Armenian Vice-Ministers Fired on Corruption Charges

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Two Armenian deputy ministers of health and another senior government official were dismissed on Tuesday less than a week after Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan accused them of corruption and incompetence.

Sargsyan’s office said he relieved Deputy Ministers Tatul Hakobian and Abraham Manukian of their duties “in accordance with their request.” It gave no details.

Sargsyan alleged widespread corruption within the Armenian ministers of agriculture, finance, education and health as he discussed the findings of internal inquiries conducted by his Oversight Service at a cabinet meeting last Thursday. He said in particular that the Armenian government has been receiving “extremely serious complaints about corruption manifestations in the healthcare sphere.”

The premier did not elaborate. He said only that Health Minister Harutiun Kushkian should propose ways of remedying the situation and expose top ministry officials who are “involved in those practices or are not sufficiently fighting against them.”

Another official to lose his job is Ara Muradian, a Finance Ministry official who had been charged with the implementation of a government plan to provide farmers in Armenian border villages with interest-free loans worth 100 million drams ($275,000). Sargsyan complained on Thursday that scheme launched two years ago has still not been put into practice.

Sargsyan also demanded the ouster of Vram Gyulzadian, the head of an Agriculture Ministry department dealing with food safety. Under Armenian law, Gyulzadian is a civil servant and can therefore not be sacked without the consent of the state Civil Service Council.

“As of now, the head of the sanitary inspectorate is on vacation,” Karlen Mikaelian, the chief of the ministry staff, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Naturally, we will carry out the prime minister’s instruction in a manner defined by the law.”

The Agriculture Ministry already asked the Civil Service Council to sanction Gyulzadian’s sacking in June. “There is no connection between these two issues,” insisted Mikaelian. “This is a different violation that has nothing to do with his previous wrongdoing.”

The Armenian prime minister has so far stopped short of demanding criminal proceedings against the officials whom he accused of corruption. Nor have law-enforcement bodies moved to prosecute them.

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