YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—An Armenian law-enforcement agency has launched criminal proceedings against Mihran Poghosyan, Armenia’s former Chief compulsory enforcement officer, who resigned two weeks ago after being accused of having secret offshore accounts exposed by the Panama Papers.
Citing the leaked documents, the Hetq.am investigative publication reported last month that the controversial head of a government body who enforced court rulings controls three shadowy companies registered in Panama. It said Poghosyan has the exclusive right to manage Swiss bank accounts of two of those firms.
After initial a denial of the report, Poghosyan announced his resignation on April 18. But he stopped short of admitting any wrongdoing.
The Special Investigation Service (SIS) told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on May 3 that it has formally launched a criminal investigation in connection with the Hetq.am report.
The SIS said the probe is being conducted under an article of the Criminal Code dealing with Armenian officials’ “illegal participation in entrepreneurial activity.” Poghosyan has not been charged yet.
Hetq.am and many other independent media outlets have for years accused Poghosyan of having extensive business interests resulting from his government position. In particular, the 39-year-old is widely regarded as the main owner of a company enjoying a de facto monopoly on banana imports to Armenia. However, Poghosyan has repeatedly denied owning businesses or using his position for personal gain.
Hayk Gevorgian, a veteran journalist with the “Haykakan Zhamanak” who has long reported on Poghosyan’s alleged involvement in business, played down the significance of the SIS probe. He argued that the ex-official is not risking prosecution on charges of tax evasion carrying lengthy prison sentences.
“Instead, they have invoked another, much softer article [of the Criminal Code],” Gevorgian said. “This suggests that the whole process will be an imitation of justice.”