A court in Gyumri on Tuesday sentenced four former employees of Armenia’s state pension fund to between 3 and 4 years’ imprisonment for embezzling 91.3 million drams ($220,000) in various social benefits.
Eduard Varzhapetian, the former head of the Gyumri branch of the State Social Security Service (SSSS), and three of his subordinates were convicted more than a year after going on trial as a result of a nationwide criminal investigation into allegedly widespread corruption within the SSSS.
More than 50 individuals, including the former SSSS chief Vazgen Khachikian, have been prosecuted in the inquiry ordered by state prosecutors in May 2011. Khachikian and 12 other former officials went on trial in Yerevan in February 2013, accused of misappropriating about 377 million drams ($920,000) in public funds. Their trial is still going on.
Khachikian was arrested last September 2012 along with two of his former high-ranking aides.
Only one of the Gyumri defendants, Ruben Mnatsakanian, was kept under arrest before and during the trial. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison. The three other former officials got 4-year jail terms. The court decided to apply a general amnesty to Varzhapetian, meaning that he will not go to prison. It cited his agreement to return 4 million drams of the allegedly embezzled public funds to the state.
The two other defendants, Kima Piloyan and Artur Abrahamian, as well as Mnatsakanian will have to serve the prison sentences if the verdict is upheld by higher courts. The Gyumri court also ordered them to pay 54.3 million drams in damages.
All three ex-officials pleaded not guilty to the accusations and said they will appeal against the verdict. “I’m not guilty,” Piloyan told the court. “I’m only a victim. The guilty are outside the courtroom.”