2021 June 30

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Daily news wrap-up

News - Jun/30/2021: (1) Asset forfeiture; property embezzlement, hundreds under investigation (2) Justice reforms: delaying trial = penalty; house arrest; ankle bracelet; money laund. (2) Bills approved (3) Pashinyan about taxation, expenditures, vaccines (4) Mayor & thieves busted (5) Artsakh news!
by ar_david_hh

This is your 14-minute Wednesday report in 3536 words.

Iron Mandate: 29 properties worth $12.5 million with suspicious origins / hundreds are under investigation

The government recently enacted asset forfeiture reforms that could require officials to prove they did not steal the property they own if there is evidence pointing to embezzlement or laundry.

Prosecutors said: during 2020, we received 201 reports about suspicious property origins implicating 430 individuals. In 2021 we had 18 reports, 1 court verdict, and the conclusion of 3 investigations.

During the investigation we sent 2,100 questions to numerous federal and local institutes, individuals, and businesses, to reveal the real owners of suspicious properties, the true volume of properties, etc.

We filed 7 international inquiries. We cooperated with authorities in foreign states on several occasions.

We filed 21 court cases to receive banking information: 12 approved fully, 6 approved partially.

We have uncovered 20 real estates, 5 movable properties, and 3 company shares with alleged illegal origins, worth ֏6.2 billion. The individuals implicated in these three cases have been summoned and invited to present their position.


former police chief Vladimir Gasparyan's property assets are frozen

... as part of an asset forfeiture investigation. He was invited on June 18 to present his position. The court decided to place an arrest on the property in question.


Ilham Aliyev's cousin is under money laundering investigation in London

Last year the media wrote about the UK authorities investigating a couple over $19.5 million in questionable origins. After a year under a gag order, the media has finally won the right to reveal who the couple is.

It's Mikaela Jav (Izzat Khanim Javadova), a London-based DJ who happens to be the cousin of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, and her husband.

The couple used a network of offshore firms to receive funds in their UK accounts in a way that - according to authorities - was designed not to involve an auditable trail of transactions.

Six of these companies were identified as being part of Azerbaijani Laundromat used by the Azeri regime to launder money, bribe European officials, etc.

It has been known that high-ranking Azeri officials used the Laundromat, but this is the first known instance of Aliyev's family members doing so. The authorities plan to confiscate their properties in the coming weeks.

Full: https://www.occrp.org/en/azerbaijanilaundromat/jet-setting-dj-and-cousin-of-azerbaijans-president-aliyev-accused-of-receiving-millions-in-suspicious-funds https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/azerbaijan-laundromat-corrupt-national-crime-agency-b339938.html https://www.occrp.org/en/azerbaijanilaundromat/ https://youtu.be/eTU22YxdHyc https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1056974.html

Justice Minister met the Japanese ambassador

... and thanked Japan for the $3.6 million post-war humanitarian aid. The two discussed the recent UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice convention held in Japan, participated by Armenia.


bill approved: bank account ownership database to combat money laundering

The Parliament approved the government bill to allow the Central Bank to keep a registry of bank account ownership in Armenian banks. The database does not include bank transactions, balances, etc. It's just the opening and closures of bank accounts in the past 5 years.

It's part of an anti-laundering campaign. Similar databases exist in the EU states.


justice reforms: intentional trial delays will be punished, house arrest instead of jailing (electronic bracelet), changes to investigation process, "backup judge"

The parliament approved the Government bill to introduce new types of arrests such as house arrest and administrative control.

Justice Ministry rep.: the bill will eliminate the "initiating a criminal case" stage. It will become part of the "preliminary investigation" stage.

The հետաքննություն stage will be eliminated as a separate stage. The bill clarifies the purpose of arrest, its legal basis, and how it should be done.

We reviewed the types of arrests. A suspect can be arrested in order to be brought to court. House arrest will become an alternative. The institute of court proceedings in the absence of the defendant has been reformed. //

As part of other reforms, the suspect can be arrested even if there is no solid evidence that he plans to flee, because the current wording of the law says the suspect cannot be arrest unless he has already fled, complain the authorities. If you kill someone and are discovered at the scene, the current law could prevent you from being arrested, say the bill authors.

