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Armenia’s ex-president Serzh Sargsyan faces bribery charges

Categories: Central Asia & Caucasus, Armenia, Breaking News, Elections, Governance, Law, Politics, Protest, War & Conflict

“Serzh Sargsyan” by More pictures and videos: connect@epp.eu is licensed under CC BY 2.0 [1]

Former president of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan was charged with taking a bribe during his time as a president, in what the ex-president's lawyer describe as an an attempt [2] to divert attention from the ongoing political and military crisis [3] between Armenia and Azerbaijan. On November 22, Marina Ohanjanian, a spokesperson for the Anti-Corruption Committee, confirmed [2] the allegation. The ex-president appeared before the committee the same day.

The charges are part of an investigation that started three years ago, into events in March 2008 [4], when police and protesters clashed over disputed presidential election results that took place in February of that year. The ongoing investigation alleges [5] that the government officials — Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgyan, former presidents Sargsyan and his predecessor Robert Kocharyan — took bribes in a scheme facilitated [6] by businessman Samvel Mayrapetyan.

According [2] to Radio Liberty, the current case brought forward against Sargsyan is linked to the testimony of a businesswoman from Armenia named [5] Silvia Hambardzumyan. In 2018, Hambardzumyan said [7] she bribed state officials, “in order to secure permission to start a business in the mining industry.”

At the time, the testimony resulted [7] in charges against Armenia’s second President Robert Kocharyan; his chief of staff; Armen Gevorgyan, opposition member of the parliament; and businessman Samvel Mayrapetyan. According [7] to OC Media, while Hambardzumyan also said she bribed Sargsyan, the ex-president “has not faced criminal charges in the case until now.”

Sargsyan's lawyer Amram Makinyan dismissed the newly emerged accusations in a statement on November 22. “It’s ridiculous that after [moving] Silva’s testimony [back and forth] for three and a half years only today they ‘decided’ that she’s also bribed Serzh Sargsyan, when two years earlier he was already questioned under the same case as a witness and so far no circumstance has changed or added legally,” he said [8].

This is Sargsyan’s second set of major criminal charges. The first concerns [9] embezzling some USD 1 million from state coffers. “Sargsyan was charged alongside businessman Barsegh Beglaryan and three former Agriculture Ministry officials, including former Minister Sergo Karapetyan,” reported [7] OC Media. The former president has denied [2] these accusations too.

More recently, the ex-president's name was also mentioned in an investigative report published in September 2021 that revealed [10] president's frequent trips to Germany's Baden-Baden where his “official presidential airplane flew high-ranking officials [5],” between 2008 and 2017, during the former leader's time in office.

The former president has denied the accusations and has signed an affidavit not to leave the country.