Davit Sanasarian, the head of an Armenian anti-graft agency facing corruption charges, continued to protest his innocence on Tuesday, accusing “counterrevolutionary” forces of seeking to discredit him.
Sanasarian angrily denied media claims that the National Security Service (NSS) has a secretly filmed video of him accepting large amounts of cash from other officials.
“To any media outlet, any source that will present a video of me taking a bribe I promise … to cut my hand in front of them if there is such video of bribe taking,” he told a news conference. He described the reports about the emergence of such footage as “disinformation that has a counterrevolutionary basis.”
Earlier this month Sanasarian was suspended as head of the State Oversight Service (SOS) after being indicted by the NSS as part of a criminal investigation into alleged corruption practices within the government agency. The NSS arrested two other senior SOS officials in late February, saying that they attempted to cash in on government-funded supplies of medical equipment to hospitals.
Sanasarian is accused of helping them enrich themselves and a private company linked to them. The NSS director, Artur Vanetsian, insisted last Friday that the accusations have been “completely substantiated by testimony given by various persons and face-to-face interrogations.”
“I also call on [Vanetsian] not to talk about this subject,” scoffed Sanasarian. Both he and his lawyers again rejected the charges “fabricated.”
According to the NSS, the SOS officials arbitrarily forced medical institutions to rig rules for the choice of companies supplying expensive equipment for hemodialysis, a treatment of kidney failure. The security service says they wanted to make sure that a company controlled by them wins tenders for such supplies.
The dialysis equipment tenders were until recently won by a handful of private firms. Earlier in February, one of their owners accused Sanasarian of driving his Frezen company out of business. Sanasarian countered that the SOS has simply broken up Frezen’s “monopoly” on supplies to two hospitals which he said were carried out at grossly inflated prices.
The SOS submitted what it called evidence of those financial irregularities to prosecutors in March. The Office of the Prosecutor-General announced earlier this week that it has launched a criminal investigation into the SOS report. It has not charged anyone yet.
Sanasarian portrayed that announcement as a further indication that his agency had on the contrary fought against corrupt practices.
Sanasarian, 34, is a former opposition and civic activist who had for years accused Armenia’s former leadership of corruption. He actively participated in last year’s “velvet revolution” which brought Nikol Pashinian to power.
Sanasarian’s supporters, among them leaders of some Western-funded non-governmental organizations, have strongly defended him, denouncing the NSS and Vanetsian in particular. Prime Minister Pashinian hit back at the critics on April 20. He said that they place their personal relationships with Sanasarian above the rule of law.