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Armenian universities deny role in Israeli "diploma scandal"
2018-12-03 18:40:16

Liana Yeghiazaryan
Public Radio of Armenia

Armenian universities rush to refute the reports on their involvement in a corruption scheme that saw a number of Israeli Arab doctors granted “false” diplomas.

The Israel Police arrested early Sunday 40 doctors, medical interns and pharmacists from the Arab sector who presented false credentials to the Health Ministry, Israeli sources report.

They are suspected of presenting graduation diplomas from universities in Armenia, even though the Police allege they did not complete the required studies there.

The three Armenian universities involved in the case are St. Tereza Medical University, Haybusak and Mkhitar Gosh Universities.

Rector of Haybusak University Suren Harutyunyan says he’s not aware of the details of the case and knows nothing beyond media reports.

Meanwhile, the university’s former President Anahit Harutyunyan, who was in office, when the diplomas were allegedly issued, says “the reports have nothing to do with Armenia.”

“If you look at the recent materials, you’ll see that the traces take to Moldova and the Gaza Strip. It has nothing to do with “Haybusak” and Armenia. If they have found someone’s [Armenian] diploma, it does not mean we are involved,” Harutyunyan told Public Radio of Armenia.

President of Mkhitar Gosh University Hayk Dertsyan assures they have not issued any “false diplomas” and are not going to issue any in the future.

“Responsibility should lie with the one that has issued [false diplomas]. We are a knowledge-based institution. Foreigners have come here, graduated and received their diplomas. Information about all foreign students has been provided to the Ministry of Education and Science, all inspections have been properly carried out,” he said.

Larisa Hambartsumyan, Rector of St. Tereza Medical University, also denies any connection with the “dark story.”

“The boom has nothing to do with us. In one case a student from a Russian university repeated the last course of the stomatology department at our university and received an ordinary diploma. Why should Israelis dentists come to us, if that faculty is not certified?” Hambartsumyan said.

Meanwhile the Israeli Police say the detainees presented diplomas testifying to the alleged completion of their studies. On the basis of these documents they received the right to practice in Israel, but law-enforcers say these "doctors" did not receive sufficient education.

The investigation dubbed "License to kill" started after an anonymous call to the Ministry of Helath and established that the suspects were studying in various educational institutions abroad. After they failed to complete their studies and pass all the exams, they were referred to three universities in Armenia, where they received the diplomas after studying for a short time.

Upon returning to Israel, they submitted their documents to the Ministry of Health, and some were able to pass a qualifying exam and get positions in public hospitals or health ministry structures.

Israeli-based journalist Zvi Zilber says the corruption scheme is a huge blow to the overall rating of Armenian higher educational establishments.

According to him, although the case refers to only three universities, the Israeli Ministry of Health has already cautioned students to avoid studying at Armenian universities.

“This applies to all higher educational establishments, including the State Medical University, although its name is in no way related to the story. The authorities in Israel have declared that diplomas from Armenian universities are subjected to special scrutiny and may still not be recognizes,” Mr. Zilber said.

He says that becoming a doctor in Israel envisages a serious process, and notes that “if a group of people has managed to bypass the exams, there should be deeper layer under this iceberg.”