2020 April 30

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Anti-Corruption Daily

Apr/30/2020: Thursday News -- Offshore firm makes your money disappear \\ ex-NSS boss accused of being Russian agent \\ Fired over Facebook Like \\ UCOM's shareholder raided \\ Utility subsidies \\ 1k Nature jobs \\ Smelly tomato \\ Education reforms \\ MP vs Activist \\ Cigarette fake news \\ ++
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.

update: fight between QP MP and Adekvad activist

Yesterday we learned about a fight between QP MP Alen and Adekvad member Danielyan.

QP Alen says:

Adekvad's Danielyan tried to instigate a similar fight back in 2016, in the same place.

He wanted to join QP. His father-in-law was the director of the media outlet I worked at. Danielyan wanted me to remove an article.

Yesterday's fight began after a greeting. My friend and I were walking in the Malibu park near my home when we saw 3 Adekvads. We approached them. He gave me a very long stare. I greeted him. He cursed my mother. I told him I have the same opinion about him and headbumped his nose. I don't care if I'm a public official, I won't allow such a language to be used. I don't mind carrying responsibility if my actions were outside of self-defense.

In a similar fashion, Adekvad members tried to instigate a fight against QP MP Mkhitar Hayrapetyan recently.


General Prosecutor sent the investigation to SIS because it involves a public official.




update: the cigarette smuggling rumors

Yesterday we learned that the former regime's outlets circulated a story about an "illegal cigarette transfer, coverup, and a scandal".

infocheck investigated the story:

On April 25th, rumors began circulating that an Armenian jet was arrested in Russia after Armenian IRS and QP MP Hakobyan did illegal smuggling.

The regime's outlet claims this jet was also supposed to be used to transfer Russians from Armenia to Russia, "but they refused".

168 wrote its sources said the Russian ambassador got mad after the "smuggling" and called Deputy PM Avinyan, but couldn't reach him, so he contacted MFA official Shavarsh Kocharyan instead.


infocheck does fact-checking:

The arrested jet is Russian, not Armenian. It properly registered to transport 40 tons of cigarettes to Russia.

IRS says the cigarettes were legally entered into the registration system. Inventory papers were present.

The original destination for cigarettes was Afghanistan, not Russia. The problem is, the cargo didn't reach Afghanistan. It remained in Russia and was unloaded there, so the cargo could be driven to Afghanistan on land (is air traffic closed??).

As for the Russian ambassador's alleged intervention, the aforementioned Armenian officials deny the 168 outlet's claim, saying they never received such calls from the Russian ambassador.

"As for the jet refusing to take Russian citizens to Russia on its way, that's also false. Moreover, the jet offered to transport Armenian citizens stuck in Russia on its way back to Armenia."


In other news, fake news was circulated about deputy PM Tigran Avinyan resigning from office.



UCOM shareholder and ex-IRS boss's family is charged and raided

You remember the UCOM story, about how investigators say Dodi Gago's man allegedly bribed ex-IRS chief Gagik Khachatryan's sons who laundered cash through offshore. Their UCOM shares are frozen.

None of the Khachatryan's sons are officially charged as part of this story yet, according to Khachatryan's lawyer.

Their father, the ex-IRS chief Gagik Khachatryan, was earlier charged as part of another laundering story. His son, UCOM shareholder, is charged as part of that incident, and not the latest laundering incident, according to lawyer.

Today the police raided Khachatryan's son's officers.



General Prosecutor about the level of corruption investigations

Gen. Prosecutor Davtyan:

We have an unprecedented volume of active investigations. Hundreds of companies did illegal activities for 15 years and took steps to cover it up. We have evidence that it was coordinated from 1-2 places.

The way they moved money makes it obvious they were trying to hinder future investigations. It does make it harder to investigate these cases.

When we have enough evidence, we will press charges. We already have charges against some. We're working internationally.


ex-NSS boss Vanetsyan is accused of being recruited by Russian intelligence (surprised pickachu)

In 2019, several experts and NGOs accused Vanetsyan of being "Russia's man". They believe Vanetsyan purposely leaked the infamous 2018 phone call with SIS chief to boost his pro-Russia image, then got money from Russia-based donors to create his new political initiative, and joined the former regime members.


QP MP Hakobyan wrote today:

Vanetsyan is trying to divert the attention from his corrupt dealings (possibly referring to Zangezur mining shares, explained yesterday), by accusing Pashinyan of secret negotiations around Artsakh. Since everyone is asking questions, I'll ask some too:

Is it possible that one day we will find out that Pashinyan fired NSS boss Vanetsyan for being an agent of [Russia] foreign country's intelligence? Is it possible that Pashinyan pressured Vanetsyan with overwhelming evidence and got him to admit he was recruited by foreign intelligence?