The current 72 hours maximum arrest limit will be lowered to 36 hours.

Justice Minister Badasyan: the reforms will prohibit abuse of rights. The public has witnessed several court trials [Kocharyan's March 1st] where the main phase of evidence presentation never reaches because the sides are abusing their rights. This will be prohibited. Sanctions will be applied.

We are introducing the idea of having backup judges. If the trial is lengthy and the judge has to change, the case must start over. After the reforms, the court president can assign a reserve judge who will have a passive role from the side and will be able to take over if the main judge leaves.

We are widening the types of tools that can be used to restrict suspects. For example house arrest. The purchase of electronic bracelets is already planned.

We are introducing the Snitch Institute^©™ . The felony suspect can snitch on his accomplice to receive a milder term or none at all.

We're also implementing the institute of launching certain stages of trial even when the defendant is on the run.

I'd like to thank the Council of Europe and our experts for the work. //

Parliament voted 75-x to approve the bill.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1056990.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1057014.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1056954.html

Tags: #JusticeReforms

bill to reform cinematography / parental guidance score / intellectual property

LHK and QP wrote a bill to reform cinema, IP laws, ensure more transparent govt expenditures in cinema.

LHK MP: currently, we have no such laws. Nothing is encouraging foreign studios to shoot movies in Armenia. Movies and performances don't have a PG rating for age guidance. We have weak intellectual property rights. The bill will also merge the three cinema bodies: HayFilm, Hayq, and National Cinema. //

The government saw some financial and tax problems in the bill because it would exempt parts of the industry from VAT tax. "It's not clear if that would increase foreign investments in this industry. Perhaps we should help the industry with targeted grants, instead."

The Parliament voted 108-x to approve the draft bill. All of this happened in 2020.

Today the Parliament voted the second time to finalize the approval, after making an amendment to eliminate one of the tax exemptions.

Co-author LHK Kostanyan: this bill will increase foreign investments, develop the local movie producers, launch joint productions.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1028083.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1028092.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1028101.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1028133.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1056986.html

bill approved: preschool services will be licensed and regulated

The Parliament voted to approve the government bill.

Education Ministry: The project aims to regulate control mechanisms in the field of pre-school education. In addition to pre-school education programs, the pre-school services will be licensed as well. This will also apply to "development centers", etc.


Pashinyan about 2022 budget, tax revenues, institute of public procurement:

We have to start planning the process of drafting the 2022 budget. Overall, the budget situation is not bad and the tax revenue collection is sufficient. It is obvious now that we will exceed tax revenue expectations in the second quarter, too, and therefore in the first half.

I see more problems in spending the funds. The efficiency of expenditures is a very serious matter. We need an institutional solution because it's one of the key stimuli of economic activity. The public usually focuses on tax collections, but their use is equally as important.

During the election campaign, we promised large-scale capital investments, hundreds of new schools and preschools, dozens of water reservoirs, and thousands of kilometers of new roads. We must deliver that.

We need to improve the public procurement system (government making purchases). We've done a lot of work here but there is room for improving efficiency. Is the procurement system mobile enough? Does it meet all the demands? In the past, we discussed the introduction of the General Contractor Institute, which would make and execute decisions faster.

We have other issues when it comes to spending the funds. An auction was launched to select a construction company to build a school in a province. We gave the funding, the blueprints are ready, but they have been in a 2-year-long court battle.

In other words, in this bordering village where the school should have been ready by now, children still cannot receive the needed education. We need legal and political adjustments to avoid this.


Aw, snap! Suspects arrested on suspicion of breaking election law to aid an opposition alliance

Investigators said: a Vardenis resident testified yesterday that during the snap elections, a man approached him outside the 21/52 polling station and urged him to vote for an "alliance" and to take out a competitor's uncasted ballot to prove he did not vote for it. The voter and the other man have been charged under Articles 154.1 and 2.


