Armenian law-enforcement authorities pledged on Tuesday to investigate corruption allegations made by a pro-establishment politician against Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and rejected by the latter as “blackmail.”
In an open letter to Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian publicized on Monday, the politician, Harutiun Arakelian, alleged that Sarkisian and a dozen other individuals are responsible for what he called a misappropriation of $31 million from Armenia’s largest chemical company.
Arakelian said the money was siphoned off from a $70 million loan allocated by a Moscow-based bank to the struggling Nairit plant in 2006.
Sarkisian was the governor of the Armenian Central Bank at the time. His brother Ashot is currently Nairit’s deputy executive director.
The allegations were circulated through the media after the prime minister’s office accused Arakelian of “attempting to blackmail and threaten” Sarkisian and Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian. The office released a copy of what it described as a letter faxed by Arakelian to Tovmasian on Thursday.
In that letter, the politician purportedly warned Tovmasian that he will go public with the allegations unless the government helps to reinstate him as chairman of the Ramkavar Azatakan (Liberal Democratic) party, a small political group that has supported Armenia’s current and former presidents. The party has been in turmoil of late.
Sarkisian on Monday formally asked the Office of the Prosecutor-General to investigate the corruption claims. The law-enforcement body responded by ordering the Armenian police to launch criminal proceedings.
“The Office of the Prosecutor-General has forwarded the prime minister’s petition as well as Harutiun Arakelian’s open letter, which we received this morning, to the [police] Inspectorate General of Criminal Investigations so that it … verifies the mentioned facts,” Sona Truzian, a spokeswoman for Prosecutor-General Hovsepian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“They will look into the case, prepare materials and on the basis of acquired evidence the investigating body will make an appropriate decision,” said Truzian. “Once there is sufficient information we will publicize it.”