2020 April 27

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Anti-Corruption Daily

Apr/27/2020 -- News Summary -- Armenian mafia in US / App to find street parking, CCTVs / Aid for startups / Officials busted with bribery / Foreign aid to ARM and Artsakh / Neighborhood news / Wages up / Trade & Services down / Prosecutors investigate report against Yerevan mayor / 15% had COVID
by ar_david_hh

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.

Armenian mafia / Former FBI agent arrested

US prosecutors and a report says:

Babak Broumand, now a retired FBI agent, took a $200,000 bribe to provide classified information to a lawyer representing Armenian mafia, one of whose infamous members was the former Glendale police chief John Balian, who got sentenced to 21 months in prison earlier.

Babak used his FBI database access to get insider info on the mafia's prospective partners to see if they are under FBI watchlist, to let the mafia know how safe it is to do business with them.

One such prospective partner was Levon Termendzhyan, from LA, who got convicted later with $1bln biodiesel tax fraud.

Gucci, cars, and cigars (I made it rhyme). Read the articles for full story:

ENG https://www.thedailybeast.com/former-fbi-agent-babak-broumand-worked-for-mobsters-on-the-side-feds

ENG https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-24/former-fbi-agent-charged-with-pocketing-bribes-from-organized-crime-figure

ARM https://hetq.am/hy/article/116451

App to find available street parking in Yerevan Center / Parking restrictions / CCTVs

QP MPs are working on a bill to modify paid street parking in Yerevan. Some districts have special Red Lines on the streets that mark the area where you park.

Under the proposed rules:

1) Red parking areas will be required to have CCTV cameras to deter/solve crime.

2) The CCTV will also catch nearby businesses that illegally block parking areas with bootleg "no parking" signs.

3) The CCTV will be attached to an app that will find where the unused parking spots are. The driver could log in and find parking in the Center district.

4) When a cop gives a parking ticket, he will be required to record the illegally parked car for 15 minutes as proof, instead of taking a single picture. This is because parking for less than 15 minutes is free, and drivers often go to court to challenge their tickets by claiming they parked for less than 15 minutes.

5) Parked cars will be required to have visible license plates.

6) Drivers complain that they can't park in Center because people pay a small fee and park for an entire year. Yerevan municipality will be given more powers to further regulate this.

7) If a parked car does commercial activities, they'll pay more.

8) Parking fees won't increase until Yerevan reforms the public transport system.

9) Yerevan may prohibit "For Sale" car parking on the busiest streets.

10) "For Sale" cars won't be allowed to park long-term.

11) They're discussing whether to change the demarkation color red to yellow because internationally red is associated with prohibited parking (sigh...)

12) In the beginning, these Red parking areas will be removed except in the busy Center and Arabkir districts.

The draft bill will be discussed in Parliament this summer.




Tag: #YerevanParking #ParkingRestriction

Armenian startups to get 10mln loans from govt

"Successful Startup" program launches soon. You can apply for a loan if you're just starting now or have been operating for <3 years.

Applicants undergo month-long training. The graduates develop a business plan. Some of them get picked and funded by the Ministry of Economy.

Loan terms are being tweaked. It's 10mln with TBD interest rate but it'll be <10%.


National Institute of Standards and Metrology...

...employees are busted by NSS for alleged bribery. "High ranking officials colluded and took bribes, in exchange for closing the eye on the fact that some companies broke the law while measuring some things in 2019-2020. Officials got caught while delivering the bribe to the boss," says NSS.

The officials are arrested. They confessed. A felony case is launched.


Foreign aid from EU / HHK's record

EU has a "Team Europe" initiative to give money to EU partners. It's done as Macro Economic Aid (MFA), COVID aid, etc.

HHK MP Ashotyan accused Pashinyan administration of failing foreign policy for not being able to secure MFA aid from EU.

