Thursday, 20 September

Government Officials Cooperate with Criminals

Armenia's State committee on Cadastre has lost the state 1.5 billion drams. At least this is the official figure that was circulated by the Office of the Prosecutor General on September 5, 2006. According to our source within the law enforcement agencies, the real figure exceeds 3 billion drams.

On September 14, the National TV's Haylur news program aired a rather lengthy report on the activities of the state real estate registry committee. The head of the committee, Manuk Vardanyan, noted with pride the committee's achievements. Watching the report, it seemed that the real estate registry committee is one of the best institutions not only in Armenia but in the world. Yet the report didn't mention anything about how the institution has recently attracted the attention of the country's law enforcement agencies.

On September 15, 2006, the Office of the Prosecutor General distributed information stating that a criminal case had been launched to investigate the registration of property based on forged payment orders, and that two criminal groups involved in forging payment have been uncovered orders independently of each other in Yerevan departments of the State Committee of the Cadastre. The information included the charge that eight of the twelve people arrested in relation to this case were real estate registry officials. In another country, in a case like this, the head of the committee, with some sense of ethics, would have already resigned, and if not, any normal government would have fired him. Moreover, if the government hadn't fired him, any normal society would have demanded his resignation. Unfortunately, none of the links of this chain function in our country.

Hetq has written about the cadastre in the past, describing its corruption at least once. That particular case concerned an international tender in which one company had won the tender but the contract had been awarded to another (See also: A Turkish Company Has Explored Armenian Mines).

Three of the seven people currently being sought in connection to that scandalous case worked at the cadastre. These employees faked the sale documents. Here's how it worked. Suppose there was a land auction and the land was valued at $00,000. The members of the criminal group suggested to the buyers to close the deal effortlessly and with lower expenses, or in some cases told them outright that they would do it for half the cost. They took the money from the buyers, say $100,000 dollars. Then they paid $10,000 to the bank, and added an additional 0 on the receipt, making it $100,000. This went on for two years.

At the center of this case lie much more serious accusations, which the investigators will most likely try to hide. We all know who makes the big deals in Armenia, buys land in the center of Yerevan, and privatizes buildings—mainly government officials or their relatives and friends. Which means that those who cooperated with the criminal group had different levers of influence in the government. Naturally, the prosecution will not investigate this, and the members of the criminal group won't say anything about it, either. According to our sources, several high-ranking law enforcement officials secretly cooperated with the criminals. One of them is Deputy Police Chief Armen Yeritsyan. In one of the deals, he owed several hundred thousands of dollars, but paid 10 times less. Currently we are investigating what exactly Yeritsyan received for that sum of money.

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