Armenian telethon charity drive raises record low of $10 mln in wake of scandal
During the 22nd telethon charity drive of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund (Armenia), $9,856,100 was raised.
This is the smallest amount the telethon has collected throughout its existence.
For comparison, last year the amount of donations amounted to 11,109,633 dollars, and in 2017, it brought in 12,505,456 US dollars.
According to many, the amount of donations is less due to the scandal surrounding the former head of the Hayastan fund.
In July 2018, Ara Vardanyan was detained on charges of abuse of authority.
All about the fund, its programs and the scandal associated with its former leader.
About the fund
The Hayastan All-Armenian Fund was established by decree of the first President of the Republic of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and declaration of independence. Its main mission is to unite Armenians from all over the world who are ready to donate financial resources for the development of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The telethon began to be held in Los Angeles starting in 1996. The amount that Armenians from all over the world transfer to the fund’s account go to the implementation of various large-scale programs, including the construction of roads, schools, kindergartens, hospitals, water pipelines and gas pipelines, assistance to socially vulnerable layers of society.
The fund generates income by:
Holding the annual charity telethon, which is broadcast in different countries,
Proceeds from charity dinners, concerts and exhibitions,
Mail and SMS transfers,
Wills and targeted investments left for the fund.
This year, the 22nd telethon was held under the motto “For the sake of native Armenia: living water and sunshine for communities”. The money raised will go to a water supply project and a program that will allow residents of Nagorno-Karabakh and three regions of Armenia – Shirak, Lori and Tavush – to use solar energy.
Scandal around the fund
Former fund director Ara Vardanyan was detained by law enforcement in the summer of 2019. He admitted to using a bank card, which was allocated to the fund for various purposes, and took 55,000 USD.
According to the prosecution, Vardanyan spent this amount on bets at various online casinos.
Information about the arrest of Vardanyan appeared on July 3. Already on the 5th, it became known that the director of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund had been released on bail for 1 million drams (a little more than two thousand dollars) by a court decision.
Despite Vardanyan’s admission that he was spending money from the fund’s card, his lawyer announced the legitimacy of his client’s actions, as he returned the money “on time”.
“Vardanyan did not appropriate or spend the funds. Payments were made from a bank card with a credit line issued to the fund, including for the personal needs of Vardanyan. However, all the money was returned to the fund’s bank account from his personal funds within a few days,” Vardanyan’s lawyer Yervand Varosyan wrote on his Facebook page.
According to this lawyer, neither the bank nor the fund suffered from Vardanyan’s actions, and the funds collected by Armenians all over the world were used for their intended purpose, and not for the personal needs of the director of the fund.
Reaction of the PM to the scandal
The Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan also reacted to the scandal surrounding corruption.
On his Facebook page, the head of government wrote that the events associated with the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund will only increase the diaspora’s confidence in Armenia.
“We have proven and will continue to prove that we will not tolerate any manifestation of abuse,” the prime minister wrote.
An unexpected ‘challenge’ from the prime minister
This year, Prime Minister Pashinyan, during a live broadcast of the annual telethon, threw an unexpected “challenge” (challenge) to three famous Diaspora Armenians: reality show star Kim Kardashian, popular rock musician Serge Tankyan and founder of Reddit website Alexis Ohanyan.
The essence of the call is that all three should follow the example of the head of the Armenian government and monthly transfer from their account a donation to the fund of 10,000 drams ($23).
In addition, the prime minister invited these three people to chose to continue the chain and each of them to challenge three other people.
Serge Tankian and Alexis Ohanyan have already responded to the call of Nikol Pashinyan.
Moreover, Tankian has already managed to transfer the challenge to three of his friends: Hollywood producer Eric Israelyan, comedian Vahe Berberyan and actress Angela Sarafyan.
Tankyan liked this undertaking and he urged his friends to expand the circle of philanthropists:
“Feel free to join the challenge and challenge others to do the same.”