10 Team Europe partners will receive MFA aid. Georgia gets $150mln.

Ashotyan: "In 2011, HHK secured $100mln MFA aid from Team Europe after the 2008 economic crisis."


FIP outlet tried to find out details:

In 2011 Armenia got Team Europe's MFA aid. At the time, HHK was negotiating with the EU about the tight economic cooperation with the EU (DCFTA).

In 2013, however, HHK suddenly rejected the EU and joined Russia's EAEU trade bloc. FIP writes that the EU's later 2013 document, about MFA aid assessment, mentions this sudden political shift.

As it turns out, the EU plans to give Armenia $100mln in COVID aid now, as part of the same Team Europe initiative.


Ashot: https://www.facebook.com/armen.ashotyan/posts/10221407539916082

EU: https://ec.europa.eu/dgs/economy_finance/evaluation/pdf/mfa__armenia_evaluation_final_report_en.pdf

EU aid: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/coronavirus_support_eap.pdf

US Congress & Artsakh aid

30 US Senators and 75 Representatives joined an initiative to provide $1.5mln de-mining and disability aid to the Artsakh Republic in 2021.

De-mining aid was suspended recently, party due to the US concluding that the mission was successful, citing no recent mine-related deaths at the time of suspension.


HHK criticizes Justice Minister's hiring

Team-Serj accused Justice Minister Badasyan of hiring his godfather and a friend as high ranking officials in the Ministry.

Justice Ministry responded: >5 people applied at random times for two of the aforementioned jobs. They went through job interviews and competitions as regulated by law, observed by special committees, without a conflict of interest.


2016 Artsakh Defense Minister testifies about battles

The Parliamentary Committee continues its investigation to see if officials and army did their job properly during the April 2016 battles.

Artsakh's 2016 Defense Minister Levon Mnatsakanyan testified. He repeated Serj's claim that the Armenian land losses were twice smaller than initially believed. "Obviously, there were problems and I had my share in it, but the army did its job at preventing enemy's advancements, and won."

The chief investigator was satisfied with the Q&A. It lasted for 4 hours. The story will conclude this summer, after a few more interviews.



COVID hit economy hard, but wages are up

Economic Activity Index in March 2020 vs March 2019 was -4.9%. (or +4% if we compare Q1 YoY instead of just the COVID period)

Construction -26%, Trade -10%, Foreign trade -16%, Export -17%, Imports -15%, Services volume -5%, Industrial output -2%, Electricity production -1%, Consumer prices -0.1%, Industrial product prices -2%.

Average monthly nominal salary + 8.6% (192.5k or $401)

This was March vs March.


border tensions escalated...

...last week after Azeris fired 3,500 times. "I don't remember the last time I saw so many peace violations," said Artsakh official.

Artsakh army shot down an Azeri drone last week, around the time when AM and AZ Foreign Ministries were holding talks. Azeris have been flying drones more frequently.

Reminder: Armenia occupies 100% of Artsakh lands since 1993 war.


Azeri banks collapse / Oil situation

Central Bank of Azerbaijan had to take control of 4 major commercial banks (all on the Top-15 list). The banks are facing liquidity and financial sustainability problems.

Azer oil is $19. It probably won't reach $40 in 2020. Yet Azerbaijan needs $55 oil to balance its budget because 40% of its GDP comes from oil.

Since the oil won't reach $55 this year, experts predict another Manat currency devaluation soon. Last time it resulted in massive savings losses and protests.

Azeri govt has been spending $90mln/day to deal with COVID impact.





RIP all-inclusive hotels

Turkish tourism is hit hard by COVID. Turkish govt says the big hotels will no longer offer all-inclusive packages and Swedish Table, and the overall prices will rise.


Famous lawyer Seda Safaryan's family beaten

Safaryan says 6 men were making loud noises on Saturday night. Safaryan's son-in-law asked them not to disturb the peace. An argument ensued. Son-in-law's family member and Safaryan's daughter were also beaten.

