2019 May 27
Anti-Corruption & News - May/27/2019: 1bln highway fraud... Courts release a statement.... Parliament examines judge's dissertation... pro-Kocharyan protest organizer goes rogue; exposes the group's activities... pawn show tariffs & gambling... many more stories inside....
Disclaimer: All the accused are innocent until proven guilty by the court of law, even if they may sound as being guilty. Currency in Armenian Drams unless specified otherwise.
The investigators have released a new information about alleged abuse of power and embezzlement by the former North-South highway construction officials. Numerous participant companies signed fake contracts to avoid taxes on several occasions.
During the construction of M1 Talin-Gyumri section of the highway in 2016-2018, two fake service contracts were signed worth 1.2bln. This was done in a way to hide taxes. The investigation shows no such services were provided after making the payments.
In 2016-2017, through these fake contracts, one company employees took 600mln and handed it over to the CEO, who gave it to the owner of the firm. (doesn't mention who)
Overall, 1.01bln in taxes and fees need to be paid. This case was merged with several other embezzlement and tax avoidance cases that were uncovered earlier.
Constitutional Court denies the reports and concerns that parties can't challenge Cassation Court's Kocharyan verdict because the papers were already sent to the Constitutional Court. That would be the case under the old Constitution, but the recently amended version of the Constitution allows the case to be sent back to Cassations if necessary.
Cassations Court summoned a meeting of over 165 judges to discuss Pashinyan's judicial reforms and the protests. They made a statement at the end:
They support judicial reforms which is created in accordance to the Constitution & international laws, in a way that allows everyone to raise their opinions, including the judicial board.
They value everyone's Constitutional right of free speech, but they are against speech that harms the judicial's honor and fame, and prevents them from doing their work. They also criticized the Supreme Court Council (whose chief resigned yesterday) for inaction, and for inability to guarantee the impartiality of judges. Quote: "Բարձրագույն դատական խորհրդի անգործությունը չի արտահայտում դատավորների հավաքական կամքը եւ այդ մարմինը գործնականում չի երաշխավորում դատավորների անկախությունը:"
Cassations court president Vazgen Rshtuni (not a judge who examined Kocharyan case) says he has never been pressured over any verdict. Says it's legally possible to challenge the Kocharyan verdict, and it's something that even the Cassations court itself could do if they think their own judges made a mistake (doesn't say they will, but it's something that's that's possible).
He is against the idea of applying the proposed judicial vetting on all judges, but doesn't mind if he gets checked.
Parliamentary education committee gathered a meeting to discuss the allegations by an Education Ministry's dissertation-examining agency that judge Azaryan (who gave Kocharyan freedom twice) plagiarized his dissertation papers by copying it from another Cassation judge Vazgen Rshtuni.
The report about a possible plagiarism was first filed last year when a person contacted the dissertation agency with information that judge Azaryan's work was a copy. Dissertation examining agency chief says this is a widespread issue in the field; it's an open secret. They even know who writes the dissertations for whom, but can't legally prove it. Agency chief says he sent suggestions to the government on how to solve the problem. He supports the idea of live-broadcasting dissertation presentation process. https://factor.am/154473.html
The education committee noted some of Judge Azaryan's recent behavior. Earlier the judge said he would resign if Pashinyan resigns (totally not biased smh). The judge referred to the Education committee tasked with examining dissertations as bunch of kids from Parliament. The committee chief referred to these remark as being disrespectful.
Education committee's vice-president noted that their committee can't punish the person if it turns out his dissertation was written by someone else for them. Their duty is to catch those who copy from others. The official noted that a similar story happened with the former mayor of Yerevan Taron Margaryan regarding his dissertation. The official says the practice of having someone else write the dissertation was rampant in past but they have begun fighting against it. (recently the authorities banned the advertisement of essay writing services, and urged universities to utilize plagiarism detecting technologies).
The committee decided not to strip judge Azaryan away from his academic title.
Venice Committee has sent a letter to PM Pashinyan offering their support to organize the judicial reforms. http://www.panarmenian.net/arm/news/269280/
When Kocharyan supporters gathered outside of the Cassations court on the first day of the recent trials, some people wondered whether they were paid, and who organized it. One of such organizers decided to come forward and gave an interview to CivilNet.
Here is the TLDR of his story:
After becoming unemployed, he participated in a creation of an NGO that would spread propaganda in favor of European values. They had 4 employees to advocate for human rights etc.
Later, it became apparent to him that the real intention of the NGO was to support Robert Kocharyan, and possibly help to form a political party called Hay Azgayin Dashinq. One of the bosses of the NGO was Tavadyan, the owner of Roboserj 5th Channel TV network (which spread the misleading March 1st documentary few months ago).
