11.07.2019 | Speech of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Armenia at the meeting of the CIS Interstate Council on Combating Corruption

Dear Colleagues,

 

In any country, the effectiveness of anti-corruption activities depends on several key components. First, the public perception of tolerance to corruption. Public intolerance for this evil can actually manifest itself not only by abandoning corrupt relations, but also by building a culture of transmitting reliable information about alleged crimes to law enforcement agencies. The second is the presence of political will, which is indicated by the broad accountability of the governing bodies and the full use of internal control levers within the spheres, as well as the strict implementation of the principles of equality of all before the law and inevitability of criminal responsibility. And the third component is the implementation of reforms based on strategy with institutional mechanisms developed and adopted by a wide public-government consensus, with predictable clear results of minimal risks. The radical political changes carried out by the peaceful, non-violent national movement in the Republic of Armenia in April-May 2018, the democratic progress created in our country unprecedented favorable conditions for obtaining serious and tangible results with all these components, and also for the continuation and development of the fight against corruption at a qualitatively new level.

 

In particular, the main subject, the bearer of these changes - the society, began to take a serious initiative in informing law enforcement agencies about corruption offenses. In this sense, the law enforcement bodies of the Republic of Armenia in the face of the society have become an extremely important and valuable partner in the fight against these latent crimes.

 

It is enough to note that during 2018, the number of reports that were the reason for the disclosure of corruption crimes by the law enforcement bodies of the Republic of Armenia, received only from individuals and legal entities, exceeded the figure for 2017 by about 3.6 times.

 

It is obvious that such an initiative of our citizens can only be due to unprecedented growth of public confidence in the sincerity of state authorities in the fight against corruption, as well as by the State fulfilling positive obligations to ensure their legal protection in these respects. But this initiative is not an end in itself. The current society of Armenia has also become more demanding. Citizens' expectations have also increased in those tangible results that will allow them to speak with confidence about the elimination of systemic corruption, the return of national capital stolen by corruption schemes, and the criminalization of all those who committed a crime, regardless of their official position. I must sincerely admit that this public activity and consistency significantly increased the burden of all law enforcement bodies of the Republic of Armenia. Nevertheless, the public trust resource for us is a great achievement and a high value, and law enforcement agencies spare no effort to justify it, of course, not forgetting the too important duty to ensure the realization of the fundamental rights of persons subject to criminal prosecution .

 

This process is accompanied by consistency, manifested in the earlier committed corruption abuses, the provision of reports of criminal manifestations with the use of internal oversight tools by executive state bodies. From the point of view of the effectiveness of the fight against corruption, such an initiative of the executive bodies is extremely important not only for unhindered disclosure of previously committed crimes of corruption, practical cooperation between government agencies and the law enforcement system in the fight against corruption, but also for identifying various corrupt criminal schemes, chains, mechanisms of organized crime. nature, acting for many years in the areas of subordination of these bodies, and the manifestation of will in their neutralization. Naturally, these prerequisites could not have any significant result if the law enforcement system did not show sufficient professionalism, perseverance and determination in carrying out its duties or was guided  by opportunistic interests.

 

This determination is indicated by the fact that the number of disclosures of corruption cases on the basis of detection by law enforcement agencies of data on crimes in the exercise of its powers, compared with 2017 in 2018, increased approximately by 4.3 times.

 

The results of systematic and joint activities of law enforcement agencies, close cooperation of the society and the government are reflected in the statistical indicators. In particular, during 2018 the number of criminal cases initiated on materials prepared in the proceedings of the competent authorities of the Republic of Armenia on corruption offenses exceeded the figure for 2017 by 3.6 times, and the number of persons subjected to criminal prosecution in criminal cases investigated by 60%.

Moreover, compared to 2017 the number of officials involved in criminal prosecution for the commission of corruption offenses has increased almost as much.

 

To make the scale of this struggle more tangible, for individual types of crime, I will cite just two obvious examples. Criminal cases related to fraud, committed with the use of official position, compared with 2017 have increased by 29 times, the number of persons subject to  in criminal prosecution  by 3.4 times, and the number of criminal cases initiated on the grounds of misappropriation or embezzlement committed with the use of official position increased by  11 times, the number of persons subject to criminal prosecution by 2 times.

