YEREVAN — Retired general Artur Aghabekian, who once served as Armenia’s deputy defense minister and currently advises the president of Nagorno-Karabakh, has been charged by the Investigation Committee of Armenia (ICA) of large-scale embezzlement from the fund where he has served as chairman of the board of trustees.
The charges were pressed against Aghabekian over the weekend as part of a criminal case initiated still in July. He is accused of misappropriating over $110,000 from the Martik (Worrier) Foundation, which was set up for training and retraining of officers of the armed forces of Armenia, assisting military science, providing scholarships to talented students and some other education-related activities.
According to the ICA, in separate cases Martik directed funding for programs not related to the goals of the foundation. “In particular, large sums of money were spent on organizing hospitality parties at restaurants and hotels for individuals, purchasing premium-grade gasoline for vehicles having nothing to do with the foundation, purchasing valuable presents for different persons,” the Committee said. “Sufficient data were obtained to show that some of the money were spent on the organization of hospitality parties at restaurants in recreational zones where Aghabekian owns 40 percent of shares.”
Investigators allowed Aghabekian to remain free, but confined him to country limits pending investigation.
Aghabekian, who is a ranking member of ARF Dashnaktzutyun, insisted on Monday that he has acted within the framework of the charter of the foundation. “I think that during further investigative actions the bodies conducting the investigation will also come to this conclusion,” he said. “I myself wrote the charter [of the foundation] in 2002 and in doing so I realized what kind of programs I would be carrying out in the future.”
Aghabekian’s is the latest in a series of prosecutions against senior former officials launched after anticorruption campaigner Nikol Pashinian came to power as prime minister on the wave of street protests in April-May. Pashinian has vowed to root out corruption and carry out reforms in the Armenia.