He rented a territory to create the office and begun hiring workers. Tavadyan gave him $1,500, but they needed $3,100 for all the bills. Tavadyan refused to pay him more because he refused to gather 40 people with buses to take them near the prosecutor's office to organize pro-Kocharyan protests there. By then, he had already realized it was a pro-Kocharyan organization and he was against it.
(He gave the names of other employees, among how much they were paid.)
They also organized anti-LGBT protests and spread information that the Pashinyan government will not last more than 500 days. The organization was also using the Artsakh topic to smear Pashinyan, saying he will give Artsakh away.
He says there are other offices like the one he was managing. They spread across the provinces. He says the organization's administration told them to always have 30 strong men ready. He doesn't know for what purposes they would need the muscle. The end of his story.
QP MP Hayk Sargsyan wants to sue anti-Pashinyan media outlet Hraparak for "spreading lies" about him. The outlet wrote that the MP made a big scene after the airplane he was flying in landed. He wanted to get out first, so he rudely cut the line before creating a fight, wrote the report.
According to witnesses, the incident did happen, but the MP wasn't the person of interest. It was allegedly done by a former HHK member of Yerevan municipality, who is a relative of two other high ranking HHK officials.
QP has been working on a bill to discourage gambling since last year. Gambling advertisements were the initial targets. Under the amended proposal, which has already been given a green light by a Parliamentary economic committee, physical bookmaker gambling offices will have 1.5 years (from the bill's passage) to shut down. Gambling kiosks in gas stations will have to close in 10 days.
The author of the bill Alen Simonyan has long complained that the wide availability of gambling stations has led to dozens of thousands of people becoming highly addicted to it. The bill still faces a vote in the Parliament.
After discussing the issue with pawnshop and money exchange businesses, QP has decided not to raise the tariffs from 50k to 3mln per year (60x). It will be raised by a smaller - yet to be determined - margin.
First lady Anna Akopyan's My Step Foundation collected 510mln for the charity during the recent trip to US Library of Congress, Carnage Summit, NYC, LA, etc.
The City of Smile foundation (cancer support) collected an additional 288mln. They met representatives from St. Jude hospital known for treating kids with cancer. Both will cooperate. St. Jude will build a medical center (not a full blown hospital).
LA based Armenian businessman agreed to make an investment to help a clinic.
Another business offered funds to help establish electronic medical care in Armenia. The foundation wants Education ministry to discuss that with the donor.
The foundations spent 10mln on the travel. Anna Akopyanb used an airplane to travel from Armenia to United States.
Anna Akopyan said that during the trip, many diasporan Armenians complained that their donations made in past weren't used for the purpose, so they stopped donating. Some of them said they'll resume the support.
There are only 10 Caucasian leopards 🐆 left in Armenia. Nature ministry advises the lawmakers to raise the penalty for killing one from 3mln to 100mln Drams.
Turkish Armenian MP Garo Paylan has criticized the national TV for disproportionately favoring the ruling party for the upcoming Istanbul elections, and for airing a show in which Armenians were presented as lesser humans, and for the negative character having the name Garo. He thinks it's not a coincidence and that he was the intended target.
2019Q1 vs 2018Q1 industrial production up 4.5%. Construction up 8%. Services sector up 9.8%. These numbers are down on 2019-April vs 2019-March.
Average salary in government sector up 4.9%, and down 0.9% in private sector.
2019Q1 vs 2018Q1 exports and imports down 8.6% and 1.9%. These metrics are up by double digits compared to earlier 2019.
Economic activity was 9.2% in April 2019 compared to 7.2% a year ago.
Yevhegnadzor becomes the 5th municipality to ban mining activities on its territory.
A business in Goris, Syunik Province is producing 3D printers. They need an 18mln investment to expand the production. Who wants to chime in, asks Pashinyan.
Kazakhstan ambassador says their companies are interested in doing petroleum business in Armenia. They also want a TUMO-like education center in Kazakhstan, and Armenia's tech expertise in the education field.
In 2017, the mutual trade grew 28%, in 2018 by 51%.
Hay Football Federation representative gave an interview to CNN about Mkhitaryan story. Says Baku told Miki not to wave the Armenian flag, like he did few years ago after winning the tournament while playing for Manchester United. HFF says this ban is unacceptable and a player should be safe enough to wave a flag of he wants to. The representative also mentioned the fact that British Armenian fans of arsenal also faced issues with the travel.
UEFA has prohibited Arsenal fans and players from doing any pro-Mkhitaryan actions or protests in Baku. Arsenal fans earlier decided to take Miki masks with them to wear it on 7th and 77th minutes of the match.
(It's safe enough to go there guys. Just make sure you don't get killed by displaying the Armenian or Colombian flags.)
Link to original report: https://old.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/btsi4l/anticorruption_news_may272019_1bln_highway_fraud/
|2018 Daily Armenia Reports|
|2019 Daily Armenia Reports|