Panama Papers and the small victory of investigative journalism

22 April 2016 / by Anahit Vardanyan (author)
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On April 3rd, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published some parts of 11.5 million confidential documents which contained data concerning the offshore accounts of current and former presidents and famous political figures. These reports titled "Panama Papers" were based on the data of Mossack Fonseca law firm which provided legal support to companies registered in offshore. These data were handed to German Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper by an anonymous source.

In the documents there are names of some political figures including president of Ukraine Pyotr Poroshenko, president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, president of the RF Vladimir Putin, Prime ministers of Pakistan and Iceland and others.

On April 4th, hetq.am electronic newspaper published an article entitled "Mihran Poghosyan: The Armenian General Who Mastered the Ins and Outs of Panama's Offshore Zone" where Armenia’s Chief Compulsory Enforcement Officer’s offshore companies and Swiss banks accounts were disclosed. According to those documents, Mihran Poghosyan is a shareholder of three companies registered in Panama and is also the only person who is eligible to moderate the accounts of two of those companies.

On April 18th, Mihran Poghosyan submitted his resignation stating that he is very sorry that his name appears next to the president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev’s family, so he resigns in order to avoid becoming the reason of any possible parallels between Armenia and Azerbaijan. He also stated that he would talk about the offshore publications as an ordinary citizen, without wielding any state levers.

Thus, if Ilham Aliyev’s name didn’t appear in Panama’s documents, then hiding incomes and tax evasion of the Chief Compulsory Enforcement Officer would be an ordinary thing. It is also interesting that he refers to those publications as an ordinary citizen: Mihran Poghosyan purchased shares of two offshore companies in March of 2011, which means – while he held the post of the Chief Compulsory Enforcement Officer, and it would be naive to think that state levers played no role in it.

I suppose that the absurdity and ridicule of this situation is higher than the joy that even in Armenia it became possible to achieve a state official's resignation through the publications and media coverage. Maybe it will be possible to celebrate this small victory of investigative journalism after fair investigation and compensation of losses incurred by state. We will see.