An indicted brother of Armenia’s former President Serzh Sarkisian has been allowed to temporarily leave the country after agreeing to pay the state $30 million from his bank account that was frozen last summer.
Aleksandr Sarkisian avoided arrest but was banned from leaving Armenia when the National Security Service (NSS) charged him with fraud last month.
NSS spokesman Samson Galstian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Wednesday that investigators have allowed Sarkisian to stay abroad “for some time.” Galstian declined to give the reason for his departure or possible dates for his return to the country.
Sarkisian’s $30 million bank account in Armenia was frozen as part of a separate inquiry launched by the NSS shortly after his elder brother resigned in April 2018 amid nationwide anti-government protests. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian publicly demanded in September that he “return the money to the state budget.” Sarkisian rejected Pashinian’s demand as illegal, while offering to donate part of the sum to the government as a gesture of goodwill.
The NSS announced last week that he has donated $19.6 million to the Armenian military. The money will be spent on arms acquisitions, the security agency said in a statement.
The statement said Aleksandr Sarkisian has also paid $6.5 million in back taxes. The nearly $3.9 million remaining in his frozen account will also be transferred to the state to fully settle his tax debt, according to the NSS.
The fraud charges brought against the ex-president’s brother stem from over a dozen drawings by the 20th century Armenian painter Martiros Saryan which were found in his Yerevan villa in July. The NSS confiscated the drawings, saying that his fugitive son Narek had fraudulently obtained them from Saryan’s descendants.
Narek Sarkisian, 37, fled Armenia in June before being charged with illegal arms possession and drug trafficking. The Czech police detained him in Prague in December on an Armenian arrest warrant. Armenian prosecutors formally demanded his extradition three weeks later.
Aleksandr Sarkisian’s second son, Levon, is currently standing trial on charges of attempted murder and illegal arms possession which he denies. The 33-year-old was arrested in July and freed on bail in September.
During his brother’s 2008-2018 rule, Aleksandr Sarkisian, who is better known to the public as “Sashik,” earned notoriety for his flamboyant behavior and insults addressed to critics of Armenia’s former government. The 62-year-old is thought to have made a big fortune in the past two decades. He held a parliament seat from 2003-2011.