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Former Sarkisian Bodyguard Again Arrested


Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (L) and his chief bodyguard Vachagan Ghazarian, 11 July 2015.

A high-ranking officer who headed former President Serzh Sarkisian’s security detail for over two decades was again arrested on Thursday almost five months after being charged with corruption.

Vachagan Ghazarian stands accused of failing to declare to a state anti-corruption body more than $2.5 million in cash that was mostly held in his and his wife’s bank accounts.

Ghazarian was obliged to do that in his capacity as deputy head of a security agency providing bodyguards to Armenia’s leaders. He held that position until the end of May.

Ghazarian, was first detained on June 25 five days after police raided his apartment in Yerevan and found $1.1 million and 230,000 euros ($267,000) in cash there. The National Security Service (NSS) said he carried a further $120,000 and 436 million drams ($900,000) in a bag when he was caught outside a commercial bank in Yerevan.

A district court in Yerevan promptly allowed investigators to keep Ghazarian under pre-trial arrest on charges of illegal enrichment and false asset disclosure. But Armenia’s Court of Appeals ordered his release from custody on July 20 after he offered to post a 1 billion-dram ($2.1 million) bail.

The higher Court of Cassation struck down that ruling on Thursday following an appeal lodged by prosecutors. The Special Investigative Service (SIS), a law-enforcement body conducting the high-profile probe, took him into custody later in the day.

Ghazarian’s lawyer could not be reached for comment. The once influential officer denies the accusations leveled against him. He is the first person in Armenia facing such charges.

Sarkisian has still not publicly commented on the corruption case against one of his most trusted men.

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