Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian insisted on Wednesday that he did not discuss the high-profile arrests in the United States of Armenian-born individuals accused of large-scale medical insurance fraud during a visit to Washington last week.
Hovsepian’s office said he traveled to the U.S. capital to participate in an international conference on corruption organized by the World Bank and to discuss closer cooperation between Armenian and U.S. law-enforcement authorities.
U.S. officials said in October that Armenian nationals are among 44 arrested members of an Armenian-American criminal syndicate that allegedly filed some $100 million in fake claims to Medicare, a government health insurance program. They said some of the suspects regularly traveled to Armenia , had criminal connections there and transferred criminal proceeds to the country.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry was quick to express “regret” at this fact and said the authorities in Yerevan are ready to cooperate with U.S. investigators. Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General reaffirmed this pledge.
Later in October, a team of officials from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) visited Yerevan and met Hovsepian. A spokeswoman for Hovsepian said they briefed him on the ongoing inquiry into what the alleged insurance scam.
The meeting came amid Armenian media allegations that Armen Kazarian, the alleged ringleader in the case, has had close ties with high-ranking government officials in Armenia and their relatives.
Kazarian, 46, is known in Armenia as a crime figure nicknamed “Pzo.” According to the Armenian police, he emigrated to the U.S. in 1996 and is now a U.S. citizen.
Opposition-linked newspapers have speculated that the FBI is pressing the Yerevan government to disclose the assets of Kazarian’s cronies and business partners in Armenia. The daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” suggested earlier this month that Hovsepian will face more such embarrassing inquiries during his trip to Washington.
In a written statement, the Office of the Prosecutor-General said that Hovsepian discussed no “concrete criminal cases” at his meetings with unnamed senior officials from the U.S. Department of Justice. It said they spoke instead about “cooperation between the two countries’ law-enforcement bodies” and ways of enhancing it through new “legal mechanisms.”
The statement also insisted that Armenian prosecutors have not received any formal requests of “legal assistance” from their U.S. colleagues investigating the case.