Maralik (Ani) residents accuse the HHK mayor of election violations

Maralik's HHK mayor Artak Gevorgyan has been at the center of scandal since the 2018 revolution after a felony investigation was launched over alleged property embezzlement. The residents have long accused him of corruption.

Today they held another protest, accusing him of abusing administrative resources to aid Kocharyan-ARF's HD alliance during snap elections.

Mayoral elections are in 1.5 years.


anti-corruption: mayor of Guy, Armavir is suspected of abuse of power

Investigative Committee said: we concluded the investigation involving Guy mayor. It began in February 2020, when the Urban Development inspectors' audit uncovered several violations, including illegal property construction.

The mayor intentionally did not prevent the illegal construction of properties on 11 pieces of land. Moreover, he displayed inaction even after the Urban Development agency notified him. His actions resulted in ֏159 million in unpaid taxes and fees.

The mayor is charged with a felony. His property could be seized as compensation.


NSS busts an organized gang that stole vehicle license plates involving crypto fraud

License plate theft was a hot topic in Armenia for a while after numerous reports of plates disappearing.

NSS reports: a group of suspects decided to take advantage of a 2010 government decision stating that the vehicle owner must pay a fee and go through a new lengthy process to recover the license number if both of the plates are stolen.

At night, the gang roamed around Yerevan and stole good-looking "gold" plates, while leaving their Telegram address on the windshields so they could extort the victim if they wanted the plates back.

The suspects demanded crypto payments in exchange for telling owners where the plates were. The NSS was able to identify suspects during a transaction. They confessed to crimes.


COVID stats

3711 tested. 128 infected. 0 deaths. 60 healed. 2704 active.


Pashinyan about COVID and vaccines:

The world has not defeated the pandemic yet. On the contrary, we see new manifestations and outbreaks, and very concerning death rates. It's been manageable in Armenia lately. Our numbers are low but only under the context of our previous numbers.

We need to take steps not to return to July and December of 2020. Initially, our concern was obtaining enough vaccines, but now the issue is with conducting large-scale vaccinations.

We need to have a public mood that's positive to vaccinations. We currently do not have it. We have 80K vaccinations right now. It's too little. But these 80K vaccinations showed the emptiness of the atmosphere of fear that was initially spread. Thank God we haven't had major complications, but even if we did, that wouldn't change our course. Even the simplest medical procedures carry a certain risk and side effects. //

deputy Premier Avinyan: 0 deaths among 80,000 vaccinations, compared to 1600 deaths among 80,000 non-vaccinated patients.

Pashinyan: we've got to raise public awareness with the help of medical institutes and state bodies.


Armenia is added to EU's "safe" list for travel. Some restrictions won't apply.


drought continues to affect farmers in Gegharkunik province

Shoghakat settlement has lost 80 tons of grains and 600 tons of hay because the planted seeds did not grow big enough for harvest. The farmers opted to purchase expensive cattle food from elsewhere.


pipeline renovation will bring water to 4,000 residents of Martuni, Artsakh

Russian peacekeepers guard the area and search for explosives, while the workers install the pipes.


MFAs of Russia and Turkey discuss the Karabakh conflict

MFA Lavrov said Turkey and Russia will take steps towards resolving the conflict and establishing an atmosphere of trust.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1057015.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1057018.html

Azeri MFA: we have restored our territorial integrity

MFA Bayramov: Azerbaijan has restored its territorial integrity.... We are ready to amend the ties with Armenia based on mutual respect for territorial integrity and recognition of borders... We are offering Armenia to conduct a border delimitation-demarcation. We expect a positive response.

Armenia must share the landmine maps to prevent humanitarian catastropies...

The unblocking of regional communication routes will change the regional landscape. The Zangezur corridor will improve the current trade connection between Turkey and Azerbaijan and will connect Azerbaijan to Nakhijevan after 30 years of isolation...


the international recognition of Artsakh Republic

... is part of president Arayik Harutyunyan's agenda, which he presented today to the Artsakh Parliament.

