An Armenian deputy minister of health was arrested while allegedly receiving a hefty bribe over the weekend.
Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) said on Monday that the official, Arsen Davtian, was caught red-handed in his office. It claimed that the unnamed director of a medical institution paid Davtian a “particularly large amount of money” in return for securing greater government funding for his hospital.
An NSS statement said both men will be prosecuted on corruption charges. It said that unlike Davtian, the hospital chief was not arrested because of his old age and poor health.
The security service added that it is continuing to investigate possible corrupt practices in payment of government subsidies to state-owned and private hospitals, a process which has been overseen by Davtian.
Health Minister Arsen Torosian, who helped Davtian become vice-minister in May, said later on Monday that his deputy will deserve “strict” punishment if convicted. “Such [corrupt] practices are inadmissible and condemnable,” he wrote on Facebook.
“We voice our support for law-enforcement bodies in their fight against corruption,” Torosian added on behalf of his staff. “We sincerely believe that disclosure of corruption and other illegal practices in the [healthcare] system will help to root them out and make the system healthy.”
Davtian was detained one month after Torosian effectively engineered the arrest of two government officials accused of attempting to personally benefit from government-funded supplies of medical equipment to three hospitals.
The indicted officials held senior positions at the State Oversight Service (SOS), a government agency tasked with combatting financial irregularities in the public sector. They both deny the corruption charges.
Torosian has repeatedly pledged to eliminate widespread corruption in the Armenian healthcare system. In July, the minister sacked Ara Minasian, the longtime director of Yerevan’s Surb Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center, after accusing him of embezzling at least 545 million drams ($1.1 million) in public funds.
Law-enforcement authorities brought corruption charges against Minasian shortly afterwards. The latter rejected them as baseless and politically motivated.
A prominent doctor, Minasian is the father of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s son-in-law Mikael Minasian, who enjoyed considerable political and economic influence in Armenia until last spring’s “velvet revolution.”