Speech by the RA Prosecutor General at the session of the CIS Interstate Anti-Corruption Council

Dear Colleagues,

 

The effectiveness of the fight against corruption in any country depends on some key components.

 

First is the public perception of tolerance for corruption. Public intolerance towards that evil phenomenon can be manifested not only by refusing corruption relations, but also by creating a culture of transferring reliable information about alleged crimes to law enforcement agencies.

 

Second is the political will, the indicators of which are the wide accountability of governing bodies and the full application of internal intersectoralcontrol mechanisms, as well as the rigorous implementation of the principles of equality of all before the law and the inevitability of criminal liability.

 

Andthethirdcomponentistheimplementationofreforms, basedonthestrategywithinstitutionalmechanisms, elaborated and adopted with wide state public-solidarity.

 

The fundamental political changes carried out by the peaceful, non-violent popular movement in the Republic of Armenia in April - May 2018 and democratic developments have created unprecedented favorable conditions in our country for obtaining serious and tangible results with all these components, as well as for continuing and developing the fight against corruption.

 

In particular, the main subject that is the carrier of these changes - society, has begun to take a serious initiative in informing law enforcement agencies about corruption offenses. In this regard, the law enforcement bodies of the Republic of Armenia have acquired an extremely important and valuable partner in the fight against this crime of a latent nature.

 

It is enough to mention that during 2018 the number of messages that were the reason for the disclosure by the law enforcement bodies of the Republic of Armenia of corruption-related crimes received only from physical and legal entities exceeded the indicator of 2017 by about 3.6 times.

 

Obviously, such an initiative of our citizens can be conditioned only by an unprecedented increase in public confidence in the honesty of state authorities in the fight against corruption.

 

Besides, this initiative is not an end in itself. The current society of Armenia has become more demanding to the same extent. Citizens' expectations have also increased in tangible results that will allow them to speak with confidence about the eradication of systemic corruption, the return of national capital stolen by corruption schemes, and the prosecution of all those who committed a crime, regardless of their official position.

 

I sincerely have to admit that this social activity and consistency has significantly increased the burden of all the RA law enforcement agencies.Nevertheless, public trust for us is a great achievement and high value, and the law enforcement bodies spare no effort to justify it, of course, not forgetting the fundamental obligation to ensure the realization of the fundamental rights of people under criminal prosecution.

 

This process is paralleledwith the consistency shown by the state executive authorities in the process of detecting previously committed corruption abuses, providing reports of criminal manifestations using internal oversight tools.From the point of view of the effectiveness of the fight against corruption, such initiative of the executive bodies is extremely important not only for the unhindered disclosure of previously committed corruption crimes, practical cooperation between state bodies and the law enforcement system in the fight against corruption, but also for identifying various corruption schemes and organized mechanisms, operating for many years in the areas of jurisdiction of these bodies.

 

Naturally, these prerequisites could not have any significant result if the law enforcement system did not show the necessary professionalism, perseverance and determination in carrying out its duties or was guided by conjectural interests. This determination is evidenced by the fact that the rate of disclosure of corruption cases by law enforcement agencies of compared to 2017 in 2018 was increased by about 4.3 times.

 

The results of a systematic and joint activity of law enforcement agencies, the close cooperation of society and the government are reflected in statistical indicators.In particular, during 2018 the number of criminal cases initiated on the basis of materials prepared on corruption offenses in the proceedings of the RA competent authorities of exceeded the indicator of 2017 by 3.6 times, and the number of peoplesubjected to criminal prosecution by criminal cases of corruption nature - by 60%.Moreover, compared with 2017 the number of officials subjected to criminal prosecution for corruption offenses has been increased almost as much.

 

To make the scale of this struggle by certain types of crime more perceivable, I will give just two obvious examples.Criminal cases initiatedon the basis of the corpus delicti of fraud committed with the use of official position, compared with 2017 were increased by 29 times, the number of people subjected to criminal prosecution - by 3.4 times, and the number of criminal cases initiated on the grounds of embezzlement committed with the use of official position was increased by 11 times, the number of people subjected to criminal prosecution - by 2 times.

 

In 2018 on the grounds of money laundering 7 criminal cases were initiated. And this is in case when in 2017 criminal cases with this corpus delicti were not initiated. And after the criminalization of illegal enrichment, over the past year on the grounds of this crime a criminal prosecution was initiated against 5 people.

 

I consider it necessary to emphasize that, with all this, within the framework of the legal discretion, we have implemented a policy of applying a wide incentive mechanism in case of restoration of damage caused to the state, based on the task of creating favorable conditions for the voluntary restoration of state funds stolen by corruption. This policy, in our opinion, paid off, given that the property damage caused to the Republic of Armenia by corruption cases identified during 2018 amounted to about 622 million RUB, fromwhich about 529 million RUB or about 85% were restored.And this is the case when in 2017 the same indicator amounted to about 48.5 million RUB, from which 34 million RUB or about 70% were restored.

 

This trend continues to persist throughout 2019. In particular, the total damage caused to the state by facts of corruption crimes detected during the first 4 months amounted to about 3 billion RUB, which is about 4.5 times higher than the figure for the whole 2018, and the same indicator in 2017 is 61 times. For 4 months of 2019 256 million RUB were recovered from the detected total loss.

 

Anyway I would like to emphasize that the professionalism of law enforcement agencies, under a very serious pressure by society to ensure quick results to such an extent, and a clear understanding of the need to be guided exclusively by law, are a guarantee of a legal balance in our country and ensure compliance with international legal obligations taken by the state.