Is it possible that Pashinyan was even able to find out the details on how Vanetsyan was recruited?

Is it possible that not only Vanetsyan's 2018 calls with SIS chief and PM were recorded, but also calls between Vanetsyan and Serj's son-in-law Mikael Minasyan, during which Vanetsyan extorted Minasyan to give away his company shares with a promise to give him a position once Vanetsyan sabotages Pashinyan and forms a new-HHK governance?

Many of you will want this to be solved through the legal system, but the international practice says that such actions would harm the relations with the other country [Russia].



Kocharyan's friends in Russia...

... published an article on Komsomolskaya Pravda. FIP outlet says it's full of misinformation. The article claims Kocharyan is purposely kept in jail without a trial.

"In reality, Kocharyan's first trial happened in May-2019, and we've seen several trials since then. The reason why the core discussions are being delayed is that Kocharyan has been delaying it by repeatedly asking judges to recuse themselves, making offers to post bails, etc. which delays the process. Last month's delay was due to the judge having surgery."

"Pravda's author presents the March 1st in a misleading manner and justifies Kocharyan's actions against <the mob who were controlled by Western forces>".

Full: https://fip.am/11315

771mln embezzlement bust in Yerevan parking / Offshore machinations / Forged docs

Investigators released a statement:

Parking City Service (PCS) company sold its shares to Yerevan. During this process, 771mln was stolen by the firm's co-founder and directors.

In 2016, Serj Sargsyan convinced PCS to donate 100% of its shares to Yerevan city.

PCS admins agreed, but decided to defraud the city. They forged docs and claimed that in 2013, they took a $2mln loan from a firm in Beliz, with a 21% annual interest rate.

PCS gets transferred to Yerevan.

In 2017, Yerevan municipality pays back the faked $3.3mln loan to the Beliz firm, causing damage to the city.

A felony case is launched against the PCS admins. The court refused to arrest him. Admin posted a 70mln bail and promised not to leave Armenia.


pulling info becomes free for journalists

Govt recently passed a bill to make it free for journalists to request official info from govt database. The law comes into effect today. "This will help the media with investigative journalism," said Justice Ministry.


getting fired over a Facebook "like" / a massive drama

Gyulagarak, Lori district chief says the mayor fired him for liking the governor's Facebook post. The mayor denies, saying the district chief was fired for poor performance.

The fired district chief says:

The mayor and several councilmen visited me and told me to quit because the mayor has a conflict with the governor, and I keep "liking" governor's Facebook posts, which means I'm not in the same camp with the mayor.

The governor did many good things for us. They're creating factories. I liked his Livestream. Mayor didn't appreciate it. He told another district chief to quit, too. He's been pressuring me since 2019.


The mayor has a conflict with the Lori governor. Mayor submitted for his resignation earlier, but the municipality council apparently didn't accept it. Then this Facebook "like" story unfolded...


Lori governor tells his version of the story:

On April 10, the mayor Livestreamed on Facebook a municipality session during which he submitted his resignation. Governor's office received his resignation letter electronically.

However, days later, the municipality council submitted the summary of that session, but they omitted the part where the mayor resigned. We're figuring out if it's forged, the cops are involved.

Yesterday we got the news that the mayor illegally fired two district managers.




29 years since Operation Ring...

... organized by CCCP and Azeri forces, to cleanse the Armenian population from several Karabakh regions. This kicked off the wide-scale war.

Shahumyan region was bombarded first. Tanks were used against peaceful Armenian civilians for the first time. 100 murdered, 10,000 forced to flee.


COVID infections

2066 infections. 134 new cases, the largest jump in one day. 21.1k tested so far (daily tests have increased to >1,000)

94yo Hranush tati recovered.


Healthcare Minster: Most of these cases were related to several known incidents in a funeral and hospital staff. The circles are more or less known. We'll see how it goes to decide on the level of restrictions relaxation.

Pashinyan: The public should remember safety steps because we can't remain under lockdown for a year. We have to adapt and live with COVID. If we knew that another month of lockdown would completely stop COVID, we would have done it, but that's not how it works. We'll reopen some arts of the industry soon, but not education.

Deputy PM Avinyan: if we relax the lockdown and the spread increases and puts the healthcare system at risk, we can bring back the strict restrictions again.

