Law-enforcement officers searched on Thursday the Yerevan house of Mihran Poghosian, a former senior Armenian official prosecuted on corruption charges.
Poghosian’s office was the first to report the search, saying that armed officers of the National Security Service (NSS) “broke into” the house in the morning. “We regard these repressive actions as a manifestation of political persecution,” it said in a statement.
An RFE/RL correspondent saw security officers outside Poghosian’s villa. One of them confirmed that it was raided by law-enforcement bodies.
An NSS spokesman, Samson Galstian, said afterwards that the search was conducted by the Special Investigative Service (SIS) as part of its criminal case against Poghosian. The NSS only assisted in that operation, he said.
A court in Yerevan on Monday allowed the SIS to arrest Poghosian after he was charged with abusing his powers to enrich himself while in office. Poghosian ran an Armenian state agency enforcing court rulings from 2008-2016.
The SIS claims that he embezzled, through individuals and companies linked to him, at least 64.2 million drams ($132,000) in public funds.
It also accuses him of giving privileged treatment to a real estate valuation firm that was contracted by the Service for the Mandatory Execution of Judicial Acts (SMEJA) in 2014. According to SIS investigators, the firm was registered by shadowy companies set up by Poghosian “through foreign citizens” in Panama in 2011.
Citing leaked documents widely known as the Panama Papers, the Hetq.am investigative publication reported in April 2016 that Poghosian controls three such companies registered in the Central American state. Poghosian dismissed the report but resigned as SMEJA chief shortly afterwards, despite continuing to deny any wrongdoing.
Poghosian’s office on Monday denied the charges as politically motivated. It said the authorities have effectively disproved his detractors’ allegations that the once powerful ex-official held hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts.
The office also scoffed at the SIS’s decision to launch a domestic and international hunt for Poghosian. It released the address of an apartment in Moscow where it said Poghosian currently resides. The SIS was notified about his current place of residence “from the outset,” it added.
The office did not specify whether the former SMEJA chief, who had close ties to Armenia’s former leadership, is planning to return to the country.