President Arayik: during the war, our govt and diasporans launched the process of international recognition of Artsakh. Letters were sent to legislative bodies of 100 countries with calls to recognize Artsakh to put an end to aggression.

We have new challenges today, regarding TR-AZ's aggressive foreign policies. So there is a need to activate discussions with our new and old friends. We are working on this.

Our priorities are Artsakh's international recognition, a final comprehensive resolution of conflict as part of OSCE Minsk Group, restoration of Artsakh's territorial integrity, return of IDPs, the establishment of stable and secure living conditions, strengthening of state institutes, strengthening ties with Russia, involving Artsakh in international bodies, etc.


U.S. state of New Jersey has officially recognized the independence of Artsakh Republic

The state Senate voted 71-0 to recognize the Artsakh Republic and condemned Turkey and Azerbaijan for the aggression. Artsakh president Arayik thanked the Senators and the ANC.

New Jersey becomes the 10th U.S. state to recognize Artsakh.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1057044.html https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/217513

Alexander Skakov, a political analyst and a top official at Russian Academy of Sciences:

Russian peacekeepers won't leave Artsakh after 5 years. They are there for a very long time. Azerbaijan cannot demand Russian troops to leave because I believe Russia has levers to pressure Azerbaijan. If it didn't have the levers, Azerbaijan would not agree to the placement of peacekeepers to begin with.

Artsakh can only be Armenian. Artsakh's Armenian population would never live as part of Azerbaijan.

Q: but it appears Russia's influence is weakening in the region amid the rise of Turkish influence

I can't argue that Turkey has increased its influence, but so did Russia. Russia did not have soldiers in Karabakh and surrounding regions in the past. Today, NATO-seeking Georgia has found itself surrounded by Russian troops.

Q: what will the Karabakh negotiations look like?

Minsk Group is dead. They did nothing to stop the war. Azerbaijan chose a very convenient time to launch the war. The U.S. was in turmoil, France was busy with its issues. I fact, only Russia intervened.

Q: wasn't it clear even before the war that Minsk Group would be powerless, and that Russia would be the sole "problem solver"?

I don't know. Ask that to current and former Armenian officials responsible for foreign affairs and security. They did not learn the lessons from the previous conflicts in the Karabakh area. 10 years ago my Armenian colleagues were telling me that "Azerbaijan would never start a war". But I was convinced that those weren't just threats and that Azerbaijan would undoubtedly start a war.

Q: did people not believe that Turkey would provide military aid besides the political support?

Turkey approved the April 2016 war. It coincided with the worsening of Russian-Turkish relations [over Syria]. That wasn't a "coincidence".

Q: will the placement of Russian border guards help resolve the Syunik and Gegharkunik border conflict?

The issue is with the lack of official demarcation of AM-AZ borders. The same problem exists between Azerbaijan and Georgia. They dispute the David Gareja monastery, part of which, under unknown circumstances, unexpectedly ended up in the territory of Azerbaijan.

During USSR, the borders were being drawn on the map, but they were not being delimitated-demarcated on the ground. Negotiations are necessary. It's important not to give in to provocations.


Russia donates $3.2 million to help low-income and IDP families in Armenia

... specifically in Syunik, Gegharkunik, and Vayots Dzor provinces. It aims to create jobs, promote entrepreneurship. "One of the main goals of the program is to help Armenian society overcome post-conflict stress," said Russian ambassador Kopyrkin.


Armenia "donates" $15 million to Artsakh

It's a loan with a very low interest rate with a repayment deadline of 2025. Most of it will be used to subsidize Artsakh residents' gas and electricity bills, pay the pensions and public salaries.


30 U.S. Senators propose $2 million demining aid for Nagorno Karabakh

The letter mentions the use of cluster bombs during the war. The aid would come from the 2022 budget.


