In Armenia, the first thought in many people’s minds upon hearing the news of the resignation of Chief Compulsory Enforcement Officer Mihran Poghosyan was finally the facts published by the media caused a state official to resign in our country too: there was no such precedent in Armenia, and this means that we’re becoming a democratic country.
I confess, my hands are simply itching to write that this is so. But a number of factors currently force us to abstain from heralding this a great victory of investigative journalists.
First, how did the official personally [AM] explain his resignation? “I am saddened that my name is being raised alongside the family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who has actually privatized billions of dollars. I consider it unacceptable that my person might cause any possible civilized comparison between my country and despotic Azerbaijan.”
Meanwhile, in a democratic country, an official should have tendered his resignation the very day incriminating facts about him were made public and even explained it like this: so that a fair investigation is conducted, so that my position isn’t seen as a means of applying pressure, and for the public to believe that I am innocent…
The second factor that forces us to abstain from declaring a journalistic victory is a seemingly teeny-weeny fact conveyed by local Armenian media [AM]: “Representatives of international financial organizations have demanded the authorities of the Republic of Armenia to investigate the data published (about Mihran Poghosyan).”
So the investigation began upon international financial organizations’ request?
The next factor. The day following the Chief Compulsory Enforcement Officer’s resignation this piece of news (reliable or not) was published [AM]: “Chief Compulsory Enforcement Officer Mihran Poghosyan’s children have prepared to leave with Air France on a Yerevan-Paris flight, but upon reaching the ticket window, an argument took place between bodyguards and the airport employee, as a result of which one of the guards beat the airport employee… The incident caused discontent among airport management.”
That is to say, the cup of patience was filled at the top, if this news is true?
So, Armenia will become a democratic country only when any state official after publication of the most serious evidence against him (whether it be by the international or local media) immediately will reckon with the facts, or produce irrefutable evidence denying it, or tender his resignation without waiting for decisions or pressure from the higher-ups or international bodies.
And then we will celebrate the victory of our investigative colleagues, and their beleaguered efforts jeopardizing themselves and their families won’t be in vain as almost always the case in the past.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) together with investigative journalists from various countries (from Armenia: Hetq) for one year examined and declassified millions of documents of offshore companies.
On April 3, the world’s media outlets began to publish excerpts from these documents, deemed the “Panama Papers.”
On April 4, Hetq, published by the Association of Investigative Journalists NGO, published an analytical piece with names of people from Armenia: “There are Armenians included in these documents — CES chief Mihran Poghosyan and members of the families of his uncles Grigor and Mikhail Haroutyunyan.” And, “Major General of Justice Mihran Poghosyan, Armenia’s Chief Compulsory Enforcement Officer, is one of the country’s officials who has sown deep roots in offshore economic zones. While his companies registered in those zones operate, Poghosyan uses his position to advance his business interests, all the while concealing his income.”
On April 18, Poghosyan resigned from his position, claiming that he doesn’t want his country’s name to be placed alongside “despotic Azerbaijan’s” name.
On April 5, Iceland’s prime minister resigned because of the Panama Papers revelations; on April 15, Spain’s industry minister. There is currently no information on whether the reason for these two resignations is some disagreeable name of theirs revealed in the Panama Papers.
The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.