Artur Vanetsian, the National Security Service (NSS) director, claimed on Tuesday that a “well-known” individual from Armenia commissioned the secret recording of his sensitive phone conversations with the head of another law-enforcement body.
Vanetsian refused to name that person, saying that investigators lack the evidence to prosecute the latter.
“It is very, very difficult to document and substantiate the involvement of that single orderer,” he told reporters. “Unfortunately, that cannot happen at this stage.”
Vanetsian and Sasun Khachatrian, head of the Special Investigative Service (SIS), spoke by phone in July shortly before former President Robert Kocharian was arrested over his role in the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. Their phone conversations were wiretapped and posted on the Internet by unknown individuals in September.
In that audio, Vanetsian can be heard telling Khachatrian that he ordered a judge to sanction Kocharian’s controversial arrest. Vanetsian also urged the SIS not to arrest Yuri Khachaturov, the Armenian secretary general of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), warning of a negative reaction from Russia. He noted that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian wants investigators to “lock up” Khachaturov.
Pashinian condemned the wiretapping and denied putting pressure on investigators. For his part, Kocharian, who was released from pre-trial custody in August, portrayed the audio as further proof that the criminal case against him is politically motivated.
Vanetsian said on Tuesday that the audio was doctored to leave the impression that he put pressure on the judge. He insisted that in fact he never spoke to the judge and referred a senior SIS investigator instead.
The NSS chief also said that it was possible to wiretap his phone calls with Khachatrian only because he made them from a foreign country.“Any mid-level specialist could have secretly recorded them,” he said.
Vanetsian further claimed that the prominent Armenian commissioned the wiretapping with the aim of forcing him to resign. He said the same person has been paying some media outlets to discredit him. He refused to name them, saying only that “they charge 3 million or 4 million drams ($6,200-$8,300) per article.”
Last month, law-enforcement officers searched the offices of an Armenian news website, Yerevan.Today, and confiscated some of its computer hard disks as part of a criminal investigation into the leaked phone calls.
The website editor, Sevak Hakobian, strongly denied any involvement in the wiretapping. He also dismissed claims that Yerevan.Today is controlled or financed by Kocharian.