A court in Armenia has issued an arrest warrant for former president Serzh Sarkisian’s brother, Levon, who is being prosecuted on charges of illegal enrichment.
Sarkisian and his two children have been under investigation after law-enforcement authorities discovered nearly $7 million held by them in an Armenian bank.
The State Revenue Committee (SRC) launched criminal proceedings against them on June 29 shortly after announcing that a company linked to Levon Sarkisian had been fined 800 million drams ($1.7 million) for tax evasion.
The SRC said that while searching Sarkisian’s home its investigators found documents showing that he, his son Narek and daughter Ani deposited a total of $6.8 million in the unnamed bank “in the second half of 2017.” It said that the ex-president’s youngest brother and Ani Sarkisian failed to disclose these sums to a state anti-corruption body while Narek did not file any income declarations at all.
Under Armenian law, such declarations are mandatory for high-ranking state officials and their family members. This legal requirement applies to Levon Sarkisian because he has long worked as ambassador-at-large at the Armenian Foreign Ministry.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) said on Saturday that as part of the criminal case on hiding property in declarations and illegal enrichment an investigator has decided to bring charges against the Sarkisians.
Levon Sarkisian and his daughter Ani are charged under penal code articles dealing with “Illegal participation in entrepreneurial activity” and “official forgery”, while Sarkisian’s son Narek is charged under an article dealing with “Illegal participation in entrepreneurial activity”.
“On July 6 the SIS requested that the court choose arrest as a measure of restraint against Levon Sarkisian and the court granted the request the same day. A search has been announced for Lyova (Levon) and Ani Sarkisians. A written undertaking confining Ani and Narek Sarkisians to country limits has been chosen as a measure of restraint against the two. Investigation is ongoing,” the SIS statement reads.
Earlier this week Armenia’s law-enforcement agencies named two sons of the ex-president’s other brother, Aleksandr Sarkisian, Hayk and Narek, as suspects in separate criminal investigations concerning an attempted murder, theft and illegal possession of weapons and drugs. Narek Sarkisian was put on the police’s wanted list, while Hayk was released after interrogation pending investigation.
The decisions were made after a search that was conducted at the Yerevan apartment of Aleksandr Sarkisian, who is better known to the public as “Sashik”.
The 62-year-old controversial brother of the former president 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.
A video of the search at Aleksandr Sarkisian’s apartment released by the National Security Service (NSS) on July 5 showed large sums of money, expensive watches and artworks, numerous gold coins, and pieces of jewelry found there. The NSS said the legality of the items is being checked as part of a criminal investigation.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian denied the “political” nature of the cases against Sarkisian family members, saying that they are being pursued on their legal merits.
Pashinian came to power two months ago following weeks of peaceful protests that forced Sarkisian, who had served for 10 years as president, to resign within less than a week after moving to a newly empowered post of prime minister in mid-April.
Pashinian declared a crackdown on corruption after being elected prime minister on May 8.