Armenian law-enforcement authorities are still refusing to divulge any details of their declared investigation into a secretly recorded audio suggesting that employees of a pro-government businessman were warned to help him get reelected to parliament or lose their jobs.
The recording was posted on Hayastan24.com in the wake of the April 2 parliamentary elections. It features the voice of a man threatening to fire those employees of Artak Sargsian’s SAS supermarket chain in Yerevan who have failed to guarantee in writing that their friends and relatives will vote for their boss. The man also promises lavish bonuses to their colleagues who will “bring votes” to the candidate of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
The news website said that the SAS staff meeting took place in the run-up to the elections won by the HHK. Sargsian, who earned the party 12,000 votes and was reelected to the National Assembly, has since refused to comment on the audio and the resulting political scandal.
Opposition politicians and other critics of the Armenian government seized upon the revelation as further proof that public and private sector employees across the country were illegally pressurized to vote for the HHK. In an April 3 statement, European election monitors likewise reported “pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies”
Responding to the uproar, Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) said on April 19 that it has opened a criminal case in connection with the scandalous audio. The law-enforcement agency has still not clarified, however, whether it has charged anyone or identified any suspects. It is not even known whether Sargsian has been questioned by SIS investigators.
The SIS again declined to shed light on the probe in a written response to an RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) sent on Monday. “The investigation is continuing, and due to the secrecy of the investigation it is not possible to provide additional information on this criminal case,” read the short letter.
According to the Hetq.am investigative publication, the man who purportedly threatened to fire SAS employees is Sargsian’s elder brother Aram.