2020 February 7

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Anti-Corruption Daily

Feb/7/2020 -- Daily News Collection From Armenia -- Stay informed about the ongoing Constitutional Court crisis, Anti-Corruption Busts, Politics, Economy, Diaspora, Daily Life, and more...
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.


Constitutional Court crisis

Yesterday QP passed a bill to organize a referendum and ask Armenians if they want to fire 7 out of 9 CC judges being above others (read yesterday's post for details, term limits, different appointment procedure, etc)

This referendum bill needs to be signed by President Sarkissian before a referendum can be held.

The Central Electoral Committee chief Tigran Mukuchyan met Parliament speaker Mirzoyan today to discuss the referendum details.

Once the bill gets the presidential approval, the Electoral Committee has 55 days to organize the referendum.

During this period, the Committee has to inform the public about the vote, and design a ballot.

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179957 https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179962

referendum details

President Sarkissian has 3 days to make a decision, and possibly choose a referendum date. The referendum date must be between 50-65 days.

If Sarkissian signs it without sending it to CC, 1/5th of Parliament MPs could block the move by challenging it in CC.

In other words, opposition LHK and BHK parties have enough votes to ask the CC to decide whether the President should send the bill to CC for approval or not.

A QP MP thinks this is unlikely because BHK was "neutral" during yesterday's discussions. Although it's possible.

For the referendum to pass and the judges to be terminated, there needs to be a 25% voter turnout and >50% must vote in favor. UPDATE: it appears the 25% isn't the turnout requirement, a Redditor explains here

If it's passed, LHK or BHK could still challenge the referendum results in CC, "which is why we must make sure the vote is democratic and leaves no doubts," said a QP MP.

opposition about referendum

LHK chief Marukyan says he won't rule out challenging the bill in CC before it's even sent for a referendum, because he believes the referendum would be "illegal and unconstitutional." https://www.azatutyun.am/a/30421953.html


Why is LHK saying it's illegal?

In 2015, HHK amended the Constitution (to go into effect in 2018) to take away Parliament's and people's right to hold a referendum without CC's approval. Any bill sent for a public referendum could be done without CC's approval under the previous Constitution.

QP complains it was another way for HHK Justice Minister and CC chief Tovmasyan and HHK to amass more powers and they're using it now to hold their illegally hijacked court.


To address this issue, a QP MP proposed another bill that would remove the requirement to send the referendum bill to CC first (essentially making it function as pre-2018 Constitution). It appears this bill was not placed for a vote yesterday because it was recalled by the author MP for "technical reasons", although the Parliament speaker later said a bill that was introduced again "had a similar content". I'm not sure if this bill has been passed yet, most likely no.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/179429 https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/179831 http://www.parliament.am/drafts.php?sel=showdraft&DraftID=56441


Hanrapetutyun Party supports the removal of CC judges, while HHK opposes. Hanrapetutyun chief Aram Sargsyan encouraged the judges to voluntarily resign. https://news.am/arm/news/559127.html

President Sarkissian spoke about the CC crisis and the referendum:

There are some expectations from me to comment on various cases, but I shouldn't interfere with other institutes' work. My powers are very limited unlike in some countries where Presidents can veto bills or send them back to Parliament. When the Parliament sends this referendum bill to my desk, I'll decide whether to sign it or to direct it to CC. The idea of a referendum, in general, is good and it can be useful to get the public's opinion.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/180020

Justice Reforms

Justice Minister Rustam Badasyan met EUROPOL (European law enfrocement) chiefs.

The latter noted Armenia's "significant achievements in a short period" and informed that various European countries have agreed to expand their legal cooperation with Armenia. They familiarized him with some details of their work.

Minister Badasyan told them about the ongoing institutional and anti-corruption reforms.

They spoke about cooperation in the money laundering fight. (is something cooking here?). They agreed to sign a memorandum soon.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/180022

Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.


NO ONE:

Azerbaijani Electrical Committee: yo Artsakhtsis, you can participate in our upcoming parliamentary elections!

Artsakh Electoral Committee: we no take your bait, Ilham. We have legal independence. But we can come and serve as international observers to monitor your elections tho safety not guaranteed. https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/180009

missing prisoner

Where is the former Russian soldier Permyakov who went nuts a few years ago, left the Russian military base in Gyumri and killed a family? He was transferred to serve his term in Russia.

ArmTimes outlet wanted to find out his whereabouts but the Russian Penitentiary System didn't reveal it, citing "Russian personal info protection laws".

The outlet then asked the Russian info regulator/censor RosCommNodzor, and the latter said revealing Permyakov's info does not violate Russia's privacy laws.

