A court in Yerevan on Thursday extended until December 24 the pre-trial arrest of former Finance Minister Gagik Khachatrian who is accused abuse of power and misuse of public funds.
Khachatrian, who was a member of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s cabinet from 2014-2016, was arrested in late August after a law-enforcement agency claimed to have recovered 800 million drams ($1.7 million) in “damage inflicted on the state” by him.
Khachatrian’s nephew Karen was also arrested and charged at the time. The latter 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.
Karen Khachatrian’s pre-trial arrest was extended on Wednesday. Both he and his uncle deny a large-scale “waste” of government funds alleged by the National Security Service (NSS). Details of that accusation have still not been made public.
The NSS claims that as head of the SRC Gagik Khachatrian also hired and registered employees who never reported for work.
The court allowed the NSS to keep Khachatrian under arrest for two more months. Accordingly, it rejected defense lawyers’ latest request to free him on bail. One of the lawyers, Yerem Sargsian, said they will appeal against the decision.
Sargsian said that his client has serious health problems and needs to undergo surgery abroad.
Throughout his tenure Khachatrian was dogged by corruption allegations, with some Armenian media outlets and opposition figures accusing him of using his position to become one of the country’s richest men. They cited his family’s extensive business interests, which include one of Armenia’s three mobile phone networks, a shopping mall, a car dealership and a luxury watch store in Yerevan.
Khachatrian repeatedly denied ownership of these and other businesses, saying that they belong to his two sons and other relatives.