2020 May 6

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Anti-Corruption Daily

May/6/2020: (1) Pashinyan "hijacks" NSS (2) ֏1k fees to army (3) Donation transparency (4) Everyone to file taxes? (5) Mass construction (6) Gago's casino (7) Science news (8) Alcoholic Pashinyan (9) Modern architecture (10) Yerevan floods (11) What happened in 2019? (12) Artsakh negotiations (13)..
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.

BHK chief Dodi Gago's casino in legal trouble

BHK boss Dodi Gago runs Armenia's biggest Casino Shangri La, one of four that exist. It was built for $150mln in 2014.

Dodi Gago's Multi Group owns the firm that runs the Casino and Pharaoh luxury restaurant. It's unknown how much taxes the casino pays, but both combined paid 5.2bln last year.


The Finance Ministry discussed the suspension of casinos' license. Talks began on April 15th. The committee tasked with giving gambling licenses held a meeting on April 30th.

The committee decided not to suspend the license because the casino agreed to fix the [undisclosed] problems.




update: 10km pomenade near Lake Sevan

Earlier we learned that govt is working on a project to build a 10km tourist attraction walking avenue along Lake Sevan shores.

"Arkhiton" company is tasked with the design.



Design in Armenia: New Architecture Building on History

See the modern architecture in Armenia: https://www.archdaily.com/938747/design-in-armenia-new-architecture-building-on-history ? not yet

FIP fact-checker says media outlets got it wrong about Minnesota Senate recognizing the Artsakh Republic. "The resolution is there but hasn't been approved yet."


Mayor is charged with embezzlement and land fraud

Prosecutors' report says:

Tsater, Lori mayor organized land lease auctions in 2004/09. They were won by his close associates. The 14ha land was leased for only 168k, for 25 years. His associates took the lands and sub-leased them to someone else (telecom carrier) for a much higher price, in violation of the law. [a similar scheme was busted earlier]

A felony case is launched. The mayor is charged.


National Academy of Sciences obtains a powerful microscope

They bought a JEOL-JCM-7000 NeoScope that will allow studies of nanotechnology, food safety examination, drug safety verification, textile fabric's chemical components, etc.

It zooms 100,000x and detects the existence of 40 elements and their sizes. They'll share it with university labs.


Investigators bust a Defense Ministry land deal

The report says: The Ministry owned land in Yerevan. The Ministry official sold it for 33.6mln less than market value. Prosecutors couldn't find enough evidence of a felony. The official and the buyer agreed to recover the 33.6mln damages. The felony case is dropped.


A spike in the number of calls to Human Rights Ombudsman

2016: 2.1k calls

2017: 1.9k

2018: 2.8k

2019: 6.2k


update: traffic lights were better than a roundabout

On April 10th Yerevan decided to experiment traffic change by turning off red lights and installing a roundabout on a big intersection. The police monitored the traffic and decided the red lights were better.


will deputy PM Avinyan resign?

No, according to him. "Who is keep spreading these rumors? It's probably a few Facebook accounts, parroted by media outlets.


COVID stats / Parliament staff is infected

+163 (largest increase). Active 1.6k. Total 2.8k.

QP MP Nazeli spent days unknowingly socializing with a COVID-positive Parliament employee. She is quarantined. "I had 37.7 fever at the time of testing. The results arrive tomorrow."

MPs are given masks and gloves before entering the hall.





Reddit doctor talks about COVID

Discussion: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/geej2z/armenian_in_corona/

the sorry state of Armenian soccer

Soccer Federation HFF wants to change tournament rules midway. Here is why:

The tournament began with 10 teams. 6 compete to win, while the bottom 4 compete to stay in the higher league, with the last one being kicked out.

One of those bottom-4 teams voluntarily left the tournament. The other 3 teams are basically թրև են գալիս մարզադաշտում.

2 teams are against the changes proposed by HFF. Unclear how it'll proceed post-COVID.


saving the bears

An animal protection group helped save 30 bears kept by various individuals and businesses. Short clip: https://youtu.be/vfkT4kuDNEU

Flooding in Yerevan

The rain flooded the improperly drained area and the parked cars that are used to transport govt officials.


Another take: https://youtu.be/Vpgp9XDL6G8

The streets were also flooded: https://youtu.be/Iv5stUJp8Zw?t=3

Uncle Samvel goes cyber

IRS has a new electronic system to collect sales receipts from mobile and internet transactions. "We're waiting for businesses to join. More work is done to boost digital services in the age of COVID."


doctors will be required to inform police...

... if they believe the patient suffered wounds from illegal actions. The bill also "strengthens patient's privacy rights, defines when a medical examination is necessary" etc.

Parliament voted 117-x to approve the govt bill.


donations to cities will become transparent

Parliament voted 117-0 to approve a BHK/QP bipartisan bill. It'll require provincial cities to disclose donations worth >100k. Yerevan will disclose >1mln donations on Yerevan.am within a week of receiving it.


LHK MP criticized the part that allows the donor to hide their name. "It could allow corruption. Someone could secretly donate then get favors from the city."

