanthropic causes directed at unifying Armenia and Karabakh through festivals, nationalistic fundraisers, and other projects.
VimpelCom (recently rebranded as VEON), an international telecommunications company headquartered in the Russian Federation and in the Netherlands, has over 235 million customers and offers mobile services in thirteen countries and a registered annual revenue of $10 billion. It is owned in part by Telenor, a Norwegian government-owned multinational telecommunications company. VimpelCom’s Russian brand, Beeline, provides service in Russia, Laos, and former Soviet states, Armenia among them.
In October 2020, when the Patriotic War was on, Beeline blatantly set a zero tariff for its subscribers in the occupied Karabakh.
For those who were at the time in roaming mode in Karabakh, Beeline set the tariff “zero drams per minute” for all incoming calls, outgoing local calls to mobile and landline phones in occupited Karabakh, and outgoing calls to Beeline Armenia numbers. This tariff also covered calls from Beeline Armenia numbers to all mobile and landline numbers in the occupied Karabakh.
Activities in Financial and Tourism Sectors
Hakob Ghahramanyan, the so-called “minister of industrial infrastructures” of the puppet regime in occupited territory of Azerbaijan, admitted once that “NKR” had no independent monetary policy and was therefore heavily relying on the bank system and credit policy of Armenia. This information is provided in the 2016 Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s report with reference to a local media outlet.
The national currency of Armenia (the dram) was illegally used in Karabakh during the occupation.
According to the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA), the occupied territories were considered “part of the economic territory of Armenia, because the dram is the legal tender there and all banking institutions operating in Karabagh are licensed and supervised by the CBA”.
In 2011, CBA opened its branch in the then occupied town of Shusha.
CBA regulations were applied to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, and it exercised full control over the banking sector and financial transactions in and out of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, including cash circulation, the report states. CBA had the authority to influence Armenian commercial banks operating in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan with a view to directing bank capital to particular areas, including the agricultural sector.
The branches of Armenian banks operating in the occupied territories had to be licensed by CBA. According to the Head of Financial Monitoring Centre of CBA Daniel Azatyan, all financial entities operating in those territories, including the branches of Armenian financial institutions, had to submit operation reports to CBA.
The government of Armenia encouraged its commercial banks to open branches in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. The report lists eight Armenian banks, Artsakhbank, Converse Bank, Ardshininvestbank, Armbusinessbank, Armeconombank, Araratbank, Unibank (no relation to the namesake Azerbaijani bank – Karabakh Center’s note), and Ameriabank that were operating in the occupied Karabakh.
Apart from them, Kohelet Policy Forum’s study lists ArmSwissBank and the international banking group Crédit Agricole.
KPF’s report writes that AraratBank (Armenia) launched a number of branches in occupied territory of Azerbaijan on the same and equal terms as in Armenia, providing the full spectrum of financial services and tools, including construction and mortgage loans.
Ameriabank was represented in occupited Karabakh since 2008. The bank is part of Ameria Group, which until recently owned 65.8 percent of its stock. In turn, European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) owned 20.7 percent of its stock.
In addition to direct banking activity and services, Ameriabank through a range of programs provided encouragement for Armenian population-growth policies in occupited Karabakh. In 2014, Ameriabank made a donation for construction of a highway to link the northern regions of Armenia to the occupied territories.
As far as ArmSwissBank is concerned, Luxembourg registered “HVS Holding S.a.r.l. owns 80 percent of its stock, while Jongo B.V., an investment company registered in the Netherlands, owns the other 20 percent. Both companies are controlled by Swiss-Armenian businessman Vardan Sirmakes.
Ardshinbank, a privately held Armenian commercial bank, is the largest taxpayer in Armenia’s national financial sector. It ran between four and six branches in the occupied Karabakh. In recognition of its “work” in Karabakh, Ardshinbank was awarded the Medal of Honor by the former separatist leader Bako Sahakyan in 2017.
Crédit Agricole is a French-based international banking group, the largest shareholder of the Armenian ACBA Crédit Agricole Bank, with more than 52 million customers, 140,000 employees worldwide, and a registered annual revenue of ~$19 billion. It also has another subsidiary in Armenia, Crédit Agricole Leasing & Factoring. ACBA Crédit Agricole Bank was created in the 1990s as a European Union development assistance project.
In the last twenty years, the bank has received hundreds of millions of dollars in international financing through World Bank institutions, as well as loan agreements with other European and international financial and development bodies, such as EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development), etc.
Through its Armenian companies, Crédit Agricole actively aided Armenian settler initiatives in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. For instance, ACBA Crédit Agricole sponsored the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund and collected funds for infrastructure development and settlements in occupited Karabakh. During the Four Day War in April 2016, ACBA Crédit Agricole announced that it would annul loan obligations of the families of Armenian soldiers killed in fighting.
