A senior Justice Ministry official on Wednesday publicly berated the Armenian government for effectively sacking her because of alleged corruption in the provision of notary services.
Mariam Gaboyan headed a small ministry unit overseeing the work of all Armenian notaries for 21 years. Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian disbanded the 3-member unit on May 19 as part of an ongoing structural reform of his ministry.
That oversight will now be carried out by a new ministry inspectorate tasked with monitoring the legality of decisions made by notaries and other state registration bodies.
Gaboyan claimed to have been “offended” by the decision, saying that Tovmasian did not agree to even meet and talk to her before making it. “You will feel the consequences of these ‘reforms’ later on,” she told journalists.
Tovmasian ordered the restructuring shortly after Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian accused notaries of routinely abusing their position and engaging in corrupt practices.
“The term corruption applies to state officials,” argued Gaboyan. “A notary is not an official. Therefore, as a lawyer, I have said and will continue to insist that there is no corruption.”
Gaboyan said in that context that the extortion of additional payments from citizens by a notary is a “violation of consumer interests,” rather than an act of corruption.
Gaboyan was repeatedly interrupted by several angry citizens present at her news conference. “You are a fraudster,” shouted one young man, protesting against notaries’ handling of his family’s inheritance dispute with a relative.
“What are you complaining about?” retorted Gaboyan. “The court has already ruled on that case.”