Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian criticized on Wednesday the results of corruption investigations conducted by Armenian law-enforcement authorities during his rule, saying that so far they have recovered only up to $80 million in “funds stolen from the state.”
Pashinian said the sum makes up a fraction of the financial “damage which Armenia has suffered in the last 30 years as a consequence of corruption-related crimes.”
“Can we guarantee that the law-enforcement system is now fully and wholeheartedly performing … its functions in the fight against corruption? Unfortunately, I cannot give a definitely positive answer [to this question,]” he said at a meeting with the heads of Armenia’s law-enforcement agencies.
“Armenia has suffered billions of dollars worth of damage as a result of corrupt activities of high-ranking officials, and I, as the leader of Armenia, received a popular mandate also for my pledges to recover those billions,” he told them. “So I expect the law-enforcement bodies to live up … to our people’s just expectations.”
Pashinian complained that investigators have failed to prevent some corruption suspects from fleeing the country and to find evidence of current or former state officials’ connection to illegally acquired assets. In that context, he spoke of “traitors in the highest echelons of the law-enforcement system” who he said had ulterior goals.
Pashinian did not name names in his opening remarks at the meeting publicized by his press office. The office released no details of his ensuing discussion the top security officials. It said only that they discussed “further steps in the fight against corruption.”
Pashinian has repeatedly claimed to have eliminated “systemic corruption” in Armenia after coming to power in the 2018 “Velvet Revolution.” The number of corruption cases brought by Armenian law-enforcement authorities has risen significantly since the dramatic change of government. The most high-profile of these cases have involved former top government officials and individuals linked to them.
Armenia has improved its position in an annual survey of corruption perceptions around the world conducted by Transparency International. It ranked, together with Bahrain and the Solomon Islands, 77th out of 180 countries and territories evaluated in the Berlin-based watchdog’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released last month.