YEREVAN — Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General has set up a special division tasked with enforcing a law allowing the confiscation of private properties and other assets deemed to have been acquired illegally.
The law which the Armenian government pushed through the parliament in April allows prosecutors to investigate individuals in case of having “sufficient grounds to suspect” that the market value of their assets exceeds their “legal incomes” by at least 50 million drams ($103,000). Should the prosecutors find such discrepancies they can ask courts to nationalize those assets even if their owners are not found guilty of corruption or other criminal offenses.
The latter will have to prove the legality of their holdings if they are to retain them. They will also be given the option of reaching an out-of-court settlement with the prosecutors, which would require them to hand over at least 75 percent of their assets in and outside Armenia to the state.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has repeatedly portrayed the law as a major anti-corruption measure that will help the authorities recover wealth stolen from the people. Pashinyan has indicated his intention to use it against the country’s former rulers and their cronies who have plundered from the State.
The process will be handled by a special team of prosecutors. Prosecutor-General Artur Davtyan appointed on Thursday the head of the new division, his deputy and three other members, all of them prosecutors.
The division will be overseen by Srbuhi Galyan, who was appointed as deputy prosecutor-general on Tuesday. The 28-year-old Galyan served as a deputy minister of justice until then.
Later on Thursday Davtyan met with the new appointees to discuss practical modalities of their work. According to his press office, the chief prosecutor told them that they will be performing unprecedented” functions and must make sure that there are necessary legal grounds for initiating asset seizures.