Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) has questioned former Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian as part of a criminal investigation into a municipal fund that was overseen by him.
NSS officers searched the offices of the Yerevan Fund and arrested its executive director and another municipal official in mid-June. The two men were accused of extorting hefty payments to the charity from individuals seeking construction permits from the mayor’s office.
The NSS claimed that a part of the “large amounts” of cash paid by at least two such entrepreneurs was pocketed by them. Later in June the arrested officials were released from custody pending investigation.
Markarian, in office since 2011, announced his decision to resign as mayor on July 9. He gave no reasons for the move.
The NSS director, Artur Vanetsian, told reporters on Thursday that Markarian was recently questioned as a “witness” by investigators and admitted “certain violations” in the Yerevan Fund’s activities. He did not specify whether the former mayor could also face criminal charges.
Vanetsian also said that the municipal fund’s former executive director, Ashot Ghazarian, has agreed to return 1.8 billion drams ($3.7 million) in allegedly embezzled funds to the state.
Markarian, 40, is a senior member of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). His late father Andranik served as Armenia’s prime minister from 2000-2007. The latter headed the HHK until his sudden death in 2007.