The Armenian police said on Thursday that they are trying to track down former Environment Minister Aram Harutiunian who was charged last month with receiving $14 million in bribes while in office.
An Armenian businesswoman, Silva Hambardzumian, claims to have paid the bribes in 2008 in return for obtaining a dozen mining licenses from the Ministry of Environment Protection.
Harutiunian denied the accusation through his lawyer on January 18 one day after a Yerevan court issued an arrest warrant for him. The lawyer, Karen Hakobian, insisted that his client has not fled Armenia but refused to shed more light on his whereabouts.
The national police chief, Valeri Osipian, told reporters that investigators have since been hunting for the ex-minister. He refused to elaborate on their “operational-search efforts.”
Nor would Osipian say whether the police believe that Harutiunian is hiding in Armenia or abroad.
Harutiunian served as environment 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 December. The outgoing parliament, in which the Republicans had the largest group, declined to lift Harutiunian’s immunity from prosecution.
According to Harutiunian’s lawyer, immigration officers at Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport “illegally” stopped the ex-minister from leaving the country later in December.