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Edik Baghdasaryan

On the trail of Aravot's retraction

On January 21, 2003 the Aravot daily newspaper published a statement by Boris Arakelyan, a former chairman of the board of Credit Service Bank. It was published as the paper had received it, without editing. Here is an excerpt from the statement:

“I, Boris Mkrtich Arakelyan, hereby state that in March and April 1999, Artashes Davtyan, who was the executive director of the Credit Service Bank, asked me, as the chairman of the board of the bank, to give him $150,000 (one hundred and fifty thousand) to bribe Armenian Central Bank Chairman Tigran Sargissyan to appoint Artashes Davtyan as the head of the supervision department of the Central Bank. At first I refused; later he persuaded me that Credit Service Bank would consequently benefit from his transfer and that in general everything would be fine. In order to somehow withdraw the money from the bank, he advanced two fictitious loans, of $50,000 in the name of A.B. and $100,000 in the name of B.A. 20-25 days after receiving these amounts he was, indeed, appointed as the head of the supervision department of the Central Bank. The fact that the sums registered as loans to A.B. and B. A. were withdrawn from the bank by A. Davtyan was confirmed by testimony given at the prosecutor’s office by a former teller at the bank, Sona Shahbazyan.”

Two simultaneous lawsuits were brought against Aravot on account of this statement.

This statement and numerous other documents were given to Aravot by people connected to the banking system. Today we have access to all these documents, for which we are grateful to Aravot reporter Armine Udumyan and to the sources that continue to trust journalists. Aravot yielded to pressure and retreated, “acknowledging” that the facts it had published had been “unchecked”. This case was peculiar because the sources of information were prepared to testify in court if necessary. Boris Arakelyan came toYerevanfromMoscowwith the sole purpose of testifying in the Aravot trial.

In a court session on April 2, 2003, the Central Bank and Aravot came to a “mutual agreement”. It is hard to call this “compromise” agreement amicable. The respondent was ordered to publish a text of retraction submitted by the plaintiff without any changes two days in a row. Five items in the text obliged Aravot to retract several articles about the central bank that had been published in the paper. Aravot printed the text in their April 4th and April 5th issues.

Leaving aside the retraction in its entirety, let’s look at the first item:

“1. The article “How much does it cost to become a head of department at the Central Bank?” (by Armine Udumyan) published in the Aravot daily newspaper on January 21, 2003 is not based on any reliable information, and alleges that the position of head of department at the Central Bank is for sale, i.e. is an object of bribery. The article doesn’t contain any statement by any person alleging that he gave a bribe to the chairman of the central bank or witnessed the central bank chairman taking a bribe. The Prosecutor General’s Office conducted an examination and other investigative actions regarding the criminal case based on the statement published in the article. The description of circumstances contained in the statement was found to be baseless and the case was dismissed.”

This item of the retraction emphasizes that the charges related to the Central Bank chairman’s alleged bribe-taking had been dismissed. We learned that both Tigran Sarkissyan and Artashes Davityan discussed the matter in the prosecutor’s office. Naturally, Tigran Sarkissyan said that he hadn’t taken a bribe and Artashes Davtyan said that he hadn’t paid one. But why did the prosecutor’s office dismiss these charges when Boris Arakelyan, currently undergoing medical treatment inMoscow, stands by his statement? Artashes Davtyan was arrested after Arakelyan’s statement was published, but according to reliable information, no confrontation was organized between him and Arakelyan. We haven’t been able to find out on what grounds the prosecutor general’s office dismissed these charges.

Artashes Davtyan has given very important testimony in custody, according to our information, and it’s possible that soon a number of wrongdoings will be uncovered in the Armenian banking system.

And how are banks dissolved inArmenia?

To be continued