2019 November 14
Anti-Corruption & News Summary - Nov/14/2019 :: Illegal gold mining :: Child embezzlement :: HHK MP firm :: Pickpocketing bill :: Civil Aviation _ more to come :: Education Ministry _ STEM _ more reforms _ school curriculum _ teacher training :: Foreign Relations :: Kocharyan activists :: Subsidies
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.
PM's office and prosecutors cooperated to bust an illegal gold mining.
A Firm was given a 35-year permit to explore 278 hectare land in Lori Province in 2015. In 2019 the PM instructed governor to examine the Firm's property in Stepanavan, Lori.
It turns out 76ha were agricultural lands, and 13ha were meant for industry and mining.
Out of 128ha that was being exploited as of 2019, only 78ha belonged to the Firm.
51ha land partially belonged to the nearby residents or the state. The Firm had no permission. Nature Ministry hadn't given a permission to convert those agricultural lands for mining, either.
Failure to register some lands resulted in a 299mln damage to state. Another 10mln unpaid administrative fees.
The governors and mayors were aware of this and closed the eye on it. A felony case is launched.
NSS busted "child embezzlement" instances between 2016-2018.
2 suspects had connections with hospital workers, kindergartens, and some public officials. They smuggled over 30 children abroad, by various means.
They did this by threatening to "expose" the women who went to get an abortion, and pressured them to give birth then give it for adoption to others, lied to women about children having very serious health conditions before taking kids away, etc.
Felony case is launched.
Jeffrey Epstein did not kill himself.
Govt approved the Justice Ministry bill to allow the "transferred" Constitutional Court members, who were appointed before the implementation of the new Constitution in 2018, to retire soon and still receive the retirement pension. Court members have until February-2020 to take advantage of the offer.
Justice Minister Badasyan says the bill is needed because for years, the courts were developed under corrupt conditions and influenced by it. This is part of the ongoing judicial reforms.
Pashinyan: the Constitution says CC judge can only serve 12 years and the chief judge only 6 years. This is a good limitation, yet this cannot be implemented until 2035 because the authors (refers to HHK & MP Hrayr Tovmasyan) took steps to prevent it from happening.
(Context: HHK wrote the new Constitution in a way to give old members "lifetime" terms. Before the new Constitution's implementations they rushed to push their MP as the court chief. There is an open felony case now.)
The bill is sent to Parliament for discussion.
The proposal was earlier reviewed and approved by the Venice Commission.
Parliament unanimously passed a govt bill to prohibit the prosecutors from directly interrogating a suspect. It'll close a loophole.
Parliament unanimously passed a govt bill to allow authorities to prosecute pickpocketers, even if the victims themselves do not come forward to file charges.
This bill will also close a loophole that defined theft as something of a high value (>$10). The new definition has no monetary limit, and the theft is defined as secretly obtaining someone's property. Other loopholes related to pickpocketing were closed.
QP MPs proposed an anti-predatory lending bill to lower the maximum allowed loan interest rate from 150% to 25.6%.
Civil Aviation chief Tatevik Revazyan:
Ryanair has confirmed 4 flight routes, and plans to implement 3 more soon.
Russian airlines Azimut has contacted us to start flights to Russian Kaluga, starting December 14.
Other firms have interests to open flights to 10 routes.
The govt officially approved the plan to give all airline companies a tax-waiver if they open a new flight route not used in the past 1-year. The tax waiver will reduce the state revenues by 12bln/year, but the govt thinks money from the tourism and other benefits will outweigh the tax reduction.
So far, the only company to take advantage of this waiver is RyanAir.
As predicted by many, Armenian Genocide bill will not succeed in the Senate. Senator Lindsey Graham put a veto (any Senator has a right to a veto). The move came after Erdogan visited US to convince Trump and Graham not to recognize the genocide. The leaders also discussed mutual relations, weapon sales, etc.
Graham later said: "The United States foreign policy must reflect an honest accounting of human rights abuses, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and genocide. We cannot turn our backs on the Armenian victims of genocide."
The House had earlier passed the resolution with a 405-11 vote.
Yesterday a Russian city MP vandalized Armenian hero Garegin Nzdeh's memorial belonging to Armenian Church. The Church and Armenian embassy condemned the move.
Russian MFA today: law enforcement and Ministry are investigating.
A month ago, Russian Parliament MP Kalashnikov promised Azeri-Russians that he'll do anything to have the memorial removed.
US ambassador Lynn: we don't mind if Armenia gives Russian experts access to US-funded biochem labs. (Russians want to verify that US isn't making weapons)
Labor Ministry has asked the prosecutors to investigate Roboserj activist group turned-party "Adekvad". Ministry is accusing Adekvad of breaking laws, making threats, violating children's privacy.
As part of their ongoing media campaign to mislead the public about the upcoming changes to how govt supports disabled children (kept in facilities vs sent to home and given aid to parents instead), the group went to a facility and gave childrens' parents some cash and food. The law prohibits political motives behind such handouts in such cases.
In another instance, the person tried to break into a facility to record things. In one such facility he successfully made his way through by lying about being a member of a TV network. Childlrens' privacy protections were violated.
When the director asked the intruders to leave, they threatened to have the director fired. The process was recorded on camera and prosecutors have it.
End of ministry report.
Adekvad denied the report, saying it wasn't "their guy", and demanded Ministry to issue an apology.
Speaking of Kocharyan...
Rob's fav media outlet 5TV is accused of spreading lies on air.
Yesterday Pashinyan said they'll spread on the asphalt any MP or any criminal who makes threats towards a QP MP, who co-sponsored the anti-criminal culture (thieve-in-law) bill.
The 5TV network presented it as "Pashinyan threatened a retaliation against any MP who votes against the bill."
