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Government Bill ‘No Threat To Bank Secrecy’


Armenia -- The governing board of the Central Bank meets in Dilijan, January 1, 2017.

The Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) dismissed on Friday concerns voiced about the government’s plans to facilitate law-enforcement authorities’ access to bank account data.

A bill approved by the government on Thursday would allow investigators to see what not only criminal suspects but also individuals linked to them have in their domestic bank accounts. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said this would help the Armenian authorities fight against corruption more effectively.

However, some economists said the measure would seriously undermine bank secrecy, a key feature of Armenia’s financial system, and lead to capital flight from the country. The Union of Armenian Banks likewise called it a “step backwards.”

The CBA sought to allay these fears, saying that the bill, if passed by the Armenian parliament, will not soften banking secrecy. In a statement, it argued that investigators would continue to need permission from both senior prosecutors and courts to access information about bank accounts.

Requests for such permissions could be filed only in “exceptional cases” and would have to be backed up by “relevant, credible and sufficient facts,” said the statement.

“Banking secrecy has been and remains one of the pillars of financial stability and the planned regulation is not a softening compared to the existing regulation,” it said. “The Central Bank is determined to maintain banking secrecy and ensure financial stability in the country.”

Pashinian complained on Thursday that because of the existing rules the authorities were recently unable to stop a “high-ranking official or his son-in-law” from selling a dubiously acquired asset and “hiding the loot” abroad. He did not name those persons or disclose the asset.

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