By Armen Zakarian
Senior serving and former government officials have been questioned by prosecutors as part of a criminal investigation into alleged embezzlement of public funds at Armenia’s main international airport, a senior law-enforcement official said on Tuesday.
“We have opened a criminal case in connection with the abuse of power and embezzlement at the [Zvartnots] airport,” Deputy Prosecutor-General Mnatsakan Sargsian told a news conference. “Yesterday I prolonged the term of the investigation into that case for two more months as large-scale abuses worth about $1.5 million were committed there.”
“Government officials have indeed been questioned in connection with that case,” he added. “I can not name names now …, but those were officials from the highest level. The objective is to return the embezzled funds.”
Sargsian refused to disclose further details of the inquiry, saying only that the alleged abuses occurred from 1996 through 1999 when Zvartnots was owned and managed by the state. The airport is now run by an Argentinian company which signed a 30-year management contract with the Armenian government in 2002.
Armenia’s civil aviation has been plagued with serious financial problems for much of the past decade, with corruption and mismanagement seen as their principal cause. The sector’s woes culminated in the collapse of Armenian Airlines, the state-run national carrier, last year.