On September 4, a Yerevan court threw out a suit filed by the Investigative Journalists NGO to force the Special Investigative Service (SIS) to hand over a copy of its decision to drop a criminal investigation into the offshore business interests of Mihran Poghosyan, a former head of the country’s Compulsory Enforcement Service.
Last January the SIS, quoting Article 262, Part 1, of Armenia’s Criminal Procedure Code, said that copies of a decision to drop or halt criminal proceedings are sent to the suspect, the accused, the defense lawyer, the injured party or their representative, the civil plaintiff/defendant, or their representative.
According to the law, a copy is also sent to an individual or legal entity upon whose statement the criminal investigation was launched in the first place. The SIS argued that the Investigative Journalists NGO (which published Hetq) cannot be provided a copy of the decision since the news outlet is none of the above.
The NGOs lawyers, in their suit, argued that Hetq requested the copy in order to carry out its mission to provide information in the public interest.
Hetq wrote about Poghosyan’s shady financial dealings in Panama and his Swiss banks accounts in April 2016, after data was uncovered in the Panama Papers. The data was obtained by the German newspaper SüddeutscheZeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and more than 110 media partners from 82countries, including Hetq.
Poghosyan resigned from his post at the Compulsory Enforcement Service in April 2016, but always maintained he was not involved in any offshore business deals.