QP MP dismissed the claims: "the donor can choose to hide their name only from the website, but the police still receive their personal details. You can file paperwork to pull that data from the police."




some insurance compensation won't be taxed

Parliament voted 116-x to approve LHK bill to end taxation of insurance compensations from bank and loan agencies.


Pashinyan reports 2019 economy

Pashinyan went to Parliament to report and answer some questions. He said:

In 2019, we had the highest 7.6% GDP growth since 2008. Highest in EU and EAEU. In Jan/Feb of 2020 the economy grew 8.7%.

[In 2019] Processing industry +12%. For the first time since 2008, it took the biggest share of the economy.

High-tech industry turnover +30%. (includes programming, electronics)

Tourism +14.7%. Exports 10.3% (especially cognac and wine).

The inflow of foreign investments was $2.2bln, or +$465mln YoY, or +$635mln vs 2017.

Tax collection +43.6%.



Pashinyan about taxation:

In 2018/19 we collected 505bln more in taxes. 199bln of it went towards refunding businesses from which IRS over-collected taxes in the past. This was a decades-long issue. The other 306bln was spent on other programs.

Top-1000 taxpayers paid +13% YoY, or +31% vs 2017.


Pashinyan about jobs and salaries:

87,000 new or un-shadowed jobs created. Unemployment -2.1%. Poverty -2.2% (total 23.5%). Extreme poverty -0.4% (total 1%). We plan to end extreme poverty by 2023.

Wages +5.8%. Dozens of thousands of teachers, doctors, professors got 10-30% raise. Junior emergency workers 52% raise. Penitentiary salaries +30%. Judicial system raise is planned.

Since 2018, over 1.1 million people saw salary, aid, or pension hike.


87,000 new jobs, so why aren't there that many new 1,000 Dram transfers to Army?

Almost every worker pays 1,000AMD/mo to the army Foundation. Pashinyan and IRS said there were 87,000 newly visible jobs, so why aren't there 87,000 number of newly transferred 1,000-drams to the army?

Last year Pashinyan had this to say:

The 1k goes to IRS first before being sent to Foundation. It is collected then sent through cycles. That's where the discrepancy between the visibly available money and the collected money comes from. We could create a group and further understand the delay and discrepancy. It's impossible for us lie about the number of new jobs because of the way they're reported.


The army gave a detailed explanation today:

IRS is not allowed to transfer the 1k fees to Army until the employer meets all payment requirements.

Let's say the employer has 10 workers, but he only made 9 payments worth 1k each to IRS. The IRS knows that there are 10 workers. The IRS doesn't know which one of the 10 workers "didn't pay". The IRS won't send the 9 payments to the army until the 10th is collected. The IRS waits until next month.

Next month, the employer pays 15k. The IRS already had 9k in its bank. Now IRS has 24k.

IRS will send only 20k to the army. Why? Because 10 workers = 20k for 2 months.

The remainder 4k sits in IRS bank and waits for 3rd month.


BHK MP believes some of the "missing" funds were used by the army to make "top secret purchases". He asked the Defense Minister if it can be disclosed.



Tag: #1k #1000dram

Pashinyan about COVID aid, hospitals, financial system:

The 16 aid packages have helped >1mln citizens. 21k businesses got favorable loans.

The hospital beds capable of handling COVID went from 300 to 1500, plus more in isolated hotels. Those without symptoms don't need care, so we try to isolate them until they recover. 6,000 suspects had been isolated.

COVID crisis will last until May-2021.

The slight destabilization of the financial system in late-March, is over. Moreover, the Central Bank purchased $90mln worth currency. The consumer market didn't collapse. Some items got more expensive or cheaper.


Pashinyan about requiring everyone to file taxes:

The COVID proved once again about the need to have a universal tax declaration system. It should be required for everyone. There was a big scandal last year when I proposed it.

Today we can't find some low-income citizens to send them the COVID aid [they have to manually apply, while some work at gray economy]. If we had a universal taxation system, we could see who is really low income and send the aid quickly.


Pashinyan about nature protection:

4 mines were suspended. 3 were gold, 1 copper.

0.5mln trees planted in 2019. Our 10mln plan for 2020 was ruined by COVID.

Lowest water drain from Lake Sevan in 10 years. The drain was far below the legal limit.


Pashinyan about sacking Nature Minister Eric Grigoryan:

He managed to accomplish a lot since 2018, but it was time to "make decisions". Eric solved the problem with illegal water usage by small hydro-plants, and hydo's problems with fish.

Lots of freshwaters were saved in Ararat Valley through underground well conservation.


Pashinyan about making soldiers' lives easier:

225 modern surveillance systems were installed on frontlines. 64 positions were connected to an industrial-grade electric grid. 134 positions received flowing water.

35 positions received modular baths. 90% of constricts will be enrolled in a high-quality food program this month. Overall, 54% of soldiers get new food.

Soldier wages up to +30%.


