Law-enforcement authorities have brought criminal charges against an Armenian businessman in a fraud case that has sparked embarrassing media allegations against Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian.
The fugitive businessman, Ashot Sukiasian, is prosecuted nearly one year after another entrepreneur, Paylak Hayrapetian, claimed to have been forced into bankruptcy by Sukiasian. Hayrapetian alleged that the latter misappropriated most of a $10.7 million loan which he borrowed from an Armenian commercial bank to finance a business project proposed by Sukiasian.
Hetq.am reported late last month that the embezzled sum was transferred to the offshore bank account of a Cyprus-registered company. The investigative publication also disclosed a document purportedly certifying that the company is co-owned by Sukiasian, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan, head of the largest diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Both Sarkisian and Kchoyan strongly denied having any stakes in the company, saying that it was registered in their names in Cyprus without their knowledge. The prime minister also lodged a complaint with the Office of the Prosecutor-General, demanding a criminal investigation. He continued to face criticism from the Armenian opposition and media even after that.
The police formally charged Sukiasian with three counts of fraud on Monday. In an e-mail sent to Hetq.am from an undisclosed foreign country late on Tuesday, Sukiasian said he indeed falsely attributed co-ownership of his obscure firm to Sarkisian and Kchoyan. The businessman said he is sending a copy of the letter to Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian.
The national police chief, claimed on Wednesday that the investigators waited for months before indicting Sukiasian because of logistical problems. He said they needed time to communicate with law-enforcement bodies of countries where the fugitive entrepreneur has resided.
“We almost know who is where,” Gasparian told journalists. “We will try [to have him extradited.]”