A senior Armenian employee of the European Union Delegation in Armenia has been arrested on suspicion of embezzling EU grants allocated to local non-governmental organizations.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee said on Thursday that Marine Papian, the grants program coordinator at the delegation, is suspected of misappropriating a “particularly large amount of money.” It did not specify the sum.
The law-enforcement agency also said that it has been “actively cooperating” with relevant EU bodies in the corruption inquiry launched more than a year ago.
The EU mission in Yerevan confirmed this in a statement issued later on Thursday. “The European Union Delegation in Armenia has informed the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) about potential irregularities in relation to projects in Armenia funded by the European Union,” it said in a statement. “OLAF investigated and informed the Armenian authorities, which, at the former’s recommendation, have been conducting their own investigation.”
“The European Union is fully committed to combating corruption and organized crime and will continue to support a full, effective and transparent investigation of any suspected irregularities,” added the statement.
According to the Investigative Committee, 13 other Armenian nationals were earlier charged with embezzlement and fraud as part of the ongoing probe. Three of them -- Tigran Sukiasian, Gevorg Ghazarian and Rubina Ter-Matrirosian -- were arrested in March 2016.
The committee said at the time that they pocketed EU funding for a bogus project that was supposed to be implemented by a youth NGO in Martuni, a small town in eastern Armenia. Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation, said afterwards that EU officials detected the alleged embezzlement and alerted Armenian law-enforcement authorities.
Three other accused individuals remain on the run. According to the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily, one of them, Gegham Petrosian, was a senior government official until October. Citing unnamed law-enforcement sources, the paper put the total amount of the allegedly embezzled EU funds at around $580,000.
Despite the high-profile corruption case, the EU is continuing to finance various Armenian NGOs as part of its efforts to strengthen the country’s civil society. On April 10, the EU Delegation announced 1.5 million euros ($1.6) in fresh grants to civic groups interested in monitoring the Armenian government’s use of EU economic aid. It launched another grant program worth 2.9 million euros the following day. The scheme is designed to benefit cash-strapped local communities.