Vachagan Ghazaryan, right, with former President Serzh Sargsyan

Corruption Arrests Gather Speed

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YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — Law-enforcement authorities confiscated a further $1 million worth of cash from a man who has long been former President Serzh Sargsyan’s chief bodyguard when they arrested him on Monday, June 25.

Vachagan Ghazaryan was detained by the National Security Service (NSS) five days after other law-enforcement bodies raided his apartment in Yerevan and found $1.1 million and 230,000 euros ($267,000) in cash there. The money was at least deposited with the Central Bank of Armenia pending investigation into its origin.

Investigators said on Friday that Ghazaryan and his wife failed to disclose it in their income and asset declarations submitted to an anti-corruption state commission. Such declarations are mandatory for Armenia’s high-ranking state officials and their close relatives. Ghazaryan was among them until Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan dismissed him last month as first deputy head of a security agency providing bodyguards to the country’s leaders.

An NSS video released late on Monday showed masked officers arresting the formerly powerful general outside a commercial bank in Yerevan. He was then shown emptying his bag, filled with stacks of banknotes, in an interrogation room.

An NSS statement said the bag contained $120,000 and 436 million drams ($900,000) in cash he withdrew from one of his bank accounts. It said Ghazaryan claimed that he was going to give the money to its “rightful owner” but refused to identify that person.

The NSS said Ghazaryan was also planning to withdraw another 1.5 billion drams ($3.1 million) kept by him and his wife at another Armenian bank. The statement suggested he claimed that he “forgot” to add these large sums to his official income declarations.

Nazik Amiryan, wife of Gen. Manvel Grigoryan

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Despite being placed under arrest, Ghazaryan was not formally charged with any crime as of Tuesday afternoon. Under Armenian law, he cannot be held in custody without charge for more than three days.

Ghazaryan is the first person in Armenia who could be prosecuted on charges of “illegal enrichment” and/or false asset disclosure carrying up to six years in prison. He headed Sargsyan’s security detail for more than two decades.

Armenia’s new government was instrumental in a series of high-profile corruption inquiries launched against former officials and other individuals linked to the former Armenian leader. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has repeatedly pledged to “root out” endemic corruption in the country since taking office on May 8.

In addition, Alexander Sargsyan, the brother of the former president, was detained on Monday, but was released.

Karen Grigoryan, center

Grigoryan Arrests

Following the arrest of General Manvel Grigoryan, a member of parliament, the board of the “Yerkrapah” Union of Volunteers decided at a sitting on June 25 to suspend President Manvel Grigoryan, Vice-President of the Board Hamlet Hayrapetyan told reporters following the meeting.

Grigoryan – the influential former general who is currently remanded in custody pending trial for grand theft and illegal possession of firearms.

In a statement adopted at the sitting the union strongly condemned the “impermissible act on the country.”

The board instructed the Vice-Presidents and members to set up a task force to discuss organization of a convention.

The bad news continues for the family. The Special Investigative Service issued an arrest warrant for Nazik Amiryan, his wife.

Earlier on June 18, anti-corruption officers of police discovered two cargo vehicles loaded with military food supplies in a Yerevan parking lot. The drivers of the vehicles, members of the Yerkrapah Volunteer Union – an NGO formerly chaired by the general – have claimed that they loaded the supplies – canned meat made for the military and not available for sale anywhere – at the instruction of Nazik Amiryan from the headquarters of Yerkrapah Volunteers Union on June 16. About 3000 cans were found in the cars.

An investigation is underway.

Grigoryan, the former general who is suspected in misappropriating military supplies and donations, as well as illegal possession of firearms, will remain in pre-trial detention for two months.

The lawmaker from the Republican Party faction is suspected in embezzling military supplies and illegal possession of firearms. Upon searching the compound of Grigoryan, agents found huge amounts of military weapons and ammunition and supplies, including donated food and clothing which were meant to be sent to soldiers in Artsakh back in 2016. The donated supplies even include letters written by schoolchildren during the days of the April War of 2016.

The Prosecutor General requested an extraordinary sitting of the parliament to take place to strip the MP of parliamentary immunity, in order to keep him in pre-trial custody.

The MP has denied any wrongdoing, and in a letter sent to the Speaker said he will restore his reputation, and called on his colleagues to strip him of immunity since “he has no desire to obstruct the investigation”.

A private zoo and a large car collection were also found during the search of the compound.

On June 19, the parliament voted to strip the MP of immunity and approved launching criminal proceedings.

Finally, the Special Investigative Service has launched criminal proceedings over former Mayor of Echmiadzin Karen Grigoryan, the general’s son.

The Special Investigative Service said it has charged Karen Grigoryan on June 23 with grand theft.

In the days of the April War of 2016, Members of the Armenian Community of Russia NGO, had acquired three UAZ SUVs, thermal vision devices and military uniforms and transferred it to Armenia as aid.  Representatives of the organization arrived in Armenia, where accompanied with Karen Grigoryan, they departed for Artsakh to donate the abovementioned items to Artsakh’s defense ministry. The items allegedly had been handed over to Karen Grigoryan, and MP Manvel Grigoryan.

But instead of transferring the vehicles, worth over $22,000, to the Artsakh military, Manvel Grigoryan and his son Karen transported them back to Echmiadzin.

Karen Grigoryan hasn’t been remanded and is free on a bail bond.

The investigation continues.

 Effective Yet Respectful Process

Pashinyan discussed his anti-graft drive on Tuesday, June 26, with the heads of the NSS, the Armenian police and other law-enforcement bodies. He told them to make sure that “this process continues more effectively” while “strictly” complying with laws and respecting human rights. According to Pashinyan’s press office, they briefed the premier on their respective agencies’ “ongoing and upcoming works towards combatting corruption.”

(Reports from the Public Radio of Armenia, Armenpress and RFE/RL were used to compile this

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