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2016 Apr

Why Armenian Official Resigns Over Panama Leaks

A powerful Armenian official who has long been linked with lucrative entrepreneurial activity stepped down on Monday after being accused of having secret offshore accounts exposed by the Panama Papers.

The Panama Papers global scandal broke earlier this month when the German newspaper "Sueddeutsche Zeitung” said it received 11.5 million leaked documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca showing how offshore companies are used to stash the wealth of the world's elite.

Hetq.am, a respected investigative publication, found that three such shadowy companies are fully or partly owned by Mihran Poghosian, the controversial head of an Armenian government body enforcing court rulings. It said Poghosian has the exclusive right to manage Swiss bank accounts of two of those firms. Hetq.am also traced their links with a Yerevan-based real estate agency that was awarded a major Armenian government contract last year.

Varuzhan Hotkanian, head of the Armenian branch of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, suggested that Poghosian was forced to resign by the country’s leadership. But he said the resignation does not testify to the government’s genuine commitment to combatting graft or herald a tougher fight against corrupt practices.

“I don’t regard this resignation as a prelude to making the situation better,” Hoktanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “This was done for somehow placating the public.”

“I think it was practically impossible to cover up what was revealed [by the Panama Papers] because those offshore companies were registered in his, not somebody else’s, name,” said the activist.

See Azatutyun's reporting.