 

For 2018 7 criminal cases have been  initiated on the features of a crime of money laundering. And this is the case when in 2017 criminal cases with this corpus delicti have not been initiated. And after the criminalization of illegal enrichment in the past year, criminal prosecution has been instigated against five persons on the basis of the crime. I consider it necessary to emphasize that with all this we, within the framework of the statutory discretion, implemented a policy of applying a wide incentive mechanism in the event of restoration of the damage caused to the state, based on the tasks of creating favorable conditions for the voluntary restoration of state funds stolen by corruption.

 

This policy, in our opinion, has justified itself, if we take into account that the property damage caused to the Republic of Armenia on corruption issues identified during 2018 amounted to about 622 million Russian rubles, of which about 529 million Russian rubles were reimbursed, or about 85 percent. And this is the case when in 2017 this figure was about 48.5 million Russian rubles, of which 34 million Russian rubles, or about 70 percent, were recovered.

 

This dynamic continues to persist also during 2019. In particular, the total damage caused to the state on the facts of corruption-related crimes detected during the first 4 months indicated amounted to about 3 billion Russian rubles, which is about 4.5 times higher than in the whole 2018, the same figure in 2017 by 61 times. For 4 months in 2019 from  the total loss identified, 256 million Russian rubles were recovered.

 

In any case, I wanted to emphasize that the professionalism of law enforcement agencies under very serious pressure from the public in order to ensure quick results in such a volume and clear awareness of being guided solely by law are a guarantee of the legal balance in our country, ensuring that the country does not go beyond the legal obligations undertaken by international treaties.

 

Dear colleagues,

 

The criminal law component, no matter how effective it may be, cannot complete the whole range of anti-corruption struggle from a long-term perspective and develop without the introduction of institutional mechanisms for prevention and control, which are an integral part of this struggle. Especially when, at the present stage of the criminal law struggle, the causes of a number of objective problems facing the criminal prosecution bodies lead to inferiority and omissions of the legal preventive mechanisms currently in force, and not only slowing down, but in some cases, simply blocking the process of full disclosure of corruption crimes. Taking into account these facts, without exaggeration, large-scale, deep strategic reforms against corruption have been launched in our country.

 

Without going into details, in order not to overload you, I consider it necessary to mention only a few of the most relevant conceptual directions of increasing the effectiveness of the anti-corruption struggle in Armenia.

 

1.The return of public assets acquired by criminal means to their rightful owner, the people of the Republic of Armenia, is already an irreversible public demand. The priority was to implement the necessary legislative changes to expand the legal mechanisms for the return of assets stolen from the State. Its relevance became apparent when, during the preliminary investigation of specific criminal cases initiated on the facts of various corruption crimes, it turned out that within the framework of the current legislation, the competent authorities, in connection with an appropriate criminal legal assessment of the actions of officials involved in criminal prosecution, obtaining information on the property acquired earlier, the sources of real incomes and turnover of assets, face legal prohibitions.

 

For this purpose by the decision of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia dated March 1, 2019, a commission was established to introduce conceptual institutions to prove the legality of property of the accused in serious crimes, as well as recovery of property obtained by criminal means, and developing the necessary legislative packages for this purpose, which works in anintensive mode and has already spoken with specific package proposals for resolving the problem.

 

To avoid misperceptions, I consider it necessary to inform that recovery of property of illegal origin is not a punishable measure against a person. Its purpose is illegally acquired property, not a person. Recovery of property under any circumstances will be carried out by a court decision in the field of civil law relations, that is, it does not imply criminal law consequences. The introduction of this institution will provide an opportunity to create mechanisms for recognition by the courts of Armenia and foreign courts of decisions relating to the problem, and the implementation of the recovery on their basis of property in a framework of purely civil proceedings. By the program of the Government of the Republic of Armenia 2019 the task was also to introduce legislative amendments in order to strengthen the legal basis for the return of assets illegally exported from Armenia, as well as to intensify international cooperation aimed at this. In the matter of introducing these mechanisms, we exercise emphasized caution since there are numerous clear prerequisites and tasks to find such solutions that fully ensure, on the one hand, a balancing protection of the right to property and a person’s property rights, and on the other hand, meet the public interest in restoring social justice.