"They attacked for nothing, and even beat the women who weren't doing anything other than trying to broke up the fight. Neighbors intervened. Neighbors were also assaulted," said Safaryan.

The police found 2 suspects. They appeared at a police station and testified, before being released. 1 is still wanted.

Prosecutors will press hooliganism charges.


Safaryan represents March 1st victims who are suing Kocharyan & Co.

Human Rights Ombudsman: since Seda Safaryan believes the attack on her family could be related to the work she does, it needs to be examined.

Safaryan and several NGOs believe it's related to her legal activities against the Kocharyan & Co. Safaryan's brother Styopa was mugged several months ago under suspicious circumstances. At the time, Styopa said he hired private investigators who tracked down the muggers and found that Kocharyan's son visited the home belonging to one of the muggers.









Human Rights Ombudsman went to Parliament...

...to discuss a few problems related to police brutality, inappropriate arrests or handling of the situation, domestic violence against men and women, rampant toxic environment and hate speech on social media, ways the journalists can post content that doesn't incite extra hate. Some suggestions were made.




Felony case around Old Yerevan construction

Yerevan council's Luys opposition suggested arresting Yerevan mayor Marutyan for allowing "Old Yerevan" project to do "illegal construction for a duration of a year".

Prosecutors launched an examination and said:

In 2013, the govt declared several pieces of land as of special public importance and authorized "Old Yerevan"'s construction on them.

From 2015-2019, several firms were authorized to do the design and construction work, after consulting with legal agencies.

One of the construction firms, however, broke the agreement and build an illegal floor. Yerevan municipality issued a penalty twice.

The firm ignored the penalties and continued its work. Yerevan mayor asked the prosecutors to intervene, aka the mayor didn't ignore and let it slide, therefor the mayor didn't break the law.

A felony case is launched to investigate the construction firm.



COVID situation

18.5k tested. 1746 infected. 848 healed. 29 dead.


3rd aid package expands / relaxed requirements

3rd COVID aid package passed by govt gave the small and medium businesses loan aid. 5.2bln paid so far.

Today they decided to expand the types of businesses that'll qualify for this aid: education field, sports, construction, etc.

Further tweaks were made to allow more tourist agencies to qualify.

Under old rules, a business was disqualified from a loan if it had a bad credit incident in 2019. Under new rules, the late payments are ignored as long as the business paid back the debt by the end of 2019.


15% of arrivals have COVID / Hospitals / Conspiracies

Minister Torosyan said:

Some doctors in Maralik and Vardenis (cities) hospitals didn't follow safety so the staff got infected. The buildings are closed. A group of experts will travel around and train doctors on how to use PPE.


~15% of Armenians who returned from abroad and went to quarantine had COVID. We made a mistake by initially allowing people to leave quarantine and attend a family member's funeral. One COVID incident happened like this. We stopped allowing funeral attendance.


Every mandatory quarantine building is guarded by 10 cops. 2200 are quarantined, 3000 self-quarantined, 2000 left quarantine.


The infamous Ejmiatsin wedding spread is officially contained due to identify & isolate. No new cases. One day, however, one of the other active hotspots could get out of hand.

1-in-11.4 tests come positive. Same as in Japan. Tests must be done only if necessary.


Recovered patients could possibly develop a temporary immunity against COVID for 1-2 years, just because they recently fought it off, but we don't know yet what exactly will happen.


Some people don't believe COVID is real. They believe in conspiracy theories about world leaders lying about it to control the world. Vaccinations face the same issue. The best way to combat this is through education.

Some still believe that HIV is also fake. If I didn't have a sense of responsibility, I'd tell those people to get infected and see for themselves if it's real (bruh lol). Come, I'll give you a tour through a hospital so you'll see if it's real.






Church candle seller got COVID

His 26 fellows at Holy Seven Wounds church in Gyumri tested negative. They had to take a day off and were unable the ring the bells on April 23rd. They're back to work now.


