Former Minister of Nature Protection Aram Harutyunyan suspected of accepting $14 million in bribes
Armenia’s Prosecutor General, Artur Davtyan, has filed a request with parliament to strip ex-Minister of Nature Protection Aram Harutyunyan, a member of the Republican Party of Armenia faction, of his parliamentary immunity. He is suspected of accepting 14 million dollars in bribes.
Details of the case
The prosecutor general brought his request to the speaker of the National Assembly as he requires permission to commence with the prosecution and arrest of deputy Aram Harutyunyan. In 2015 Harutyunyan was brought under investigation on allegations of accepting particularly large amounts in bribes.
The prosecutor general received evidence that, in his capacity as minister of nature protection and chairman of an intergovernmental commission for granting licenses for the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources, Harutyunyan demanded and received 14 million dollars. In exchange, he granted licenses for the exploration and exploitation of 10 non-ferrous metal mining operations in the Syunik, Gegharkunik, Tavush, and Kotayk provinces.
Six million dollars was given to him in cash, and the remainder via bank transfer. The preliminary investigation also revealed that Harutyunyan laundered this money abroad.
The prosecutor general’s statement also provides a list of real-estates belonging to Harutyunyan: villas and apartments in Yerevan, a seven-story building in the district around the capital’s central square, a restaurant complex, a public building worth 427 million dram (around 1 million dollars), and agricultural lands.
How many years is Harutyunyan facing?
The prosecutor general intends to accuse Harutyunyan of:
- accepting bribes in especially large amounts (punishable by imprisonment from seven to twelve years with or without confiscation of property);
- money laundering (punishable by imprisonment for a term of six to twelve years with or without confiscation of property).
The deputy will be stripped of immunity regardless
Even if the present Armenian parliament fails to address the issue of stripping Harutyunyan of his parliamentary immunity, he will nevertheless lose it in the near future. The sixth session of the National Assembly is legally already adjourned, though it continues to fulfill its obligations.
Snap parliamentary elections will be held in Armenia on 9 December. The former ruling party, the Republican Party of Armenia of which Aram Harutyunyan is a member, is taking part in the elections. However, Harutyunyan is not on the party list.
Nikol Pashinyan on Aram Harutyunyan
In his first statement on the web of corruption in which Harutyunyan is entangled, Acting Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan characterized the incident as the largest unveiling of corruption in the history of the Third Republic:
“That which has been stolen from the people unquestionably must be returned down to the last cent. So long as there is still a civil servant in Armenia who believes that they can take bribes, there can be no talk of a regime change.”
After the prosecutor general’s announcement, Nikol Pashinyan once more touched on this case and, using it as an example, attempted to explain why corruption cases take so long to investigate:
“I know that there are questions, and it is very important that we present all the details of the process. Regarding this case, if my memory serves me right, the declaration was made by a citizen around four months ago – maybe even five.
“Since, according to preliminary data, these actions were performed via a foreign bank, the investigation of the case could not proceed so long as we had not received an official response from one of these banks.”
Harutyunyan has not yet commented on the prosecutor general’s accusations against him.