A law-enforcement body on Thursday asked a Yerevan court to issue an arrest warrant for Armenia’s former Environment Minister Aram Harutiunian after formally accusing him of receiving $14 million in bribes.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) reiterated prosecutors’ recent allegations that an Armenian businesswoman, Silva Hambardzumian, paid the money in 2008 in return for obtaining a dozen mining licenses from Harutiunian’s ministry.
Hambardzumian claimed to have bribed Harutiunian through several intermediaries close to him when she spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in late October. She said that the mining licenses were subsequently revoked and that she never got her money back.
Harutiunian served as minister from 2007-2014 and was elected to the Armenian parliament in 2017 on then President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party’s ticket. The prosecutors attempted to arrest him in early December.
The outgoing parliament, in which the Republicans had the largest group, declined to lift Harutiunian’s immunity from prosecution, however. It was formally replaced on Monday by a new National Assembly elected in the December 9 snap elections.
Harutiunian has still not publicly commented on the corruption accusations. His whereabouts have been unknown for the past several weeks. Some Armenian media outlets have suggested that he may have fled the country.
Hambardzumian allegedly paid the first installments of the bribes, worth $6 million, in cash.
According to an SIS statement, she wired the rest of the money to bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates. Harutiunian subsequently transferred the sum to the Swiss bank account of an “international company” linked to him, said the statement.