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Opposition Figure Questions New Anti-Graft Body Planned By Government


Armenia - The Prosperous Armenia Party's Naira Zohrabian speaks at an election campaign rally in Yerevan, 21 September 2018.

A senior opposition parliamentarian voiced on Wednesday serious misgivings about a government plan to form a new anti-corruption agency empowered to prosecute Armenian officials suspected of bribery, fraud and other corrupt practices.

The creation of the Anti-Corruption Committee is envisaged by the Armenian government’s anti-graft strategy drafted by the Justice Ministry last month. The committee would comprise the existing anti-corruption divisions of the Special Investigative Service (SIS) and other law-enforcement agencies.

The strategy, which has yet to be formally approved by the government, also calls for the establishment of a special court dealing with corruption cases and strengthening of the existing Commission on the Prevention of Corruption. The latter is tasked with processing and verifying asset declarations submitted by senior officials.

Naira Zohrabian, a senior lawmaker representing the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), said the existence of three different bodies dealing with the same problem could result in a “messy situation.” Zohrabian, who heads an Armenian parliament committee on human rights, was particularly concerned about the proposed Anti-Corruption Committee.

“I think that if there is a political will [to combat corruption] the existing bodies are absolutely sufficient,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “What is that monster agency being set up for? I think that when such a body is created the authorities must come up with an appropriate explanation.”

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has repeatedly pledged to root out corruption since he swept to power during last year’s “Velvet Revolution.” Pashinian declared in February that his administration has already “broken the spine of systemic corruption in Armenia.” He said it will now focus on putting in place “institutional” safeguards against the problem.

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