Keep Us Strong WikiLeaks logo

Currently released so far... 5408 / 251,287

Articles

Browse latest releases

Browse by creation date

Browse by origin

A B C D F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z

Browse by tag

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
QA
YM YI YE

Browse by classification

Community resources

courage is contagious

Viewing cable 07YEREVAN659, GLOBAL GOLD MINING: A YEAR OF...

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Understanding cables
Every cable message consists of three parts:
  • The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
  • The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
  • The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.

Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #07YEREVAN659.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07YEREVAN659 2007-05-22 03:03 2011-02-18 00:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
Appears in these articles:
http://rusrep.ru/article/2011/02/07/ggc/
VZCZCXRO2195
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHYE #0659/01 1420337
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 220337Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY YEREVAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5621
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 1258
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 YEREVAN 000659 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC, EEB/IFD 
ANKARA FOR FCS 
COMMERCE FOR DSTARKS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/15/2017 
TAGS: EINV ECON PGOV OPIC AM
SUBJECT: GLOBAL GOLD MINING: A YEAR OF...
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 YEREVAN 000659 SIPDIS SIPDIS DEPT FOR EUR/CARC, EEB/IFD ANKARA FOR FCS COMMERCE FOR DSTARKS E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/15/2017 TAGS: EINV ECON PGOV OPIC AM

SUMMARY

1. (C) Global Gold Corporation (GGC) is an international gold mining company with operations in Armenia and principal offices in Connecticut. For the past few years, GGC has been involved in an at-times hostile dispute with the GOAM and more specifically with the Armenian Minister of Nature Protection over licenses to its mines in Hankavan, Toukhmanuk, Getik and Marjan. GGC brought these disputes and an allegation that the Minister had requested a $3 million bribe to our attention in April 2006. Since that time, we have taken a number of steps, detailed in this cable, to help GGC protect its interests in Armenia. In late 2006 and early 2007, GGC decided to file two international arbitration claims to try a resolve these disputes. This cable provides background information about GGCs disputes with the GOAM, USG actions to help GGC protect its rights and possible future steps. END SUMMARY.

GOAM CHANGES TERMS OF GGC LICENSES

2. (C) Global Gold Corporation (GGC) (www.globalgoldcorp.com) is an international gold mining company with operations in Armenia, Canada and Chile and principal offices in Connecticut. In Armenia, its assets are managed through a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary SHA LLC. which it purchased in December 2003. At that time, SHA owned exploration licenses to the Hankavan and Marjan fields which extended through 2017. (NOTE: A map of the mining sites in question is available at www.globalgoldcorp.com/mines.php END NOTE.) Under Armenia's revised mining law, effective as of April 2003, existing licenses were to be exchanged for new ones of equivalent length for administrative reasons. Exploration licenses are issued by the Ministry of Nature Protection and mining licenses are issued by the Trade Ministry. In June 2004, the Armenian Ministry of Nature Protection issued new (much shorter term) licenses to SHA's new owners GGC, which expired in 2005 for Hankavan and 2007 for Marjan. GGC protested and continues to protest that decision. In June 2005, GGC applied for a special exploration license for Hankavan, but the Ministry delayed issuing that license and began playing games which are at the heart of GGC's current conflict with the Ministry.

MINISTER OF NATURE PROTECTION ASKS FOR A $3 MILLION BRIBE

3. (C) On July 25, 2005, according to GGC, the Armenian Minister of Nature Protection Vartan Aivazian had asked GGC's local attorney Ashot Boghossian to pay a $3 million bribe to Aivazian's close associate and Member of Parliament Mourad Gouloyan, claiming that the payment was necessary to complete the December 2003 sale. We first became aware of the alleged bribe request on April 19, 2006, when the GGC's AmCit Chairman/CEO and Boghossian raised the matter with then U.S. Ambassador Evans. GGC claimed that, as a result of its refusal to pay the bribe, the Minister was unwilling to issue licenses to which GGC was entitled, granted duplicate licenses to other companies for mining sites owned and operated by GGC and generally obstructed GGC's business operations.

4. (C) We were extremely concerned about these allegations and Ambassador Evans raised them as a "hypothetical" at the U.S.-Armenia Task Force Meeting on May 2, 2006. The Finance Minister's response referred to a mining company, a detail we had not included in our hypothetical, which suggested that other members of the GOAM were also aware of the allegations. The Finance Minister recommended that the company appeal to the Prosecutor General. Due to the poor reputation of the Armenian court system, however, GGC was unwilling to initiate a case locally. The Prosecutor General's office had the authority to begin its own investigation based on the allegations, but failed to do so.