The whereabouts of Permyakov is a sensitive topic in Armenia because he was sent to Russia to serve his term, instead of being kept in Armenia "under watch". RU-AM military agreement states that criminal soldiers should be sent to Russia to serve their terms. Some Armenians didn't like this and were skeptical that Permyakov is receiving the punishment he deserves. The secrecy around his whereabouts and conditions only adds fuel for the skeptics.

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179948

army protocol audits

A Parliamentary committee was created to examine the Apr-2016 battles and the administration's actions to see if protocols were violated. Dozens of witnesses were questioned.

This year the committee will question 40 high ranking officials, including Serj Sargsyan, former CSTO military bloc chief Yuri Khachatutov, etc.

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179961

army weapons & bullying

Army official: we're negotiating to buy drones, anti-tank missiles, electronic tools, and other modern equipment, in addition to more SU-30 jets and more TOR missile units. https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/180015


Earlier a media outlet wrote about an "elite" military unit in Artsakh where sons of some popular officials were serving. This is where suicide(murder) happened and former HHK MP Shmays's son was arrested.

Army official Artak Davtyan says the report is misleading: "The unit is elite because it does dangerous tasks, and not because of who serves there. It has 1,000 soldiers. Of course 2-3 of them are statistically going to be related to some officials."

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/180018

Pashinyan's corruption revealed

Yesterday Pashinyan spoke about a big corruption bust in northern Bavra customs border entry point. NSS has a report:

On Jan-25-2020, a shift manager and 2 employees (IRS agents, borders are checked by IRS) took a bribe from a cargo importer to let 4.5 tons of taxable products enter without paying taxes in Feb-6-2020.

One of the crooked agents then bribed another agent to have him distract the rest of the crew while the truck was entering the checkpoint.

4 agents have been arrested. A felony case is launched.

https://youtu.be/lZI5o7u2lDo

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179930

A former deputy governor and SOC agent busted

SIS and Hetq outlet busted a high ranking SOC (State Oversight Committee) official. He's accused of purchasing a 106 ha land during an illegal auction in Kotayk.

Prosecutors are trying to annul the auction results. A felony case is lanched against Karen Margaryan.

He was the former deputy Kotayk governor between 2012-2018 before becoming a SOC official after the revolution.

https://hetq.am/hy/article/113042

police cleans itself

The police say they busted 2 crooked cops in Ijevan. The report says:

In Dec-2019 an Ijevan police official informed illegal loggers, and those using the logged trees for illegal business, about upcoming forest checks, to help them evade detection. This allowed the violators to get away.

1 of the cops confessed. A felony case is launched.


In a similar instance, the NSS helped police to bust a police official who was doing an illegal sale of illegally logged trees.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/180023 https://youtu.be/0P29pEUKw8E

orphanage corruption bust

Gyumri's Trchunyan Tun childcare facility used to house 80 orphan kids. Its sole donor stopped the aid and launched other charities in Gyumri last year. As a result, the Tun was shut down this year.

Today the prosecutors revealed that there is a felony case of embezzlement against the director of the Tun. Multiple staff members are also facing battery assault charges.

It is unclear whether the donor's quitting is related to the alleged embezzlement.

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179954

Investigative Committee's domestic violence stats for 2019

635 cases, 536 victims, 358 defendants.

219 by husband, 6 by wife, 32 by father, 13 by mother, 14 by a sibling, 2 by a grandparent, 43 by children,

14 were murders, 2 manslaughters, 4 driving to suicide,

11 serious physical harm, 12 medium harm, 51 light harm,

338 battery assault, 12 causing physical/mental pain, 1 accidental serious physical harm,

2 kidnappings, 1 preventing victim's free movement,

137 serious harm threats, 68 threats to harm property, etc.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/180017

damned if you do, damned if you don't

The garbage bins are so empty in Yerevan these days that the wind is knocking them away. (Hire Sanitek to fix the problem?)

Yerevan plans to buy 4,000 more containers for 357mln, soon. SOON!

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/180006 https://factor.am/220067.html

the virus situation

Healthcare Ministry hospitalized 12 visitors upon their arrival at the airport, because of fever. Their coronavirus tests came negative. Another 8 were checked and released at the airport. https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179924

10 students got H1N1 flu in Pushkin school in Yerevan. Soon afterward, the 1/3rd of students were missing from classes. It isn't known if they have the H1N1 flu.

Healthcare Minister Torosyan: Armenia is in an ordinary flu season right now. Go get a flu shot and wash your hands a lot.

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179966 https://armtimes.com/hy/article/180035 https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1004072.html

Yerevan Municipality instructed its hospitals to remain open on weekends to treat the flu patients. https://armtimes.com/hy/article/180003

education reforms for preschools

The law does not properly regulate the working and resting hours of kindergarten employees, as well as when they can leave the building and whether it's safe to leave the kids alone while they leave.

