Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has ruled out that any specific family in Armenia is being targeted after a series of high-profile revelations by law-enforcement agencies concerning close relatives of the country’s former president Serzh Sarkisian.
In separate statements on Thursday the Investigative Committee and the National Security Service said that two nephews of Sarkisian, who lost power under the pressure of the Pashinian-led protest movement in April, are implicated in different crimes. In particular, Hayk Sarkisian was named as a suspect in a reopened 2007 attempted murder case and Narek Sarkisian is currently wanted by police on suspicion of theft and illegal possession of weapons and drugs.
The statements were made after a search at the residence of Hayk’s and Narek’s father, Aleksandr Sarkisian, a controversial brother of the ex-president better known to the public as “Sashik.” A video of the search released by the National Security Service (NSS) late on Thursday showed large sums of money, expensive watches and artworks, numerous gold coins and pieces of jewelry found at Aleksandr Sarkisian’s apartment. The NSS said the legality of the items will be checked as part of the criminal investigation.
Aleksandr Sarkisian is thought to have made a big fortune in the past two decades. Unconfirmed reports in the Armenian press have said that he spent millions of dollars buying real estate in Europe and the United States.
Meanwhile, the State Revenue Committee in late June launched a probe against another brother of the former president, Levon Sarkisian, and his two children on suspicion of ‘illegal enrichment’ after law-enforcement authorities discovered nearly $7 million held by them in a commercial bank.
“We are not going after anyone’s family or individual, we follow alerts that law-enforcement bodies receive as well as the information that they have,” Prime Minister Pashinian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday, commenting on the cases.
Pashinian, who announced a crackdown on corruption after being elected prime minister on May 8, excluded ‘political’ solutions to legal cases involving crimes.
“There is no certain plan that we follow in terms of exposure. The task is formulated differently. Law must be respected in the country and law-enforcement bodies should work effectively. Whatever happens within the framework of these two principles is not something that we plan, but is a matter that comes out of the realities,” the premier said.
Pashinian, who for years spoke about widespread government corruption as an opposition member, stopped short of evaluating the extent of corruption exposed by Armenia’s law-enforcement agencies so far. He only said that he was shocked by “cynicism” in some cases.Pashinian also denied that ex-president Sarkisian tried to contact him over the investigations concerning members of his extended family.
Serzh Sarkisian, who had been president for 10 years, moved to the newly powerful post of prime minister in mid-April but stepped down within less than a week after peaceful street protests led by then-opposition lawmaker Pashinian.