YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — A controversial brother and the chief bodyguard of Armenia’s former President Serzh Sarkisian were detained on Monday.
It was not immediately clear whether law-enforcement authorities will press criminal charges against them.
A spokesman for the Armenian police told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Aleksandr Sarkisian was detained on suspicion of illegal arms possession. A short amateur video posted on Facebook showed masked policemen hauling him out of his car in downtown Yerevan.
Sarkisian, who is better known to the public as “Sashik,” has repeatedly caused controversy in the past with his flamboyant behavior and insults addressed to critics of Armenia’s former governments.
The 62-year-old is thought to have made a big fortune in the past two decades. Unconfirmed reports in the Armenian press have said that he spent millions of dollars buying real estate in Europe and the United States.
Tax inspectors raided on Saturday the offices of a real estate company in Yerevan at least partly controlled by Serzh Sarkisian’s second, youngest brother Levon and his family. The State Revenue Committee (SRC) accused the company of failing to pay 300 million drams ($625,000) in taxes. Nobody has been arrested yet as part of that criminal case.
Earlier on Monday, the National Security Service (NSS), detained Serzh Sarkisian’s longtime chief bodyguard, Vachagan Ghazarian. An NSS spokesman declined to say whether that is connected with more than $1.1 million and 230,000 euros ($267,000) in cash confiscated from Ghazarian’s Yerevan apartment late last week. The Investigating Committee said the cash was handed over to Armenia’s Central Bank and will be kept there “until the inquiry determines its origin.”
The money was found during a joint operation conducted by the police and another law-enforcement body, the Investigative Committee. The committee said Ghazarian 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. Ghazarian was such an official until Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian dismissed him last month as first deputy head of a security agency providing bodyguards to the country’s leaders.
In a joint operation, Armenia’s Investigative Committee and police raided on Wednesday a night club in the capital which is owned by Vachagan Ghazarian’s wife, Ruzanna Beglarian, and suspected of financial irregularities.
Ghazarian has headed Sarkisian’s security detail for more than two decades. It is not clear whether he still works for the ex-president.