Azerbaijan’s MFA, Kohelet Policy Forum, and media outlets report that the property in occupied Karabakh often appears on such world-renowned housing rent platforms as AirBnB and Booking.com.
The Azerbaijani side submitted official protests to the company each time it became aware that a hotel or a private house in Karabakh was included in the booking system. For instance, such an appeal was sent to Booking.com, demanding removal of the properties as illegal.
“Azerbaijan regarded such activity [booking rooms in hotels and other property in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan] of the company as contradicting the norms of international law, the charter and the relevant decisions of the World Tourism Organization and the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism,” said Hikmet Hajiyev, then Spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry.
It was not once that such appeals were submitted to the company. It used to remove Karabakh’s properties from its website and then restore them after a short time.
Activities Related to Resettlement Policy and Agriculture
Throughout the occupation, Armenia pursued a settlement policy in the invaded Azerbaijani lands.
It was not only the lands of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of the Azerbaijan SSR Armenians claimed that the newcomers settled in, but they also moved to Azerbaijani districts around the region that had been overrun back in 1990s and where the Armenian population had never represented ethnic majority before. The districts of Lachin, Kalbajar, Qubadli, Zangilan, and Jabrayil were settled at an accelerated pace.
The data provided in the 2016 Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s report disprove the statements that people settled in the occupied territories on their own volition. Various projects were implemented to make these war-ravaged lands attractive for illegal settlers, which called for heavy investments.
Involved in the resettlement policy were Armenian diaspora entities, foreign private investors, mostly of Armenian origin, and the so-called “charity non-profit organizations”.
The 2016 report of the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan lists among them such entities as the US-based Cherchian Family Foundation, Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), Tufenkian Foundation, Gerald Turpanjian Educational Foundation, Gafesjian Family Foundation, Lincy Foundation, Shahan Natalie Family Foundation Inc., Armenian Cultural Association of America, Inc., the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund, the latter having designed and implemented a special “Re-population of the villages of Artsakh” project.
Benefiting from their tax-exempt status in host countries, they were directly involved in channeling large amounts into settlements and other illegal activities throughout the occupied territories. All of them played a major role in enabling and facilitating the occupation, with a nod from the Republic of Armenia, either direct or indirect.
For example, US-based Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) have long been petitioning US Congress and Presidential Administration to grant funding for the “developmental aid to Nagorno-Karabakh”.
Tufenkian Foundation backed the setup of Arajamugh settlement the then occupied Jabrayil District of Azerbaijan in 2004-2005; “Artsakh Fund” of the Armenian Cultural Association of America triumphantly announced in November 2014 its plans for expansion of the settlement and construction of a clinic and a community center, Armenian Weekly writes.
Registered in the US, “Patriot” charity organization, headed by Stepan Sargsyan, was involved in development projects across the occupied districts of Kalbajar, Lachin, Jabrayil, and Zangilan. The Switzerland-based Cédric Martin Foundation financed water supply and social infrastructure projects in Pirjamal village of the occupied Khojaly District and other locations.
Creating favorable conditions for agricultural activities in the occupied territories was a key aspect of the illegal resettlement policy, as it enabled to attract more settlers.
Actions were taken to provide utilities to newly established settlements and make a good use of water resources across the occupied territories, including capturing and diverting waters of the Araz River and other rivers and their headwaters, building new and utilizing existing artesian wells, pump-stations and irrigation channels left after the Azerbaijani population was forced to leave these lands.
ArmWaterProject Company Ltd., a company that participated in the construction of the irrigation system in these territories, was directly involved in utilization of the region’s water resources.
The funding for the agricultural programs was provided, notably, through the “Fund for Rural and Agricultural Support of the NKR” and the “Artsakh Investment Fund” (ARI).
In 2010-2013, ARI implemented investment programs to boost the agricultural sector in the occupied districts of Kalbajar, Lachin, Qubadli, and Zangilan. Over three years, Artsakhtert reports, the agricultural sector received some $2 millions of funding. Wheat and barley were sowed on about 550 hectares of land, and the livestock count increased by 1,800.
In 2003, the “Menq Union For Farmers Mutual AID” was set up to support settlers in establishing households in the then occupied Azerbaijani districts of Lachin, Qubadli, and Zangilan. Over seven years of operation, this entity backed the establishment of more than 50 households.
Settlers were granted “legal ownership” of the donated properties at no cost, provided they lived in the occupied territories for more than 10 years.
New Realities After Liberation of Karabakh
As the victorious 44-day long Patriotic War resulted in Azerbaijan having restored control over the formerly occupied territories, Armenian and international looting corporations, one after another, lost the sources of their enormous profit.
