The new head of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS), Artur Vanetsian, said on Thursday that it has already questioned many people as part of an unprecedented crackdown on corruption promised by him.
Vanetsian said over the weekend that unnamed individuals who have long “enriched themselves through large-scale corruption schemes” will be exposed and held accountable soon. The NSS will strive to ensure that they compensate the state for public funds embezzled by them, he said.
Vanetsian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Thursday that these anti-graft measures have already begun and that “there will be revelations in the coming days.”
“I can tell you that numerous individuals have been summoned [for questioning,] there are detained individuals, efforts are underway, and the public will be informed about that in the coming days,” he said. “This is a complex, difficult and large-scale effort which is in full swing. We need to make sure that nobody has any questions in connection with it.”
“That is why we must do everything in a very professional way and for that we need a little time,” he added.
Vanetsian also said that the interrogated persons gave “explanations” that confirmed “our preliminary operational information.” He refused to clarify whether there are any current or former high-ranking officials among them.
The NSS chief was also asked to comment on rumors that his powerful security agency is poised to implicate Yerevan’s embattled Mayor Taron Markarian in corrupt practices. “We don’t deliberately prepare [incriminating] materials against any officials,” he said. “We do our job. If we find out facts testifying to illegal activities of one or another person we perform our duties defined by the law.”
Markarian, who is affiliated with the former ruling Republican Party, is facing growing pressure to resign from Armenia’s new government headed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Vanetsian, 38, is a career NSS officer who was named to run the security service two days after the Armenian parliament voted to choose Pashinian as prime minister on May 8. Pashinian has pledged, among other things, to “root out” endemic corruption in the country.