This church is straight out of Blade Runner 2049

A new St. Sarkis Church is being built near Dallas, Texas.

Aerial view: https://app.oxblue.com/open/stsarkis/armenianchurch

Inside pics: https://news.am/arm/news/574736.html

Church website: http://www.stsarkis.org/

Armenia is the number-one EAEU state...

... with developing democratic values, per Freedom House 2020 report. The only other "partly free" state in the CSTO/EAEU bloc is Kyrgyzstan.

Armenian internet is freer than Italian and Japan. Equal to France.

Armenia is the only EAEU/CSTO state where the internet got freer.


Education Minister gives you the latest

No final exams in schools and colleges. The daily grades as of March 13th will be used to substitute an exam score.

Graduating students will be able to use their last semester's exam scores. If it's too low, they can use the avg of pre-March 13th grades.

As for universities, the university admins will decide each for their own how the final exams are handled.

No prom, Last Bell, and drama this year. Celebrations will happen once the epidemic ends.



a single social media post turns into...

a big campaign to help poor families during COVID.

A group of friends decided to chip-in and "help a family who didn't qualify for govt-aid". They posted online asking for others to help. Soon, 100 volunteers joined. 1,000 families will receive aid.

Organizer Hamlet Khnkoyan says the volunteers usually come in with boxes of food and other stuff.


82-year-old grandpa Artush didn't know...

...that Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial was closed for public on April 24th. He showed up in the morning to march with flowers but was turned away. Later Pashinyan asked the police to make an exception for him and to accompany him to the Memorial.

Then it turns out Artush papi is very poor and needs help. A group of volunteers went to his home to create a plan of action to renovate his apartment.

Artush walks: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=546471362957719

Artush home: https://youtu.be/BEs1UcwxTB0?t=134

Genocide survivor's grandson...

... Artyom Tonoyan is a researcher at the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center of the University of Minnesota.

Tonoyan says:

Grandpa Grigor was born in 1909 in Marza, Kars, Western Armenia. He never liked talking about Genocide because he saw his sister and parents murdered in the barn. His aunt told us everything.

He escaped and ended up in an Alexandrapol (Gyumri) orphanage, where he grew up with his future wife (grandma) who escaped from Erzrum.

He took nothing with him while escaping. No personal items. Last year we teamed up to find other families of survivors in Minnesota. They showed us personal items their grandparents managed to take with them. Those photos are now in museums.

Because of our efforts, many Minnesota University graduates are aware of the Genocide, but knowledge varies from state to state.

Photos and story: https://www.1lurer.am/hy/2020/04/25/Ցեղասպանությունից-վերապրած-պապի-թոռն-այսօր-Մինեսոտա-համալսարանում-«Հայոց-ցեղասպանություն»-է-դասավանդ/230950

SOAD's Serj Tankian performed a song "Hayastane"...

...based on a poem written by Pashinyan in 2019.

The proceeds from the song will be donated to the 1st lady's My Step and City of Smile charity foundations to help kids with illnesses.

Song: https://youtu.be/xqrsHQvp4TU

Poem: https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/169132



UAE sends aid

President Armen Sarkissian called his sheikh bros in UAE and asked for medical supplies. Today a plane arrived with aid.



Armen Sarkissian: Il est fondamental d’avoir la mémoire des épreuves passées

French Le Monde outlet published an article by President Armen Sarkissian. It's about the Genocide.

French (paywall): https://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2020/04/24/armen-sarkissian-il-est-fondamental-d-avoir-la-memoire-des-epreuves-passees_6037685_3232.html

Armenian: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1013470.html

Friday News

In case you missed it: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/g7else/apr242020_summary_of_todays_news_stories_about/

Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/g98r2u/apr272020_news_summary_armenian_mafia_in_us_app/

2018 Daily Armenia Reports














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2020 Daily Armenia Reports