A prominent Armenian government official on Friday laughed off corruption accusations leveled against him but urged supporters not to undermine the government when defending his innocence.
“It would have made more sense to suspect me of assassinating [U.S. President John] Kennedy than of being involved in corruption,” Davit Sanasarian, the suspended head of the State Oversight Service (SOS), said in a Facebook post.
The National Security Service (NSS) indicted Sanasarian on Thursday as part of an ongoing investigation into allegedly corrupt practices in government-funded supplies of medical equipment to hospitals. It arrested two senior SOS officials in late February, saying that they attempted to cash in on those supplies.
According to the NSS, Sanasarian abused his powers to help his subordinates enrich themselves and a private company linked to them.
Sanasarian, whose agency is tasked with combatting financial irregularities in the public sector, was quick to reject the charges as “fabricated.” Many of his supporters, among them Western-funded civic activists, defended him on social media, turning on the NSS and its influential director, Artur Vanetsian, in particular.
Sanasarian urged them to exercise restraint. “The former regime’s propagandists, supposedly defending me, are trying to satisfy their penchant for weakening the [current] authorities,” he wrote. “At any rate, in this torrent of various kinds of reports, please stop for a while and remember that state interests are the main thing.”
Sanasarian, 34, is a former opposition and civic activist who had for years accused Armenia’s former leaders of corruption. He actively participated in last year’s “velvet revolution,” which succeeded in large measure because of widespread popular frustration with graft.
Speaking to reporters shortly before being formally charged, Sanasarian said he does not believe that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian ordered the NSS to prosecute him for political reasons.
Another Pashinian ally, deputy parliament speaker Lena Nazarian, ruled out on Friday any political motives behind the high-profile criminal case. “There is no way anyone can fabricate charges against any official,” she told reporters.
Nazarian also stressed that no member of Pashinian’s political team is immune to prosecution. “In the fight against corruption, embezzlement and other abuses, we will not be dividing people into our allies and outsiders,” she said.
Edmon Marukian, the leader of the opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK), likewise suggested that the “surprise” charges brought against Sanasarian are unlikely to be politically motivated. “It may be [the result of NSS] sloppiness or I don’t know what,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s political persecution. We’ll see.”