BUSINESS SUPPORT COUNCIL SAYS GO TO COURT YEREVAN 00000659 002 OF 004

5. (C) GGC decided instead to raise the matter at the State Business Support Council (BSC), a government forum for resolving business disputes chaired by the Prime Minister. On May 31, 2006, at the BSC meeting GGC and the Finance Minister got into a heated exchange, with the Minister accusing GGC of inflicting "irreparable damage to the country's reputation." Interestingly, GGC declined to raise the bribery allegation directly at the BSC meeting and simply claimed that the Minister of Nature Protection was obstructing its business. At the conclusion of the meeting, the then-Prime Minister (whom GGC alleged was in cahoots with the Minister of Nature Protection) advised GGC to take the matter to court.

6. (C) On June 2, 2006, the Minister of Nature Protection informed the press that he had revoked the licenses for two of GGC's properties in Armenia (Hankavan and Marjan) for failure to meet proposed work plans, and that GGC's explorations for uranium deposits at the Getik mine site were illegal. The Minister said that he had turned all the relevant documents over to the Prosecutor General for further investigation. This announcement sparked off a very public and acrimonious debate between GGC and the Minister in the press over the legitimacy of the Minister's actions. GGC claimed (and we believe rightly so) that under Armenian mining law the Minister does not have authority to revoke mining licenses without notice. He is required to give notice, time to cure, and then sue in court to revoke mining licenses.

USG TAKES FURTHER ACTION

7. (C) In June 2006, GGC filed an Advocacy Request asking for official USG assistance and hired an attorney with the U.S. firm Patterson Belknap Webb and Tyler, to lobby the GOAM and explore other avenues for resolving the dispute. On July 12, 2006, State Department Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Frank Mermoud raised this matter with President Kocharian's Chief of Staff Armen Gevorgian who told us that the President had sent a team to the sites in question and that the sites were non-operational. (NOTE: GGC later explained that the preliminary explorations involved taking core samples for analysis and that the process was relatively non-invasive. Thus, while the sites might look inactive to the untrained eye, they were actually undergoing active and costly geologic exploration work. Failure to develop or explore the site would constitute valid legal grounds for the state to revoke the mining licenses. GGC tells us that it submitted voluminous exploration reports to the Ministry of Nature Protection according to a prescribed scheduled, making it impossible that the Ministry might be honestly unaware of GGC's work at the sites. END NOTE.) Then-U.S. Ambassador Evans also sent a letter concerning the dispute to the Finance Minister on July 11 and discussed the matter at length with the Finance Minister on July 18. Post filed a Section 527 Report concerning the case in June 2006 (Ref A). Commerce DAS Paul Dyck also wrote to the Armenian Trade Minister concerning this dispute in December 2006 and raised it with the President's Senior Economic Advisor Vahram Nercissiantz and with the Minister of Trade during his visit here in February 2007. Copies of all correspondence are available at post.

8. (C) Despite the vitriolic public debate, in August 2006, GGC acquired 100% interest in the Toukhmanuk mine in Armenia and continued operations at its other locations. In September 2006, the press caught hold of the bribery allegations and pushed aggressively for GGC or the U.S. Embassy to produce a widely-rumored audio tape of the alleged bribe request. GGC told us that no such tape existed -- noting that clandestine tape recording of the conversation would be an illegal act -- and authorized us to turn over to the Presidency all of the materials which GGC had provided to the Embassy, which we did. Despite these efforts, in mid-September GGC became aware of, and informed Armenian Trade Minister that, the Minister of Nature Protection was trying to illegally turn over the licenses for the Hankavan mine to a newly-established company called Golden Ore LLC. GGC claims that this company (registered under the ownership of a relative of the Transportation and Communication Minister) was a front for the Minister of Nature Protection himself. There was no response to Ambassador Evans' July 11 YEREVAN 00000659 003 OF 004 letter and the dispute continued to simmer over the next few months, less publicly, but without resolution.

