- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
June 25, 2004

Abuse of Power?: Regional head maintains post despite criminal involvement

A state official suspected of complicity or execution of five crimes, including one that involved a murder, has continued his government post despite personal and professional connections that could influence criminal investigations.

Ara Poghosyan, head of the Armavir Region Real Estate Cadastre Department was charged nine months ago with hooliganism, embezzlement, official falsification, exceeding authority and concealment. He could face up to five years in prison if found guilty.

Prosecutor Arshakyan says there are no obstacles to the investigation.

Paragraph 152 of the Criminal Justice Code stipulates that a state official charged in a crime is liable to suspension during investigation “ if there are satisfactory basis to assume that he can become an obstacle for the investigation while staying in the position”.

In Poghosyan’s case, key witnesses in the charges against him are his employees, and his daughter is a secretary in the office conducting the investigation.

Poghosyan, however, has continued in his position, in which he is responsible for assigning various licenses regarding use and sales of property.

Numerous complaints sent by attorneys representing Gevorg Kurghinyan to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office and administration of President Robert Kocharyan haven’t yielded any results.

“This problem will be solved before the preliminary investigation is over. There is a possibility we will relieve him of his post,” says prosecutor of Armavir Region Ivan Arshakyan, “we haven’t arrested him as there is a question of presumption of innocence. He doesn’t create obstacles for carrying out objective investigation of the case.”

On September 2 last year, an argument between Poghosyan and Gevorg Kurghinyan, to whom Poghosyan had granted a privatization license, turned into a scuffle during which Poghosyan’s nephew pulled a knife on Kurghinyan.

An hour later Poghosyan summoned another meeting with Kurghinyan at a petrol station in the village of Norapat. Poghosyan and a gang of supporters met Kurghinyan and three of his relatives.

A fight broke out during which Poghosyan’s nephew, Artak Hakobyan, fired two times with at submachine gun, killing Kurghinyan’s 18 year old son, and wounding his nephew.

The murder investigation recently completed and Hakobyan’s trial has begun in the Court Of First Instance in Armavir.

The investigation into Poghosyan’s part in the crime was expected to conclude today.

Inessa Petrosyan, attorney for Kurghinyan, made a motion to include Poghosyan as an accessory to the murder.

“Is a person who commits an act of hooliganism compatible with being a state official,” asked Petrosyan, a member of the Armenian International Union of Lawyers.

Petrosyan has argued that Poghosyan should be tried along with his nephew.

Kurghinyan (standing) speaks for his dead son.

“Poghosyan’s illegal activities became a motive and cause of the serious crime, the murder,” Petrosyan says. “There is a question of attaching documents on Poghosyan’s case to the main case, however the state official continues to hold his position.”

After complaints made by Kurghinyan’s side, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office combined the charges into one case. Several months later, when Chief Prosecutor Aram Tamazyan was replaced, the case was again divided. Kurghinyan’s side complains that dividing the case is an attempt by the Chief Prosecutor’s Office to avoid bringing more serious charges against Poghosyan.

ArmeniaNow made several attempts to reach Poghosyan, but was repeatedly told he was not in. Vladimir Yavrumyan, attorney for Poghosyan and Hakobyan, would not comment on his clients’ case.

The law concerning suspension of an official charged in a crime is apparently intended to eliminate the possibility of influence or hindering an investigation.

Kurghinyan is convinced his son’s murder investigation cannot be objectively investigated as long as Poghosyan maintains his position.

“Ara Poghosyan’s daughter works in the same Prosecutor’s Office as a secretary and office manager and with her help the principle of secrecy of preliminary investigation cannot be applied,” says Kurghinyan.

The General Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that Anna Poghosyan is in fact a secretary in the office carrying out the investigation against her father.

“I warned beforehand that nobody show her or let her see documents of the case,” says prosecutor Arshakyan. “So she cannot have any influence on the investigation process.”

Ara Poghosyan is also a cousin of Minister of Trade and Economic Development Karen Chshmarityan.

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