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Armenian President Challenges Government Bill In High Court


Armenia -- President Armen Sarkissian (R) meets with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Yerevan, February 4, 2020.

President Armen Sarkissian on Thursday asked the Constitutional Court to examine a recently passed government bill easing bank secrecy and to rule whether it corresponds to the Armenian constitution.

Armenian banks are presently required to provide tax and law-enforcement authorities with information about financial accounts of only those clients who are accused or suspected of certain crimes.

A package of legal amendments passed by the parliament in the final reading last month would allow investigators to also see what individuals linked to criminal suspects have in their domestic bank accounts. But they would still need to secure court permissions for that.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has said this will help the Armenian authorities fight against corruption more effectively. Opposition lawmakers have warned, however, the measure could scare away investors.

Sarkissian’s office announced that the president has declined to sign the bill into law because he believes it is “seemingly controversial in terms of constitutionality.” It said that with “relevant legal corroborations and arguments” he has asked the Constitutional Court to determine the bill’s conformity with the constitution.

The appeal came two days after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian met with Sarkisian to discuss his continuing standoff with the high court and its chairman, Hrayr Tovmasian, in particular. Pashinian’s political team has been pressuring Tovmasian and six other members of the court to resign, saying that they lack legitimacy and are distrusted by the population.

Pashinian wrote on Facebook after the meeting with the head of state that they share “common principles and ideas about ways of resolving the existing situation around the Constitutional Court.” He did not elaborate.

Sarkissian, who has largely ceremonial powers, has not intervened in the standoff so far. He has rarely challenged decisions made by the current government.

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