The liberation of Kalbajar District made Soyudlu gold mine operator GeoProMining shrink its operations to a great extent. The largest part of the mine sits within Kalbajar District and the lesser rest in Vardenis District of Armenia.
A significant part of this resource-rich mine is therefore under Azerbaijan’s control now, thus reducing GeoProMining’s scope of operation and, consequently, revenues. Downtimes ensued, coupled with salary reductions and large-scale rallies on the part of affected mine workers.
The company tried its best to retain Azerbaijan’s resources under control; according to the Turkish media outlet Yeni Şafak, GeoProMining, unwilling to give up its revenues, attempted to prevent the deoccupation of the district in autumn 2020 by accumulating sizeable troops and mercenaries there.
When Kalbajar was liberated from the invaders, GeoProMining were desperately trying to keep hold of the Azerbaijani portion of the mine.
Armenian media reported on 26 November that the Armenian forces leaving the district arbitrarily “moved the border” several hundred meters towards Azerbaijan and erected a red-painted metal gate on the road. The invaders therefore tried to seize the largest portion of the deposit.
It was not until the next day that Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan spoke out, confirming that “a half of the mine remains within Azerbaijan”. For the sake of accuracy, the state border delimitation between Azerbaijan and Armenia in accordance with Soviet maps left Azerbaijan with 76% of the mine.
Azerbaijan has already announced that exploration works would soon start at the Soyudly field. The damage inflicted by Armenia over the years of occupation is currently being assessed and the project roadmap has been developed.
After the loss of revenue from the Soyudlu deposit, the separatists lost control over another considerable source of profit, the Kashen copper and molybdenum deposit in the north of occupited Karabakh, not far from the town of Agdere.
The mine is operated by Base Metals, a subsidiary of Armenian conglomerate Vallex Group, a key player in Armenia’s mining industry, which had for many years provided up to 35% of all payments to the puppet regime’s budget.
According to Hetq, this mine has been down ever since the war broke out in Karabakh on 27 September 2020. Further to the tripartite ceasefire agreement, signed on 10 November by the leaders of RF, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, the mining facility itself remained in the part of Karabakh currently under temporary control of Russian peacekeepers, while the pumping station sits in the territory controlled by Azerbaijani military forces. The mine, naturally, cannot operate without this pumping station.
According to Hetq, a new pumping station needs to be installed to run the mine; it is a costly and time-consuming project, and the current operator apparently does not have enough funds to deliver it. The media outlet reports that in 2019, the company transferred AMD 18.7 billion ($38.8 million) to the puppet regime’s budget; it transferred AMD 6.7 billion (~$14 million) in the first half-year 2020. For the sake of comparison, the entire separatist budget amounted to AMD 89 billion (~$185 million) in 2016.
The puppet regime has thereby lost one of its largest sponsors.
As Armenian forces have lost control over large swaths of the formerly occupied territories, Base Metals’ operations ground into a halt, and Valeri Mezhlumyan (Director of Vallex Group) and his partners in crime, Base Metals’ CEO Artur Mkrtumyan and Vallex Group’s investor Vartan Sirmakes have been put on the international wanted list by the Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan on the charges of illegal entrepreneurship.
Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, has also pointed out serious intentions demonstrated by the Azerbaijani side.
“The illegal exploitation of our natural resources is an undeniable fact. We have the names of companies.
I must say that if the companies that illegally exploited our gold and other deposits do not pay compensation, this issue will go to court. If they do not deliver this compensation, all the cases will go to international courts, and they will be humiliated. After that, their business activities will practically come to a halt, because there is no place in the modern world for companies and people who illegally exploit natural resources of another country and profit from that.
So, a question is put forward to them. Therefore, they must calculate the value of the gold and other natural resources they illegally exploited, calculate the damage they have caused, the income gained, and compensate us”, he said during the 6 January 2021 videoconference dedicated to the outcomes of the year 2020.
The head of state one more time touched upon this topic in his interview with Azerbaijan Television on 20 April 2021.
Ilham Aliyev reminded that the process of damage assessment is underway, with foreign experts involved to that end.
“As you know, our plans are to take Armenia to international courts. Naturally, we will do this and foreign experts will help us. Armenia and its foreign partners, which illegally exploited our natural resources, will face an international court because the plundering of our gold, copper, and other natural resources, as well as their illegal exploitation by Armenia, are considered an international crime. Therefore, legal procedures have also been launched to that end. Our international partners are already involved in this work”, he said.
These words from the mouth of President Ilham Aliyev are a clear message to those who ever participated in illegal business in the territories that were long decades kept under the Armenian occupation.
The Azerbaijani state will do all it can to bring the culprits to accountability and make them compensate the damage.