It's a defining theme for Armenia's presidential campaign.
Five case studies show how deep the debate over corruption actually goes.
Allegations of government corruption are also at the heart of an ongoing dispute between the Armenian government and the US company Global Gold, which is mining gold in northern Armenia. The dispute broke out in early 2006 when the Armenian Ministry of Environment Protection unilaterally revoked Global Gold's licenses to carry out exploratory work at two small gold deposits, accusing it of failing to honor its investment commitments.
The Connecticut-based company denied the accusation and said the ministry's actions violated an Armenian law, which stipulates that mining companies can be stripped of their licenses only by a court. Its top executives also claimed that they were penalized by the ministry in retaliation for refusing to pay a $3 million bribe demanded by then Environment Minister Vartan Ayvazian.
The U.S. embassy in Yerevan expressed serious concern at the corruption allegations in September 2006, urging the government to launch an inquiry. But both Ayvazian and then Prime Minister Andranik Markarian dismissed the allegations as baseless.
Although the Armenian authorities have refrained from enforcing the license termination, Global Gold claimed to have suffered considerable losses as a result of the row. In February 2007, the company filed lawsuits against the government and Ayvazian personally with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a Washington-based arbitration body affiliated with the World Bank. Since summer 2007, Global Gold has held negotiations with senior Armenian government officials, and the two sides are reportedly close to an out-of-court settlement. However, the company seems intent on pressing its separate suit against Ayvazian, who now heads the Armenian parliament's committee on finance and economy.
The Government Says:
"In our view, the facts presented by [the American company] do not correspond to reality. We have told them, 'If you don't believe us, then please go to court.'"
-- Late Prime Minister Andranik Markarian in remarks to journalists on September 13, 2006