Pashinyan: eventually, when infections increase, we can't keep them all in hospitals. We'll have to send the asymptotic patients to self-isolation. Here we need discipline on their part so they won't leave isolation and infect others.





COVID aid expands / Some people get rejected

Pashinyan: So far 55bln distributed to 775,000 residents and 22,000 businesses. All university students get aid, but A-grade students get more. It's on purpose. We want to encourage high performance.

Labor Minister: we're expanding the 8th aid package recipient list to add 36,000 residents who worked in certain types of businesses.

Labor Minister: many people get rejected because they make a typo while applying, or they submit a form multiple times. This causes problems.




1-4 grade students won't be graded anymore

Education Minister Arayik says they decided to remove the grades system and use other forms of grading for elementary kids.

"We want to tie the child to education and knowledge, and not to a digit. We'll retrain teachers," said Minister.


1st grader registration system revamped

Education Ministry will change the way kids register for 1st class. Those who have a sibling or a parent in a nearby school will be prioritized and given a 10-day headstart to apply to be in that school.


soldiers to get more cash for travel

Govt will spend 150mln/year to increase transport subsidy for soldiers who have to travel long distances while returning home for a vacation.

Police Forces and NSS agents also qualify. https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1013906.html


Pashinyan: we're talking to governors about financing traditional agriculture with the "old methods".

Deputy PM: we need to discuss further. There are newer types of apricot trees used in EU that bring more yield. If we want to return to the traditional, we need to finance old technology.

Pashinyan: son, there is a big difference between apricot from EU and Armenia. When the elder used to tell me that tomato used to taste better, I used to think that's because they just got older. Nope. The tomato actually got worse. We need to balance the yield and taste.


Govt will expand agricultural loan aid for farmers. The upper limit is raised 3x to boost cattle and "traditional agriculture" activities.

2019: 8.8k loans worth 36bln given

2020Q1: 1.6k loans worth 6.7bln


Pashinyan's chitchat about utility fees

PM got the list of people whose utilities were cut off and called some of them.

Resident: we haven't had electricity for 5 days. We have 25k and 23k debt in Jan/Feb, then we got more. We paid 40k but they still didn't turn on the light. I have 2 sons aged 23 and 21, and I'm the sole revenue earner.

PM: construction field is reopening. Can your sons work to bring income?

Resident: I know.

PM: I'll pay your existing 50k debt, but what will you do next month?

Resident: from pension-to-pension. I'll pay utilities when I get the pension.

PM: ask your sons to get a job.


PM called another resident.

Resident: I paid the debt partially and they enabled the electricity. My son is a cook. He's unemployed since COVID. Recently he got 300k aid from govt.

PM: why didn't he use some of it to pay for utility, then?

Resident: he bought 2-month worth food for his two kids. We'll pay the fees gradually...


Another call...

PM: allo, hi, this is Nikol, did they shut down electricity in your home?

Resident: no

PM: no? You have no debt?

Resident: no, we have no debt, and the electricity is present.

PM: where do you work?

Resident: it's secret

PM: lmao. Hopefully not a grey job. Where do you live? I have a feeling you don't want to talk to me. Maybe I called at the wrong moment...

Resident: who is this? I thought it was a prank, some people used to prank call pretending to be Pashinyan.

PM: it's the real slim shady.



more utility fee subsidies

Govt approved the 3rd utility fee subsidy for gas, electricity, water.

The consumption requirements were relaxed to allow more residents to qualify for a 30-50% subsidy.

207k electricity users and 82k gas users will be added to the list for a 30% subsidy.

425k residents with small water usage will get a 50% subsidy.

Residents in 310 villages will get a 50% electricity subsidy.

Pashinyan: 2600 had their electricity cut off on Apr/2020. That's twice fewer than in Apr/2019.



WW2 vets to receive a grant

Govt decided to give a one-time 300k gift to every WW2 veteran. Last year they raised the monthly gift from 50k to 100k.

"We have 287 vets," said Pashinyan.


Nature Ministry will create 1,000 temporary jobs...

.... by hiring people to plant willow trees along the basins of some rivers as a protective layer.

50 Drams for each planted tree. 10,000 plants per hectare. Provincial residents will be hired. This is being done now as the 15th aid package to ease the COVID's economic impact.

You can earn >10,000 Drams/day



Kim K's hubby buys his childhood home

His name is Kanye West

Pics: https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/186902

do you like bad music?


Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/gb4oo8/apr302020_thursday_news_offshore_firm_makes_your/

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2020 Daily Armenia Reports