By Emil Danielyan
State prosecutors are investigating a recent RFE/RL report which exposed apparent government corruption in the adoption of Armenian children by foreigners, it emerged on Friday.
The story, which appeared on the web site of the RFE/RL Armenian Service on June 23, suggested that the adoption procedures involve thousands of dollars in informal expenditures, apparently bribes paid by adoptive parents and their agents to Armenian officials administering the process.
An official in the prosecutor’s office told RFE/RL that Prosecutor-General Aram Tamazian has instructed his subordinates to look into the matter and report their findings to him. The official said the order followed a written request sent to Tamazian by Social Security Minister Aghvan Vartanian who was apparently alarmed by the report.
It is not yet known whether the preliminary inquiry will result in a criminal case. The prosecutors may question some government officials involved in the foreign adoptions.
The report in question is based on information collected by Ara Manoogian, an Armenian-American based in Nagorno-Karabakh. Posing as a U.S. woman interested in adopting an Armenian child, he has communicated by-email with Americans knowledgeable about the issue. Several of them told him that the entire process cost them between $9,000 and $13,000 per child and that most of the expenses were bribes paid to local officials. They all acted through Yerevan-based mediators.
A foreign adoption in Armenia typically takes between four and six months and requires a chain of positive decisions by several government bodies. The most important of them is a special government commission made up of high-ranking officials, including the ministers of justice, education, health and social security.
Its day-to-day affairs are managed by Aram Karapetian, a senior member of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s staff. Interviewed by RFE/RL in June, he strongly denied that any government official might have accepted kickbacks in return for facilitating foreign adoptions.
The final decision to allow a foreign national to adopt an Armenian orphan is given by the full cabinet of ministers. Officials say the government made about 30 such decisions in the first half of this year.