GGC OPTS FOR INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION

9. (C) On December 28, 2006 GGC submitted a claim to the International Chamber of Commerce's International Court of Arbitration. The claim, based on GGC's original contract with SHA mining, was against the three signatories to the contract and the Minister of Nature Protection in his personal capacity as an implied party to the contract. GGC is essentially asking for $5 million in damages based on misrepresentation in the contract. Shortly after the claim was filed, the Minister of Nature Protection allegedly sent a letter to the Trade Minister, National Security Service and Prosecutor General stating that GGC was guilty of "continuing illegal operations" at Hankavan and Toukhmanuk (a switch, give that the Minister's earlier claim was that GGC was in breach of contract for nonperformance at these sites) and requesting a full investigation of GGC's activities. (NOTE: GGC has continued to operate normally at Hankavan and Toukmanuk, guiding itself by its own interpretation of Armenian law, which is that since the GOAM lacked legal authority to revoke the licenses, the government's expressed statement of revocation was without force, null and void. END NOTE.)

10. (C) In early 2007, GGC's local attorney, Boghossian, met with both the Prosecutor General's staff and the National Security Service (NSS). He told us that the working-level staff "understood the situation immediately" and confided in him that the Prosecutor General had orders to "find something against Global Gold." An NSS agent with whom Boghossian is friendly reportedly also advised Boghossian privately to "be careful on the roads" -- one of a number of veiled threats of physical violence that Boghossian has reported to us through the course of this dispute.

11. (C) In February 2007, GGC told us that they had also filed a claim against the Armenian Government directly through the World-Bank affiliated International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). We understand that the Armenian Justice Minister was contacted directly by ICSID and asked to prepare a response to GGC's allegations, but we do not know if the GOAM has officially responded to this request.

A MIDNIGHT AUCTION OF MARJAN AVERTED

12. (C) On March 5, 2007, Boghossian urgently requested our assistance to help counter a surprise effort by the GOAM to auction off the Marjan mine license, despite the two ongoing legal/arbitration cases. The Embassy wrote that day to the Prime Minister explaining our understanding that the ownership of Marjan mine was under international arbitration. The auction was delayed indefinitely, without explanation, but the possibility of a span resale remains a serious concern to GGC.

13. (C) Also in March 2007, GGC learned that representatives of Golden Ore LLC had apparently paid for representatives from a Georgian mining company to visit the Hankavan mine and meet with Armenian officials "in a clear attempt to transfer Hankavan rights" to the Georgian company. As far as we know, the representatives of Golden Ore have never responded to GGC's correspondence.

14. (C) On April 26, we met with the AmCit GGC CEO and Ashot Boghossian to discuss the status of GGC's case. They told us that two international arbitrations are on-going with no clear time frame for resolution. The CEO had discussed the case earlier that week with Armenia's new Prime Minister Serzh Sargsian and told us that things generally seemed to be in a holding pattern as the GOAM focused on the May 12 Parliamentary election. We agreed that we would consider making a renewed push for resolution of the situation once the new government was named. (NOTE: We expect the new cabinet to be named by the end of June. There has been considerable political speculation that the Minister of Nature Protection, the real sticking point in this case, will be replaced. Poorly-sourced rumors in the press suggest the Minister had been selling off many other mining companies and YEREVAN 00000659 004 OF 004 assets in an apparent attempt to reap what gains he could before losing his position. END NOTE.)

OPIC POLITICAL RISK INSURANCE

15. (C) In October 2006, GGC requested political risk insurance from OPIC for the Toukhmanuk and Getik mines. We informed OPIC of the on-going dispute between GGC and the Minister of Nature Protection which at that time concerned the Marjan and Hankavan properties. OPIC followed up on the situation in February 2007 and we provided an update on GGC's status and the international arbitraions. We are unaware of the current status of the OPIC application.

COMMENT: A MESSY SITUATION WITH NO CLEAN FACES

16. (C) There is no question that GGC has been getting the run around from the Ministry of Nature Protection. While it is continuing its operations in Armenia, the company legitimately feels vulnerable and exposed to potential short-fuse attempts to expropriate its mining properties. Adding to GGC's concern are recent actions taken by the GOAM to force another, Indian-owned, gold mining company out of the local market (ref B). Global Gold, however, has at times been less than entirely forthcoming with us. They did not report Minister Aivazian's alleged bribe solicitation until almost a year after it happened, were cagey about the timing of events, and for a number of months appeared reluctant to take the matter to court. We strongly support GGC's decision to file for international arbitration and recommend that future U.S. engagement on this issue focus on the need for a full and complete hearing of the facts rather than a political agreement which might resolve GGC's immediate problems but will do little to advance rule of law in Armenia.

GODFREY