The head of the Special Investigation Service, Sasun Khachatryan, holds a press conference in Yerevan, September 11, 2018

Armenian Anti-Corruption Chief Cleared Over ‘Dubious’ Property Deal

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By Artak Khulian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Prosecutors have decided not to launch criminal proceedings against the head of an Armenian law-enforcement agency tasked with combating corruption after looking into allegations that he abused his power to buy a large apartment at a discount.

Infocom.am revealed last month that Sasun Khachatryan, who runs the Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC), halted a criminal investigation into a wealthy businessman in 2021 shortly after purchasing the apartment in a new residential district constructed by the latter’s company in Yerevan.

Khachatryan paid 71 million drams ($180,000) for the 167-square-meter property. According to the online publication, this is significantly less than what the owners of other apartments located in the same building paid Jermuk Group, a private developer.

The ACC claimed on March 30 that Khachatryan was entitled to the discount because he had booked the apartment in advance of its construction. Infocom.am pointed out, however, that neither the ACC nor Jermuk Group provided any documentary evidence of the apartment reservation.

The publication noted that the ACC investigated Ashot Arsenyan, a well-known businessman who controls Jermuk Group, over vote buying alleged by the Armenian police in 2018. Citing a lack of incriminating evidence, the law-enforcement body suspended the investigation in October 2021. seven months after Khachatryan formalized his property deal with Arsenyan’s firm.

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The author of the investigative article, Mkrtich Karapetyan, suggested that Khachatryan may have bought the apartment at a knockdown price in exchange for not prosecuting Arsenyan.

The Office of the Prosecutor-General told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Monday, April 17, that it has looked into the article and found no wrongdoing on the part of Khachatryan which would warrant a formal criminal investigation. It did not go into details.

Khachatryan, 46, worked as a senior prosecutor under Armenia’s former governments. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan appointed him as chief of the Special Investigative Agency, of which the ACC is the successor agency, after coming to power in 2018. Khachatryan also owns two other apartments in Yerevan, according to Infocom.am.

Khachatryan is one of several Armenian officials, including Defense Minister Suren Papikyan, who have bought expensive property in the upmarket Byuregh district built by Jermuk Group.

The investigative publication Hetq.am reported recently that even though Papikyan’s apartment is now worth an estimated $412,000, he paid only $168,000 for it last summer.

Pashinyan defended his defense minister and close political ally on March 14, questioning the market value of the apartment cited by Hetq.am. He again claimed to have eliminated “systemic corruption” in Armenia.

Topics: Corruption

Pro-opposition and independent media outlets increasingly accuse members of Pashinyan’s entourage of enriching themselves or their cronies. Earlier this month, hackers hijacked the YouTube channel of the Yerevan daily Aravot as it was about to publish a video report detailing expensive property acquisitions by several senior government officials and pro-government lawmakers.

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