YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — A brother of former President Serzh Sarkisian and his two children could face prosecution on corruption charges after law-enforcement authorities discovered nearly $7 million held by them in an Armenian bank.
The State Revenue Committee (SRC) launched criminal proceedings against them on Friday shortly after announcing that a company linked to Levon Sarkisian has been fined 800 million drams ($1.7 million) for tax evasion.
The SRC said that while searching Sarkisian’s home its investigators found documents showing that he, his son Narek and daughter Ani deposited a total of $6.8 million in the unnamed bank “in the second half of 2017.” It said that the ex-president’s youngest brother and Ani Sarkisian failed to disclose these sums to a state anti-corruption body while Narek did not file any income declarations at all.
Under Armenian law, such declarations are mandatory for high-ranking state officials and their family members. This legal requirement applies to Levon Sarkisian because he has long worked as ambassador-at-large at the Armenian Foreign Ministry.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS), which took over the corruption inquiry launched by the SRC, said on Monday that Sarkisian and his children are now suspected of “illegal enrichment.” Levon and Ani could be also accused of underreporting their incomes and assets, which is also a criminal offence in Armenia.
None of the suspects has been formally charged so far. An SIS spokesperson that they all have signed written pledges not to leave the country until the inquiry is over.
However, an aide to Levon Sarkisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that he has not been in Armenia for the last twelve days.
The SIS filed last Wednesday the same criminal charges against Vachagan Ghazarian, Serzh Sarkisian’s longtime chief bodyguard arrested a week ago. Ghazarian carried over $1 million worth of cash in a bag during the arrest. Police found another $1.1 million as well as 230,000 euros ($267,000) in cash when they searched his apartment earlier in June.
The National Security Service (NSS), another law-enforcement body, said last week that Ghazarian was also planning to withdraw 1.5 billion drams ($3.1 million) held by him and his wife in a local bank. He claimed that he “forgot” to add these sums to his official income declarations, according to the NSS.
Former President Sarkisian has not yet commented on the corruption cases against his relatives and Ghazarian, one of his most trusted individuals.
Armenia’s new government has been instrumental in these and other high-profile corruption probes. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has repeatedly pledged to “root out” endemic corruption in the country since he swept to power about two months ago.