Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Wednesday that his administration will avoid confiscating dubiously acquired properties and other assets belonging to former senior government officials.
Pashinian again insisted that there has been no such “redistribution of property” in Armenia since he came to power during last year’s “Velvet Revolution.”
“Not only I but also many others, including law-enforcement bodies, know that a particular property belongs to a concrete [former] high-ranking official and was acquired with concrete funds,” he told a business seminar in Yerevan. “And there is a very big temptation to tell the National Security Service (NSS) to find that woman [acting as a front for an ex-official] and get her to donate that property to the state.”
“In the political sense that could even be considered justified,” he said. “But while grinding our teeth, we do realize that we can’t do such things. We can’t because even if you confiscate a fake property everyone will think that the same could also happen to them.”
Pashinian did not name any former officials who allegedly enriched themselves while in office. He has previously implicated former Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Robert Kocharian in corrupt practices.
One of Sarkisian’s brothers, Aleksandr, was charged with fraud in February several months after the NSS had his $30 million bank account frozen as part of a separate criminal inquiry. Sarkisian, who is better known as “Sashik,” avoided arrest after agreeing to transfer the entire sum to the state budget.
And as recently as on September 26 Pashinian’s government completed the nationalization of a luxury hotel handed over to it by Armen Avetisian, who had served as the chief of the Armenian customs service during Kocharian’s rule. Avetisian, who had faced corruption allegations throughout his tenure, offered the donation last November after the NSS moved to prosecute him for illegal entrepreneurship and money laundering.
Citing a sizable rise in state revenues, Pashinian reiterated on Wednesday that his government has made significant progress in its fight against tax evasion. He complained at the same time about a lack of business support for the effort. “Economic revolution cannot be a monologue, it has to be a dialogue,” he said.
Pashinian also said many entrepreneurs complain that despite its anti-corruption agenda the current government has set unclear “rules of the game” for them. He insisted that its rules are clear and based on three principles: “do not steal, be efficient and cooperate.”