By Atom Markarian
Scores of government officials in Yerevan rushed to file last-minute income and property declarations late Friday, anxious to avoid hefty fines for missing the February 1 deadline for disclosing their revenues.
Long lines formed at the Armenian ministry for state revenues as parliament deputies and senior bureaucrats sought to comply with the law on financial disclosure adopted last year as part of the government's stated anti-corruption drive.
The law obliges some 3,000 state officials, including President Robert Kocharian, to declare their own and family members' incomes and property to the tax authorities. The information is to be publicized within the next two months. Authors of the legislation say it will make it harder for corrupt officials to hide their illegal revenues.
The ministry said only about 1,500 officials, among them Kocharian and most government members, made income statements as of Thursday evening. Hundreds of others flocked to the ministry the next day. Those who failed to meet the deadline are to pay a 50,000 dram (about $90) fine.
"As of today, the president of the republic, the prime minister, the chairmen of the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court, almost all ministers and parliament deputies have submitted their declarations," Deputy Minister for State Revenues Armen Alaverdian told RFE/RL on Friday.
"We can state for certain that most officials covered by the law have already submitted their declarations," he said.
Alaverdian admitted that the officials will bear a largely "moral responsibility" if they provide false financial information. Analysts say the law allows them to register expensive property under the names of their relatives, a practice which is widespread in Armenia.
But Alaverdian said the problem will be resolved after mandatory financial disclosure is gradually extended to all taxpayers. That process will take "four to five years," he added.