Some employees complain that they're forced to work 9 hours while getting paid for 8 because they have to spend their lunchtime in the preschool while still monitoring the kids so they won't be left by themselves.

Education Ministry says in some situations the workers have to alter their contracts with the employer themselves if they want to get paid 1.5x for the extra work.

Nonetheless, the Education Ministry has a reform package to address this. It'll be discussed in Parliament in Mar-2020. It will give more power to the Education Ministry. Right now Yerevan and provincial authorities regulate rules each on their own, and salaries can be different. If the reform is passed, there could be more universal rules mandated by the Education Ministry.

This law will address a wide variety of issues. Kids of all ages will be allowed to attend preschools and kindergartens. Right now the lower age limit is 3yo.

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179872

Labor Ministry & 5 universities to cooperate

Low-income families get their assets measured before being given poverty aid. This is measured by local authorities, but soon by the Labor Ministry.

The Ministry found that 85% of workers who currently do this job don't have the necessary skills.

The Ministry signed a cooperation memorandum with 5 universities from across Armenia to help them find/train employees for this job. The Universities have the records of graduates from the past 3 years who graduated from faculties with a relevant major. Universities could act as a middleman to connect the Ministry with the graduates.

The Ministry will be required to hire a certain number of graduates and train them as interns.

"Our universities have trained professionals for years yet we aren't taking advantage of it right now," said the Ministry with a hope to change things.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/180012

foreign aid

In 2019, Armenia received various products as humanitarian aid worth $111mln.

EU $68mln, Russia $174k, Ukraine $39k, $43mln other. (ուրիշի փողերը չեն հաշվում, but I don't care...)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1004140.html

ուրիշի փողեր

The govt signed a $21mln loan deal (mostly grants) with the European Reconstruction bank to expand the southern Meghri border entry point with Iran. https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/180031

tech classes in Silicon Valley

Update: The govt dedicated 600mln for 45 Armenian aspiring entrepreneurs to be sent to Draper University in Silicone Valley for 7-week tech and entrepreneurship courses.

The application period for Spring courses is over. 125 have applied. Almost 5th are women. Five applicants will be chosen.

Registration for Summer courses has begun. 50 have applied so far.

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179394

solvency

Pashinyan posted a graph showing the trend of numbers representing overdue loans issued by banks. The trend shows a reduction of overdue loans which hit the record low 0.85%.

LHK argues the real number of unpaid loans is much higher due to the way loan reporting deadlines work, but they didn't argue that the trend is showing improvement.

"This trend is a proof of a continuously stabilizing financial system, and Armenian public's increasing solvency," bragged 5' 7" Nikol. (white your criticism of this distasteful remark in the comments. All Prime Ministers should be welcome regardless of their skin color, gender identity, neurological status, or height.)

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179990 https://web.archive.org/web/20200207202528/https://news.am/arm/news/559096.html

border shootings decline

Tavush governor Chobanyan says Azeri army fired significantly fewer shots towards the north-eastern border villages in 2019. The governor proposed measures, and received govt's preliminary approval, to better secure the bordering agricultural harvest by installing more physical barriers as a shield.

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179955

illegal logging on decline

Tavush governor says in 2019 the illegal forest logging incidents reduced tens of times.

"The 30-year-long deforestation, which used to bring $500 million/year revenue to the black market, has stopped. The state is now taking care of forests. 90% of illegal logging is now detected with new measures," said governor Hayk Chobanyan.

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179942

eco-friendly villages

Armenia has a network of eco-friendly villages liked by some tourists.

Arpi, Vayots Dzor is one such example. Throughout 2019 the residents were forced to guard parts of the village 24/7 because bears would intrude and bother people. The problem was made worse by a poor lighting system in the village.

Viva-MTS telecom and nature protection FPWC foundation finished installing lighting on 2.3km roads. 60 energy-efficient lamps were installed that use 80% less energy and last 50x longer. Local Areni municipality also helped with infrastructure upgrades.

Rural Arpi village, with its diverse flora, became "eco-friendly" in 2018.

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179936

tourism & new routes

You can fly low-cost Wizz Air if you want to go visit Arpi village. They'll launch a new flight route Yerevan-Lankara, Cyprus ($40) beginning Jun-2020. They plan to launch Yerevan-Vilnius in Apr-2020.

Or with Ryanair... They'll launch a new route to Yerevan-Paphos, Cyprus ($19) in June.

(Are we seeing a competition between Ryanair and WIzzAir?)

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179940 https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/180025 https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/180038

weird news of the day

What would famous historical figures look like if they were soccer players? An Italian painter leaves no place for imagination: https://armtimes.com/hy/article/179959

And what if historical figures had modern haircuts and clothing? Instagram to the rescue: https://www.instagram.com/royalty_now_/


Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/f0h3c5/feb72020_daily_news_collection_from_armenia_stay/


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