 

Dear Colleagues 

 

The criminal legal component, no matter how effectively, from the long-term perspective cannot complete the entire spectrum of the fight against corruption and develop without the introduction of institutional mechanisms for prevention and control, which are an integral part of that fight. Given these circumstances, large-scale, deep strategic reforms against corruption currently have begun in our country.

 

Without presenting the details on them, I want to mention the most modern  several conceptual directions for the improvement of the effectiveness of the fight against corruption only for Armenia. 

 

Returning publicly acquired assets to their rightful owner, the people of the Republic of Armenia, is no longer an irrevocable public demand.The priority was the implementation of the necessary legislative changes to expand the legal mechanisms for the return of assets stolen from the state.This need became apparent when in the course of the preliminary investigation of specific criminal cases initiated on the facts of various corruption crimes, it was found out that, within the framework of current legislation, the competent authorities in connection with the corresponding criminal legal assessment of the actions of officials subjected to criminal prosecution, receiving information regarding previously acquired property, sources of actual income and asset turnover, are faced with some legal obstacles.For this purpose, by a decision of the RA Prime Minister dated March 1, 2019, commission was established to introduce conceptual institutions for confiscation of property with the illegal origin and to elaborate the necessary legislative packages with a view to that, which works in a rather intensive mode and has already come up with concrete proposals for resolving the problem.

 

In order to avoid misunderstandings, I find it necessary to inform that the confiscation of property of illegal origin is not a punitive measure against a person. The target of it is the illegally obtained property and not the person. In any case the confiscation of property should be implemented on the basis of court decision in the field of civil and legal relations, that is to say it does not imply criminal and legal consequences. The introduction of this institute will give an opportunity to create mechanisms for the recognition of verdicts regarding the subject matter by the foreign courts and courts of Armenia and implementation of confiscation of property on the basis of them. By the program of the RA Government for 2019 a task was also set  to make legislative changes with a view to strengthen the legal basis for returning the assets, as well as to activate the international cooperation addressed to that. We are especially carefulfor the introduction of these mechanisms, since there is a very clear precondition and objective  — to find such solutions that will fully ensure, on the one hand, the balance of protecting the right of inviolability of property and the right of property of a person, and on the other hand, satisfying the public interest in restoring social justice.

 

One of the main targets of the initiated reforms is the creation of an institutional centralized anti-corruption model, the discussions of which continue both in the executive branch and on open platforms in the most active way.The concept of combating corruption with centralized resources and mechanisms is based on the centralized need of functions of passing to the law enforcement bodies the results of giving need for declaring the property and income of officials and public servants, strengthening the supervision over the progress and responsibility, elaborating anti-corruption policy, assessing risks and results, revealing issues and giving criminal and legal assessments. To my conviction the creation of anti-corruption institutional centralized model will lead to the introduction of such mechanisms in the state administration system, which will allow the officials to declare not only annual flows of their property and incomes but also their all interests by giving anti-corruption body chance to verify the reliability, fullness of the presented information.

 

I want to underline that the RA Prosecutor’s Office plays direct and important role in the process of the fight against corruption and elaboration of mechanisms, formation of legal base of reforms and is involved in all working groups formed for that purpose.

 

During 2018 the RA Prosecutor’s Office first within the framework of the fight against corruption tried to effectively apply the constitutional function of its state interests protection, which should be said that in comparison to many Post-Soviet countries in case of the RA is limited. Within the framework of this function exclusively with the application of the mechanism for the prosecutorial influence during 2018 by the claims of state interest protection filed by the subdivisions of the Prosecutor’s Office,  presented messages, initiated criminal cases and materials sent to the investigative bodies the damage caused to the state amounted to 5 billion 143 million RUBwhich is more than 50 times higher than the results of 2017. At the same time in the result of works implemented on the basis of presented messages, investigated criminal cases, warns on the basis of studies during 2018 damage in the amount of 286 million RUB was recovered.

 

The unprecedented results registered by the Prosecutor’s Office in the field of state interest’s protection, public demands expecting more in the fight against corruption form the need for confidence of creating basis of expanding the opportunities for the application of the most important prosecutorial function. On the basis of it the Prosecutor’s Office of the RA has embarked on the process of elaborating new concept for improving the efficiency of this state function based on the international experience.

 

Dear Colleagues 

 

The anti-corruption reforms launched in Armenia have full prerequisites for raising the overall level of development, democratization, transparency, accountability and efficiency of the public administration system.Because they are anchored in the implementation of a number of institutional innovations aimed at preventing corruption, in particular criminalizing illegal enrichment, expanding the scope of declarants, establishing a legal basis for forming Corruption Prevention Commission.In May 2019, Armenia launched a Unified Electronic Platformfor Whistle-Blowing. This is an internet platform through which a person can anonymously give information regarding the corruption case and provide factual data on it.

 

Concluding my speech I want to mention, that Armenia is open to share the anti-corruption experience with the partner countries.The process of reforms, sometimes with sharp, even revolutionary accents, has passed through a very special way in our country, becoming one of the most important factors influencing social and political life.However, the victory over corruption must first happen in the thinking of public servants empowered with the levers of public and state authority, decision-making and enforcement functions.And we will do our best to promote it, first and foremost with concrete tangible results, proving that there is no alternative to guaranteeing the inevitability of proportionate punishment and equality before the law, and that they are not just idle words.During the past year since the turning events in Armenia, a number of corruption cases with the participation of high-level officials have been found out and against most of that officials criminal prosecution wasn’t initiated.In Armenia, no one doubts that there is no discrimination in this matter, and that the fight againstcorrupt officialsis exclusively legal and has no other context, including political.This is the only democratic way of building a legal state, and Armenia stands firmly on it. Thank You for the attention.