Visiting Italy on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian pledged to bring to justice Armenia’s “best-known corrupt individuals” who he said have fled to the western European country.
Pashinian met with members of the Armenian community in Milan at the start of his official trip to Italy. One of them, a woman seemingly sympathetic to Armenia’s former leadership, called on him to resign, saying that his administration is ruining state institutions, spreading hate speech against critics and lacking a strategy of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“If there were authorities in Armenia towards which the people felt only hatred, am I to blame for that?” Pashinian shot back. “Whom have we urged the people to hate? On the contrary, our revolution [in 2018] was a revolution of love and solidarity.”
“All best-known corrupt individuals [of Armenia] are now hiding in Italy, and let nobody hope that they will sneak out,” Pashinian went on. “The hand of Armenian justice will reach them.
“I don’t know if they are hiding in Vatican basements. We will grab them by the neck, drag them out and take them to courts. They must return every stolen penny to the people.”
“I will not need to think about my resignation as long as I enjoy the trust of the people of Armenia,” added Pashinian, who is due to meet with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Rome on Thursday.
Pashinian did not name any of the allegedly corrupt former Armenian officials. He may well have referred to Mikael Minasian, former President Serzh Sarkisian’s son-in-law and reputed confidant who served as Armenia’s ambassador to the Vatican from 2013 to 2018.
Minasian was sacked in November 2018 six months after the Pashinian-led “Velvet Revolution” that toppled Sarkisian. The 41-year-old enjoyed considerable political and economic influence in Armenia throughout Sarkisian’s decade-long rule. He apparently left the country after his sacking.
Minasian increasingly attacks Armenia’s current leadership and Pashinian in particular with articles posted on his Facebook page and disseminated by Armenian media outlets believed to be controlled by him.
Pashinian indicated in September that Minasian might be indicted in connection with the sale of “one of Armenia’s strategic facilities” located in the northern Lori province. Pashinian said he should “return to Armenia and answer questions” from investigators. Sources told RFE/RL’s Armenian service afterwards that the facility in question is a medium-sized hydroelectric plant.
Prosecutors said in May that the plant was privatized in 2010 at a fraction of its market value. They have brought no criminal charges against Minasian so far.
Minasian’s father Ara is a renowned doctor who ran a state hospital in Yerevan until the Armenian Health Ministry accused him of embezzlement in July 2018. Ara Minasian strongly denied the allegations. He apparently fled Armenia before being formally charged in November 2018.