YEREVAN — The Armenian authorities have moved to confiscate hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets belonging to Gagik Tsarukyan, one of Armenia’s richest men.
The assets include the largest of Tsarukyan’s companies and about 90 properties owned by him or members of his family. The authorities are also seeking to seize over 86 billion drams ($213 million) in revenue generated by them. All this may well account for most of the vast fortune made by the tycoon since the early 1990s.
The Office of the Prosecutor-General announced late last week that it has asked an Armenian court to approve the seizures in accordance with the law that allows the authorities to confiscate assets deemed to have been acquired illegally. It said the court has already agreed to freeze them pending a verdict in the case.
A statement released by the law-enforcement agency did not publicize any evidence in support of its claims that Tsarukyan and his family have amassed their wealth illegally. The tycoon’s lawyers were quick to reject the claims and insist that “the origin of Gagik Tsarukyan’s assets is illegal.”
“There is weighty evidence of that, which will be presented to the court and the Office of the Prosecutor-General as soon as possible,” they said in a statement.
The law invoked by the prosecutors allows them to seek asset forfeiture in case of having “sufficient grounds to suspect” that the market value of an individual’s properties exceeds their “legal income” by at least 50 million drams ($100,000). Armenian courts can allow the nationalization of such assets even if their owners are not found guilty of corruption or other criminal offenses.
Over the past two years the prosecutors have petitioned courts to dispossess dozens of former officials, including ex-Presidents Serzh Sarkisyan and Robert Kocharyan, and their relatives. So far there have been no court verdicts in any of those cases. Tsarukyan is apparently the first person who risks losing his assets despite having never held any executive posts in government.
The law in question as a major anti-corruption measure that will help Armenia recover wealth stolen from the people.