Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) formally charged former Finance Minister Gagik Khachatrian with abuse of power and misuse of public funds on Thursday two days after arresting him.
He was already indicted shortly before his arrest as part of a separate corruption investigation conducted by another law-enforcement body, the Special Investigative Service (SIS).
The SIS revealed the indictment on Tuesday as NSS officers searched Khachatrian’s and his relatives’ homes and offices. The once influential ex-minister and his nephew Karen were taken into custody a few hours later.
Karen Khachatrian used to run an internal security division of the State Revenue Committee (SRC). The government agency comprising Armenia’s tax and customs services was headed by Gagik Khachatrian from 2008-2014, during former President Serzh Sarkisian’s rule.
According to one of Khachatrian’s lawyers, Yerem Sargsian, the NSS has asked a court in Yerevan to remand both men in custody pending investigation.
It was not yet clear whether they will plead guilty to the charges brought by the NSS. The lawyer on Wednesday appealed against his client’s detention.
The NSS has so far released very few details of the high-profile criminal case. The head of the powerful security service, Artur Vanetsian, said on Tuesday that the former tax chief is suspected of misusing “millions of dollars” worth of taxpayers’ money while in office. He did not elaborate.
The current SRC chief, Davit Ananian, told reporters on Thursday that his agency has provided “some documents” to NSS investigators. But he refused to shed light on them.
Khachatrian, 53, had held various positions in the Armenian tax and customs services before being appointed as SRC chief in 2008. He served as finance minister from 2014-2016.
Armenian media outlets have long regarded Khachatrian as one of the country’s richest men. He has always denied illegally enriching himself and his family.