Former President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan Charged with Corruption

The Armenian Special Investigation Service (SIS) released a statement on Wednesday about corruption charges against the third president of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan (also known as Sarkisian- 2008-2018), who resigned as a result of the Velvet Revolution last year.

SIS alleged that Sargsyan “organized the embezzlement by a group of officials” of 489 million drams (over $1 million) in government funds allocated in 2013 for the provision of subsidized diesel fuel to low-income farmers.

According the investigation, the former president interfered in a government tender for the fuel supplier to ensure that it is won by the company owned by his classmate and close friend Barsegh Barsegian.

The government paid 1.8 billion drams ($3.8 million) to the fuel supplier Flash company, as part of the government program to subsidize the fuel expenses of thousands of low-income farmers in Armenia, while another company Maxhur, which was suggesting a cheaper price for the same purposes, lost the tender. The price suggested by Maxhur would have allowed the government to save about half billion drams, but the government rejected the suggestion, giving preference to the company owned by the close friend of the president.

Sargsyan denies the charges but had to sign a formal document preventing him from leaving the country pending the trial.

During the parliamentary Q&A session with the government, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke about the corruption charges against the former president, saying he doesn’t know more than is written in the official statement of the SIS and the press. He said that his government ordered a stop to the program to subsidize the fuel expenses of low-income farmers, as they saw numerous corruption risks in that program, and that the low-income farmers in reality were not benefiting from the program. He added that his government was much criticized for terminating that program by their opponents, who claimed the government was ignoring the needs of low-income farmers and villagers.

“Now it is evident that this was indeed a corrupted program, and that the government gave the tender not to the company which was suggesting the best price, but to the company which Serzh Sargsyan ordered them to; according to the investigation, a company belonging to his close friend,” stated Pashinyan.

However, the former ruling Republican Party, which is now out of Parliament, released a statement calling the corruption charges against the former president of Armenia “fabricated and ludicrous”. The former ruling party, well-known for its long-term tradition of conducting political prosecutions against its political opponents, says the charges against Sargsyan are a manifestation of “political persecution aimed at silencing political opponents.”

However,  Sargsyan is not the only high ranking former official charged after the Velvet Revolution. His predecessor, the second president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan (1998-2008), has been imprisoned since December 2018 for overthrowing the constitutional order in 2008 by releasing an anti-constitutional top-secret order 0038, commanding the army leadership to bring the army units to the capital and then using them against the opposition movement lead by the first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan (1991-1998). The current PM Nikol Pashinyan was one of the most prominent members of that political movement until 2013, when he left and organized his own political party “Civil Contract”.

Pashinyan is known for his uncompromising position regarding corruption. Since taking the position of PM of Armenia, he has been running an uncompromising campaign against corruption which involved even the leading members of his team, such as the head of State Supervision Service and the Deputy Minister of Health. On December 4, the National Security Service charged the Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Sport and Culture, Gevorg Loretsyan, with corruption.

By Karen Tovmasyan 

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