Govt held a session today, during which they gave 1.3bln worth vouchers to 227 provincial families who suffered from the 1988 earthquake, to help purchase housing.
In 2020 they'll raise funds dedicated for a similar project by 6x.
Govt gave a 3-year tax waiver to Project Inter-Invest flour producer. 2bln investment on transport, 210 new jobs, 165k salary.
Overall, 12.8bln worth investment tax waivers were given during today's session.
Last week Pashinyan walked though Yeghegnadzor city and complained about the quality of road repairs, unfinished parts, no lighting. These things were supposed to be fixed as part of a subsidized govt project.
Mayor says the issue was a result of a delay by a construction firm who promised to fix the roads.
PM also complained about not fixing street lights. The answer was similar, the firm said they will fix it within a week.
During today's govt session Pashinyan said he has instructed SOC to audit the Yeghegnadzor municipality. He criticized the governor's office for inaction.
SOC says they had begun auditing Yeghegnadzor and Vayq municipalities.
Mayor BHK Davit Harutyunyan says he doesn't mind the audits.
Govt approved the plan to aid the development of small and medium greenhouse farms. Farmers can get a yield regardless of season. Higher quality and more expensive types of products can be produced (better for exports).
In 3 years they'll build 35ha greenhouse farms, a 3600 ton/year increase of such yield.
Pashinyan: build such a farm and we'll subsidize up to 30-50% of it.
This madlad is growing kiwi in Armenia.
Education Ministry and Govt issued 713mln to continue repairs on Vanadzor State Agrarian College.
14mln for Nerqin Getashen school repairs.
Agrarian University plans to implement entry exams for applicants. Until now school students could enter just with their school grades. Needs a govt approval first.
Education Ministry plans more reforms to address complaints by the students and their parents.
Students complain that some materials in Armenian Language class are oral in nature, but they're required to write written materials. There is too much homework in some cases, the problems aren't easy to understand and even parents can't figure it out, etc.
Education Ministry is reviewing the country-wide standards. Some teachers will be re-trained. Some subjects will be merged, students will have less load.
Ministry will prioritize critical thinking, STEM, natural sciences and math.
"Դպրոցին մոտենում ենք ոչ թե առարկաներով, այլ ընդհանրական եւ փորձում ենք ամեն ինչի մասին այնտեղ խոսել ինտեգրացված եւ միջառարկայական կապերով"
Goal: reduce load on students, increase practical info, integrate some curriculum, increase school's role vs homework, give schools more autonomy on curriculum decisions, make sure every student is a member of at least one Student Group.
In higher schools, Humanities students will be required to take a certain number of hours of Natural Sciences, just enough to have a general idea about the subject. Similarly, Natural Science students will take Humanities hours.
Students will be able to increase their own hours spent on their preferred "major", without having to hire a dedicated tutor. They'll take these extended classes in the schools.
The draft bill is currently being shared with NGOs for them to weigh-in. One such NGO rep has supported the reforms, saying that the current curriculum does not encourage critical thinking and is too "rough" on wording.
Other planned reforms by the Education Ministry:
They'll create a unified online registry to allow the organizations, which are tasked with re-training teachers who need to comply with inclusive standards (disabled kids), to find these teachers online.
Teachers can register online and pick the organization they want to work with. Each teacher will have an account and points, based on which they'll decide what type of retraining the teacher needs.
22mln more funding to promote inclusive education. Some teachers will be retrained for this.
Investigators say HHK MP Hermine Naghdalyan's road construction firm embezzled 21mln from state.
In 2016 the Transport Ministry signed a 716mln contract with the Firm.
Road was ready by 2018. It was recently found that numerous big violations were made during the construction. The quality was poor, and the road begun disintegrating next year, in 2019. Also 21mln was stolen.
Felony case is launched.
Yesterday, Pashinyan got mad and threatened to "slam criminals on the floor and the walls", after BHK MP Vardan Ghukasyan said a few nice words about criminal culture & thieve-in-laws, and allegedly threatened the QP MP co-author of the bills.
Today the QP MP Nazeli Baghdasaryan came forward and confirmed the rumors, saying people associated with Ghukasyan told her to drop the bill.
She says they threatened her saying "you have children, why do you need this?"
The law enforcement is investigating
BHK MP Vardan Ghukasyan:
I regret that my words made Mr. Prime Minister angry, but I spoke in the interest of our nation, I didn't say anything bad. Every MP has the right to have an opinion, the PM acted too hostile. (he is talking about thieve-in-laws being "smart" and him not wanting to prosecute them only because they're part of a criminal network)
Speaker Mirzoyan: we sent data we have about these threats to the law enforcement. Everybody knows the atmosphere of fear, and the scale of embezzlement, when Vardan Ghukasyan was the mayor of Gyumri.
We should make sure the role models for kids aren't those squatting in da hood, but those who worked and succeeded. The only way to defeat poverty is through education and work.
Gyumri must became an active hotspot for tourism. Ryanair's entry to Gyumri can help. All our actions should be directed towards the strategic development of Gyumri.
(Is Pashinyan laying a groundwork to move the capital to Gyumri? 🤔)
Pashinyan: Few days ago I instructed the NSS to find out if some circles cooperate and collude with satan.
Pashinyan: no, for real. There is an order. It's a matter of national security. Tell them, Eduard Martirosyan (NSS boss).
Eduard Martirosyan: itz true
Pashinyan: I also want to know if the QR-code thingie is satanic or not. (it certainly isn't a traditional method of communication)
Option A: thieve in laws busts
Option B: hydro power plant embezzlement busts
Yerevan municipality removed a bunch of illegal budkas and parking garages in Avan, and built a park and a playground in place. The process lasted 5 months.
Spice of the Day Award
Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/dwg36y/anticorruption_news_summary_nov142019_illegal/
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