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Armenian Government Mulls Asset Seizures


Armenia -- Deputy Justice Minister Srbuhi Galian speaks in Yerevan, October 15, 2019.

In what it calls an anti-corruption measure, Armenia’s Justice Ministry has drafted a bill that would allow authorities to confiscate private properties and other assets deemed to have been acquired illegally.

The bill would allow prosecutors to investigate individuals in cases where the market value of their assets exceeds their legally declared incomes by at least 50 million drams ($105,000). The prosecutors would be able to ask courts to nationalize those assets even if their owners are not found guilty of corruption or other criminal offenses.

“I want to stress that confiscation of illegally acquired property could be carried only on the basis of a court verdict,” Deputy Justice Minister Srbuhi Galian told reporters on Tuesday.

Galian said the bill, which will be sent to the government for approval next week, would target “assets that do not correspond to legal incomes” of current and former state officials as well as other persons. She said the Justice Ministry wants to set the financial threshold for their seizure at 50 million drams to make sure that “ordinary citizens” are not worried about the measure.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has repeatedly advocated legal mechanisms for asset forfeiture as part of his declared anti-corruption agenda. Still, he stressed as recently as on October 9 that his government has avoided any “redistribution of property” in Armenia since taking office in May 2018.

Pashinian indicated that the government will avoid confiscating dubiously acquired assets de facto owned former senior government officials but registered in other persons’ names. “We can’t [do that] because even if you confiscate a fake property everyone will think that the same could also happen to them,” he said at a meeting with businesspeople in Yerevan.

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