 

2.One of the main goals of the initiated reforms is the creation of an institutionalized centralized anti-corruption model, which is being actively discussed both in the executive branch and on open platforms. The concept of combating corruption with centralized resources and mechanisms proceeds from the need to centralize the functions of reporting property and incomes of public servants, and, above all, high-ranking officials, monitoring their movement and tightening responsibility, developing anti-corruption policies, risk and outcome evaluations, identify problems and transfer to law enforcement agencies the results, creating a need for criminal legal assessment. We are convinced that the creation of institutional centralized anti-corruption model will lead to the introduction into the state administration of such mechanisms, that allow officials to report not only their annual reports on their property and income, but also all interests, enabling the anti-corruption body at any time to verify the accuracy and completeness of the information provided and to accept the procedures arising from it.

 

I want to emphasize that the RA Prosecutor’s Office has a direct and important role in the process of developing the strategic priorities and mechanisms of the above-mentionedreforms in the fight against corruption and the legal and judicial sphere, the formation of the legal basis for the reforms and is involved in all working groups established for this purpose.

 

3.During 2018 the RA Prosecutor’s Office, firstly, in the framework of the fight against corruption, tried to use its constitutional function of protecting state interests as far as possible, which, it should be noted, is significantly limited in Armenia compared to many post-Soviet countries. Within this function, with the use of tools exclusively of prosecutorial exposure, during 2018 the total damage caused to the State in claims of State interests, initiated by the departments of the prosecutor's office,  reports submitted, initiated criminal cases and materials sent to the investigating authorities has been amounted to about 5 billion 143 million russian rubles, which is more than 50 times higher than the results of 2017. At the same time, during 2018 as a result of the work performed on the basis of the investigated warnings, satisfied claims, considered criminal cases, submitted reports, damage in the amount of more than 286 million Russian rubles has been recovered. The ascertained impressive, unprecedented results of the prosecutor's office in the field of protection of state interests, public demands in anticipation of more in the fight against corruption form the conviction of the need to expand the possibilities of applying this crucial prosecutor's function and creating its constitutional grounds. Based on this, the RA Prosecutor’s Office embarked on the process of developing a new concept of increasing the effectiveness of this state function with the study of international experience.

 

Dear colleagues,

 

The anti-corruption reforms launched in Armenia have the starting prerequisites for the general development of the country, democratization, transparency of the public administration system and a sharp increase in the level of accountability and efficiency. As they are encouraged on the basis of the implementation of a number of institutional innovations aimed at preventing earlier corruption, in particular, criminalizing unjust enrichment, expanding the range of declarations and interconnected persons, introducing legal grounds for creating the Corruption Prevention Commission, creating an alert institute. In May 2019, a single electronic broadcasting platform was launched. It is a web-based platform through which a messenger can anonymously report information on cases of corruption and provide factual information about them.

 

Concluding my speech, I want to emphasize that Armenia is open for the exchange of experience in countering corruption with partner countries. The reform process in our country sometimes went through a sharp, sometimes with revolutionary accents, an extremely special way, becoming one of the most important factors having an impact on public and political life. However, the victory over corruption should be, first of all, in the thinking of public servants who have the levers of society and the state, the functions of making and applying decisions. And we will do our utmost to contribute to this, first of all by proving clearly visible results that there is no alternative to guaranteeing the inevitability of proportionate punishment and guaranteeing the equality of all before the law, and that's not just vague words. Over the past year, after the turning events in Armenia, several corruption cases have already been identified with the participation of current high-ranking officials, and criminal proceedings have been initiated against a significant part of these individuals. In Armenia, no one doubts anymore that there is no discrimination in this matter, and the fight against corruption is exclusively at the legal level and has no subtext, including political. This is the only democratic way to create a State of law, and Armenia stands firmly on that path.

 

Thank you for the attention.