Armenia's private sector will receive $10 million "green" funds from EU and Green Climate Fund

... to help build an economy with a lower carbon footprint. The funds will be distributed to businesses through ACBA Bank. It will help those who want to - at least partially - invest in green technologies such as greenhouses, solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, efficient irrigation networks.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1056961.html https://techselector.com/armenia-en/

German-based Turkish public figure is charged over hate speech

DİTİB "Turkic-Islamic" union leader Mustafa is facing hate speech charges over comments made towards Armenians and Jews. He resigned in February. Prosecutors revealed that the court gave guilty verdicts over 5 social media posts made between 2015-2021.


leaky Rudi Giuliani is accused of lobbying for Turkey and Ukraine

The U.S. could soon order ex-NYC mayor to register as a foreign lobbyist.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-06-29/giuliani-facing-inquiry-into-whether-he-lobbied-trump-for-turkey https://factor.am/388606.html

High Tech Minister met Finland's Transport and Comm. Minister

... during Mobile World Congress 2021 held in Barcelona. The two discussed the increase in the use of digital services during the pandemic, e-health, e-education.

Minister Chobanyan spoke about the need to improve online education tools to address the teacher shortage in rural areas.

The two agreed to cooperate in STEM and architecture education and to exchange experience in the tech field.


Armenia and Iran discuss pharmaceutical & trade cooperation, creation of a "smart" city

Economy Minister Qerobyan met representatives of the Iranian Ministry of Science and Technology, tech businesses from Iran, and Parliament MPs. The Iranian delegation showed interest in Armenia's industry, construction, agriculture, medical production, and other fields.

Iranian delegation chief said they have experience with the creation of large technology hubs around the world, and offered to build one in Armenia, where they can hold B2B meetings and discussions relating to the field. They discussed the possibility of creating a "smart" city.

Iran wants to launch joint production with Armenia and use Armenia's EAEU membership to export products to third countries. They discussed the use of Meghri And Aras free economic zones in this context.

The two sides discussed joint pharmaceutical programs and equipping Armenia's medical centers with Iranian-made medical devices.


Armenian TUMO education center will open a branch in U.S.

Report: CA Assemblymember Nazarian Announces $11 Million Secured For Armenian Arts and Educational Programs in LA County. $9 million to establish a TUMO Center for Creative Technologies in the Southeast San Fernando Valle. $1 million allocation to the University of Southern California Institute of Armenian Studies.

https://a46.asmdc.org/press-releases/20210628-assemblymember-nazarian-announces-11-million-secured-armenian-arts-and https://factor.am/388813.html

Golden Apricot movie festival will launch on October 3 in Yerevan


Forbes: One Of The Oldest Wine Producing Countries Growing Grapes In Conflict Zones; The Reemergence Of Armenia


Armenian soccer league names the best player and coach

Coach is Ararat's Vardan Bichakhchyan.

Player is champion Alashkert's Artak Grigoryan.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1056985.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1056997.html

freestyle wrestler Lyova defeats his Azeri opponent and becomes the European champion

Lyova defeated Ahmadov 11:0 in the 125kg Thicc Category.


Lyova Aronian is in semi-finals: Goldmoney Asian Rapid chess

He repeated the Indian opponent in the playoffs. His opponent in the semi-finals is the world champion Magnus Carlsen.

The prize fund is $1.6 million. If he wins it, he might be able to buy his own supercomputer and stay in Armenia. 🤞 /s


today in history

1894: the opening ceremony of the iconic Tower Bridge in London

1905: Albert Einstein publishes the Special Theory of Relativity: laws of physics are identical for all non-accelerating observers, and that the speed of light in a vacuum is independent of the motion of all observers

1908: giant "Tunguska" asteroid strikes Russia's remote taiga region

1954: former president Serj Sargsyan is born. Happy birthday to the future Prime Minister of Armenia! 👏👏👏

http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Serzh_Sargsyan https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1056913.html

yesterday's news


Перевод на русский by Impossible-Ad-


end of report

The accused are innocent unless proven guilty in the court of law, even if they "appear" guilty.

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Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/ob62pc/news_jun302021_1_asset_forfeiture_property/

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