When Panama Gates shut in front of the State…

The fact that the Judicial Acts Compulsory Enforcement Service within the system of the RA Ministry of Justice has for many years used the services of “Catherine Group” Company is nothing new. In July 2015, Iravaban.net had published an article “The Cars of Compulsory Enforcement Service are repaired at the Company Founded by the Chief of CES”, noting that more than 3 million AMD was charged for the service.

Regarding that contract, we applied to the Ethics Commission of High-Ranking Officials of Armenia with a request to examine the issue and initiate appropriate proceedings in case of conflict of interest.

The point here was that it became known from the State Register Agency of Legal Persons that Mihran Poghosyan was the founder of the Company. In response to our request, the Commission informed:

“Although the Head of the Judicial Acts Compulsory Enforcement Service within the system of RA Ministry of Justice of the RA, Mihran Poghosyan, was one of the founders of “Catherine Group” Co Ltd, however on 15.05.2008 he alienated his share. Currently “Candoline Corporation” is the sole shareholder of “Catherine Group” Co Ltd.”

“Cendoline Corporation”, which currently is the 100% shareholder of “Catherine Group” Co Ltd, is located in Panama (8 Aquilino de la Guardia Street, Panama City). According to Google Maps the mentioned area includes several multistoried buildings.New Picture (8)

Finding information on this company was simply impossible, as is in the case of other companies registered in the Panamanian offshore. There is also no information about “Cendoline Corporation” in the recently published “Panama Papers” scandal.

The gates of Panama are locked for Armenia as well. And even the state cannot receive information on an offshore-registered company, even where the company’s name is related to a high-ranking government official. In this case, the Ethics Commission’s answer was:

“Based on the above, we inform that the Commission has found no grounds for initiating proceedings with regard to the existence of a conflict of interest situation.”

Notably, the website of “Catherine Group” Company informs that the company is “the leader in the sphere of imports and sales of fruit in the Armenian market, mainly importing bananas, citrus and other tropical fruits.” It also deals in import of children’s food and other foodstuffs, and works in the vehicle, tourism and agribusiness sectors.

“Panama Papers”

Various media across the world began publishing information based on the “Panama Papers” since 3 April. The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of over 11 million files and 2.6 terabytes of data from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca, covering its activities over the period 1977 – 2015. These documents disclose the offshore mechanisms to hide billions of dollars that have been used by celebrities around the world.

These documents first appeared in the German Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, which passed them to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

It became known from the “Panama Papers” that Mihran Poghosyan has major shares in several companies, while he has repeatedly denied information alleging his involvement in business activities.

Notably, the CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition has issued a statement calling on the authorities, namely the Prosecutor General of the RA and the Ethics Commission of High-Ranking Officials, within the limits of their jurisdiction, to conduct appropriate investigations on the basis of the information revealed in the Panama Papers.

Astghik Karapetyan