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Thursday
Dec122013

Armenia judges have price list for bribes

Armenia's human rights ombudsman said bribery in the country's courts is so common that judges use an unofficial price list for kickbacks.

Karen Andreasyan, left, an Armenian lawyer who headed the ombudsman team, said bribes can range from $500 to $50,000. The payments amount to 10 percent of the cost of lawsuits, according to the ombudsman's report released this week.

Andreasyan's team interviewed 120 lawyers, judges, and prosecutors and analyzed all rulings from the courts over the past seven years by the Court of Cassation and the Council of Justice, an oversight body headed by the country's president, prosecutor-general, and justice minister.

Armenian officials accused the ombudsman team of anti-government bias.

"This report based on unfounded judgments represents a serious threat to the stability of the state and to public order," a government statement said.

Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian demanded that the ombudsman present evidence to substantiate the allegations, a Radio Free Europe report said.

But lawyers in Armenia who have openly complained about judicial corruption backed the ombudsman's findings.

"More than 500 lawyers held a one-day-strike last year to protest what they described as pervasive irregularities at the Court of Cassation," Radio Free Europe said.

No judges in the country have been prosecuted for taking bribes, the ombudsman said.

Armenia is one of the 20 countries of 107 surveyed by Transparency International where the judiciary is perceived to be among the institutions most affected by corruption.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.