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Monitorial Group on the Melkonian Trust Meets With Patriarch in Support of Legal Action

ISTANBUL (26/01/2004) – His Beatitude Mesrob II, Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul & All Turkey, received the members of the Monitorial Group on the Melkonian Trust (MGMT) on 24 January 2005, at 18:00 hours, at the Armenian Patriarchal headquarters in Istanbul.

Chaired by Mr Ardashes Cavusyan, the MGMT members thanked the Patriarch for his willingness to act concerning the Melkonian Trust, in order to secure that the historic school continues to function.

Patriarch Mesrob had received in his office in Istanbul, on 28 December 2004, Mr. Raffi Zinzalian (Chairman of the Melkonian Alumni Association, LA), Mr. Mgo Godjamanian (Vice-Chairman of the same) and Mark MacCarley
(attorney-in-law) who furnished the Patriarch with a copy of the Melkonian Trust as amended on December 15, 1926.

In 1921, Garabed Melkonian, a wealthy Armenian businessman, conveyed a gift of real and personal property to Patriarch Zaven of Istanbul, with which the hierarch established a school and orphanage in Nicosia, Cyprus, in 1924, and named it Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI).

On December 25, 1925, Patriarch Zaven conveyed the entire Melkonian gift and the proceeds thereof, to include the newly founded MEI in Nicosia, Cyprus to the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), in trust due to the AGBU’s expressed ability to better manage the trust assets and execute the original deed. The Melkonian Trust was then amended in writing on December 15, 1926, between the AGBU, Patriarch Zaven and Garabed Melkonian.

According to the Deed of Amendment to the Garabed Melkonian Trust, dated December 15, 1926, the AGBU is responsible for maintaining the MEI in Nicosia, Cyprus; paying an annual subsidy of one thousand Egyptian pounds to the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem; paying an annual subsidy of one thousand Egyptian pounds to the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul; building a kindergarten for Armenian children in the vicinity of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Alexandria; paying the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul an additional perpetual annuity of five hundred Egyptian pounds per year.

For more than 75 years the relationship between the Armenian Patriarchal See of Istanbul and the AGBU has been cordial, as the AGBU has fulfilled its minimum obligation to support the MEI in Nicosia, Cyprus. However, in violation of the Melkonian Trust, the AGBU announced formally in March 2004 that it would absolutely be closing the MEI in Cyprus, and transferring the students elsewhere, at the end of the 2005 schoolyear in June. The AGBU has taken this decision without informing or consulting with Patriarch Mesrob of Istanbul who is the lawful successor of Patriarch Zaven.

Patriarch Mesrob informed the members of the MGMT that he first became aware of the existence and contents of the 1926 Deed of Amendment to the Melkonian Trust only on December 28, 2004, through the MEI Alumni in Los Angeles. The Patriarch emphasized that he is now cognizant of the multiple obligations the AGBU accepted from his predecessor, Patriarch Zaven, in 1926.

The Patriarch informed the MGMT members that, represented by Attorney Mark MacCarley, Esq., of Los Angeles, he has filed a petition to the Los Angeles Superior Court, in his fiduciary capacity as Patriarch of the Armenian Patriarchal See of Istanbul and All Turkey. The Patriarch explained that he has petitioned for 1) instructions with regards to the obligations of the AGBU; 2) compelling the AGBU to perform the Trustee’s duties; 3) compelling an exhaustive accounting on Melkonian Trust transactions since 1926; and 4) compelling the AGBU to redress any breach of trust.

Endorsing the Patriarchate’s legal action in order to compel the AGBU to perform the Trustee’s duties, the MGMT members thanked Patriarch Mesrob for acting to prevent the closure of the MEI.

The Monitorial Group on the Melkonian Trust was formed out of necessity following Armenian Christmas on January 6, 2005, in order to monitor the worldwide press and the AGBU actions with regards to the MEI. The members of the MGMT are Mr. Ardashes Cavusyan (Chairman), Mr. Hagop Mamigonyan (Vice-Chairman), Mrs. Silva Kuyumcuoglu (Secretary), Mr. Yervant Asa, Mr.
Artin Kilerci, Mr. Dork Miricanyan and Mr. Aram Ozhalacyan – all educated at the MEI and residing presently in Istanbul, Turkey.

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