Pashinyan about his biggest failure, the story of Sodom and Gomer:

Our biggest fail is the recovery of the stolen funds. Nonetheless, in 2019, SIS recovered 7x more money than it had throughout its entire existence. Other law enforcements increased it ten-fold.

Still, it's not enough. Our legal and judicial system has a small percentage of independent dedicated great professionals. But there are also traitors and illiterates.

Why haven't we acted in the past 2 years, then? Remember Sodom and Gomer story. If the city has 50 honest residents, would you still destroy it? The answer was "no". How about if there were 10 honest? Still "no".

Today the justice system has 50 honest workers. That's why we didn't destroy it. I'd like to thank those 50 workers.


Pashinyan about launching mass-construction to keep workers busy:

17,000 more arrived than left Armenia. Now they can't leave [to Russia] for work due to COVID. How will we help them?

This year we'll launch a construction/renovation of >100 education and healthcare facilities. This could keep them busy for years. The biggest problem is, do we have the necessary construction companies that can win the contracts?

Last year we maxed out the construction capacity. We got every company busy. There is one road we want to repair but we can't find a company.


Chinese workers left

Infrastructure Minister Papikyan said: the Gyumi-Yerevan highway construction stopped because the Chinese workers left earlier. The road condition is deteriorating. We're negotiating with SinoHidro firm to bring the workers back. Time is of the essence. If we can't agree, we might have to find alternative solutions. (COUGH COUGH look up Papik COUCH)


Pashinyan about Artsakh conflict:

No other Armenian leader has been this open and transparent about the topic. Any practical decision must be acceptable for Armenia, Artsakh, and Azerbaijan. My opinion hasn't changed since May-8-2018.


How did Artsakh negotiations shift over time? / Phased resolution

Recently the Russian MFA Lavrov claimed the Phased resolution is "on the table". Armenian MFA rejected it, saying Artsakh's independence must happen simultaneously with any possible concessions.

Until 1996, Armenian approach was that Artsakh was independent of Armenia, so you should talk to Artsakh separately if you want concessions. This gave Armenia flexibility by easing the pressure. It also gave Artsakh more weight during the negotiations.


However, in 2001, president Robert Kocharyan had this to say: Over time, the approach to treat Artsakh as a separate negotiating party started to backfire because foreign powers began pressuring Armenia so it would pressure Artsakh. That's how the unacceptable Phased approach was born. In 1996, we [Artsakh president Kocharyan and Armenian president Ter-Petrosyan] decided to increase Armenia's role in the negotiations [and decrease Artsakh's].


Two decades later, Pashinyan decided that it's best to return to the old format and increase Artsakh's role in the negotiations.

Nowadays people point fingers about "whose fault it was" that Artsakh was left out of negotiating table, "why is Pashinyan dealing with a Phased approach", etc. Rob gives you the answers in an MP4 format: https://youtu.be/yd8bgFFN7Xg


HHK activist published a photo of vodka distillation equipment: "That's Pashinyan's favorite govt-owned property. This morning they brought it to his residence to serve him alcohol so he'll claim to be drunk and unable to remember how he gave away Artsakh to Azerbaijan."


UCOM-Beeline merger is suspended

Prosecutors want to arrest UCOM's shareholder-owner Gurgen Khachatryan for allegedly helping his ex-IRS boss father to launder bribed cash.

Since he is on the run, Beeline ISP decided it won't sell itself to UCOM ISP.


Court decides to arrest Serj's son-in-law Minasyan

Media and mining magnate Mikael Minasyan was charged with money-crimes. A month ago the prosecutors submitted a petition to arrest him. Today the court approved his arrest.

Fugitive Minasyan released a message: there is no justice in Armenia. Pashinyan has already convicted me. I will return to Armenia because it's hard for me to be away when my friends and family are persecuted.


Where is Mikael Minasyan?

QP MP Alen: I think he's somewhere in Moscow suburbs, but it can't last for long. Things are going slow because it needs to be done legally. I think you should expect a hot summer.





Why are so many former regime's suspects able to run?

QP MP Gayane: someone in law enforcement should be held accountable for people escaping. Gurgen Khachatryan's escape is no accident. There is sabotage in the system.

https://armtimes.com/hy/article/187229 , https://armtimes.com/hy/article/187273 , https://armtimes.com/hy/article/187268

Pashinyan about the justice system. and his plans to fill NSS with "outsiders":

Armenia's law enforcement system is in shock because they witness something that they thought would never happen.

Some of them can't believe that their long-time target [me] is standing here as a Prime Minister. My goal was to help them overcome the shock, but the shock is still there.

We should reform the law enforcement instead of chasing the cops with a stick. The upcoming new police agency will consist of educated current cops and outsiders.

For a while, my stance was not to appoint outsiders to NSS]. That period is over. The rapid appointment of [28yo] Artsashes Qaramyan as Investigative Committee member then as deputy NSS chief was part of this.



Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/gerxkh/may62020_1_pashinyan_hijacks_nss_2_1k_fees_to/

2018 Daily Armenia Reports














2019 Daily Armenia Reports
























2020 Daily Armenia Reports