By Karine Kalantarian
A senior prosecutor accused on Thursday Armenia’s Environment Ministry of condoning illegal logging, poaching, mining and other activities which he said are inflicting great damage on environment.
According to Deputy Prosecutor-General Gevorg Danielian, a six-month inquiry conducted by the Prosecutor-General’s Office this year found “serious violations” in the ministry’s operations. Danielian said the ministry and its territorial divisions have failed to take meaningful action against the continuing destruction of forests and other green areas across the country. The few individuals caught for illegally cutting trees usually get off with minor fines or are not punished at all, he claimed.
“The same is true for all other spheres of environment protection such as illegal fishing and poaching and illegal mining,” Danielian told RFE/RL. “Such violations are of serious concern to us.”
He said the law-enforcement agency’s Department on the Protection of State Interests has sent the findings of its inquiry to the Environment Ministry and expects it to give an official response by September 2. No criminal charges have been brought so far, he added.
The ministry declined to comment on the allegations. A spokesman said Environment Minister Vartan Ayvazian is currently on holiday and will personally respond to them after he returns to work later this month.
The extraordinary probe will only stoke renewed speculation that Ayvazian may soon be relieved of his duties. The Russian newspaper “Trud” reported last week that the Armenian government is considering sacking him for mismanagement, misuse of public funds and frequent trips abroad.
The Yerevan daily “Aravot” on Thursday quoted Ayvazian as dismissing the rumors through a spokesman and blaming them unspecified individuals who “steal gold” in Armenia. Ayvazian has had an uneasy rapport with foreign investors exploiting Armenia’s gold reserves. Some of them have implicitly accused him of bribery.
(Photolur photo: Vartan Ayvazian.)