Manvel Grigorian, a retired army general arrested at the weekend, denies the accusations of illegal arms possession and embezzlement levelled against him, his lawyers said on Tuesday.
According to them, Grigorian has told investigators that he has nothing to do with large quantities of food, medication and other items meant for Armenian soldiers which were confiscated from a vast village compound belonging to him.
“He has testified that he visited that property rarely, let’s say two or three times a year,” one of the lawyers, Karen Kamalian, told a news conference. “As regards the place where those goods were discovered, he did not have the keys [to its entrance door.]”
Another attorney, Arayik Alvanian, claimed that those items were shipped to and from the property by other senior members of the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans without Grigorian’s knowledge. Grigorian has headed the organization close to the Armenian military for almost two decades.
In an open letter released on Monday, Grigorian pledged to provide documents proving that the warehouse “catered” for Yerkrapah’s legitimate activities, rather than served as a hideout for embezzled military supplies. Alvanian denied any contradiction between that claim and statements made by him and three other lawyers representing the ex-general.
The National Security Service (NSS) released on Sunday a scandalous video of searches carried out by its officers at Grigorian’s expensive villas and other properties. It showed them finding large amounts of underwear, medication and field rations for soldiers provided by the Armenian Defense Ministry as well as other food donated by ordinary Armenians. Those supplies were hoarded at the compound located in Grigorian’s native village.
The donations were made by local communities, public schools and other civilian institutions during the April 2016 war in Karabakh.
Seyran Ohanian, another retired general who was Armenia’s defense minister during the four-day war, said on Tuesday that he “experienced pain” when watching the televised NSS footage. He insisted that he was not involved in or even aware of the alleged embezzlement of donations to the armed forces.
“Of course I did not know that,” Ohanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “A special commission was set up then to handle all kinds of assistance which it distributed in corresponding directions.”
He put the blame on unnamed “structures” that delivered such aid to various military units or oversaw that process.
A week ago, Ohanian received a summons from tax inspectors investigating suspected financial irregularities committed by Armenian Defense Ministry officials from 2014-2017. The State Revenue Committee (SRC) said the former defense minister will be questioned as a witness.
Meanwhile, the recently appointed chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, Major General Artak Davtian, issued a statement on Tuesday implicitly referring to the high-profile case against Grigorian. “Impunity is now a thing of the past,” he declared.
Davtian said the Armenian military will join the country’s new government in waging an “uncompromising struggle even against seemingly insignificant abuses.”