Four Arrested in Ongoing Illegal International Adoption Investigation

Razmik Abrahamyan (Photo: RFE/RL)

YEREVAN—The Investigative Committee of Armenia arrested three civil servants late last week in connection with the National Security Service’s (NSS) ongoing investigation into illegal international adoptions. Officials arrested Liana Karapetyan, the director of a Yerevan orphanage; Razmik Abrahamyan, the director of the Republican Maternity Hospital; and Arshak Jerjeryan, Abrahamyan’s deputy director at the hospital. Abrahamyan had also served as head Obstetrician and Gynecologist of Armenia for several years.

The three stand accused of conspiring with two unnamed individuals in an alleged scheme to illegally separate newborns from their parents and present them as orphans to international adoption agencies. The Investigative Committee has not disclosed the identity of a fourth conspirator implicated in the case. Data produced by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs reveals that 54 children were adopted overseas between 2016 and 2018, and authorities now suspect that at last 30 of those may have been cases of illegal international child trafficking. 

Dr. Abrahamyan has been charged with two counts under the Armenian Criminal Code: Article 167 (illegal separation of the child from the parents or substitution of the child) and Article 200 (commercial bribe). The 76-year-old wasn’t placed under pre-trial detention despite a motion filed by the NSS. Yerevan Children’s Home Director Karapetyan, who was charged with Article 167 and Article 314 (official forgery), has since been released on bail after posting the three million AMD ($6,300) required. A third—unnamed—suspect also posted bail set at five million AMD ($10,450). 

Substantial allegations of ongoing and organized illegal international orphan trafficking are not recent. A 2011 report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) revealed cases of prospective adoptive parents using such agencies being asked to provide ‘gifts’ to the orphanage managers and other officials in thousands of dollars in cash payments in order for them to “hold on to” their prospective adoptive child. Hmayak Navasardian, head of an Armenian Justice Ministry department coordinating foreign adoption procedures at the time, admitted that such payments are considered illegal under Armenian law. 

These cases closely resemble the testimonies of adoptive parents who recently spoke with the Armenian Weekly, which included one woman who described handing bags full of American dollars to a local handler in Armenia, as well as being ‘forced’ to sign forged documents for other American adoptive parents for ‘procedural’ reasons. “Naturally, if there is such a thing, it means not paying for [legal] services but paying bribes,” Navasardian told RFE/RL at the time.

Robin Sizemore, director at Hopscotch—one of the two major US-based adoption agencies operating in Armenia—has strongly denied allegations that American agencies would be involved in offering bribes to Armenian officials. In a recent email to the Armenian Weekly, Sizemore said, “I have never seen or known of any infractions related to inter-country adoption. Maybe it can be different country to country, but for the US it is so tightly regulated and our embassy conducts orphan investigations and does not hesitate to send documents back, even if there is a simple transposed letter to be checked and corrected. This is why the story was so shocking.”

Following the Velvet Revolution, the government turned its attention to its international adoption activities when newly-appointed assistant to the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Mushegh Hovsepyan, sounded the alarm to authorities. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan then approved the creation of a working group in August 2019, which included representatives of Armenia’s law enforcement agencies, to review the country’s current adoption process. The working group is also working to modernize the country’s current adoption legislation.

The accused have denied the charges as baseless. 

The Armenian Weekly will continue to follow ongoing developments in this investigation.

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Raffi Elliott

Columnist & Armenia Correspondent
Raffi Elliott is a Canadian-Armenian political risk analyst and journalist based in Yerevan, Armenia. As correspondent and columnist for the Armenian Weekly, he covers socioeconomic, political, business and diplomatic issues in Armenia, with occasional thoughts on culture and urbanism.

4 Comments

  1. Wait one minute there in 2011, Robin Sizemore admitted to Armenian Media that the bribe money was part of her contract that it was “customary” to include gifts and standard procedure in Armenia & Georgia (where Robin’s facilitor was arrested a few years back) https://www.rferl.org/a/armenia_considers_changing_adoption_procedures_amid_corruption_allegations/24336795.html
    I am saddened these Biological mothers had their babies taken and many are now trying to find those children. The least Robin Sizemore of Hopscotch Adoptions can do is match the records up with the dates of birth which children ended up in the USA. Prior to 2006 Robin Sizemore was the Armenia & Georgian Adoption coordinator for CAS – Carolina Adoptions. Its unclear why Robin’s contract was not renewed in 2005 but there is rumors it was because of this very reason the spreading of money around. Maybe an American based Armenian Attorney can hold Hopscotch Adoptions and Carolina ADoptions responsible and force the opening of records or the least they could do is make restitution for those Armenian women. Robin has made millions from the adoption industry, her tax returns are online. Furthermore it should be fair to note that Robin is also part of the SOAR group heading up the North Carolina Chapter, something Armenian Americans may want to think about next time they extend any donations.
    Lets invest in families and close down the orphanages.

  2. A damn OUTRAGE even more humililating because it’s Armenians which I hold to a higher standard. OUT ON BAIL?
    LOCK them up……Taking a baby from it’s mother to sell? I’m sick! A FAST and speedy trial. Get to the bottom of this. There is no compensation to the parents who have lost children nor to the parents who were forced to subcome to bribery to get the child that was promised to them, which could now be taken away!!!! I have no words

    • How can they separate a baby from its mother . Do they tell the mother that the baby died or what.
      This is worst than the Genocide that the Turks did to us.
      These people deserve to be hanged.

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