Armenia will continue to press Russia to extradite a former senior Armenian official facing corruption charges, Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian said on Friday.
Mihran Poghosian, the former head of a state body enforcing judicial acts, was detained in the northern Russian region of Karelia in April shortly after being charged by Armenian law-enforcement bodies with embezzling at least 64.2 million drams ($132,000) in public funds.
Poghosian, who was an influential figure in Armenia’s former leadership, asked Russian authorities to grant him asylum, saying that the charges brought against him are politically motivated. He was set free before Russian prosecutors formally refused to extradite him.
They reportedly cited a provision of a convention signed by Russia, Armenia and a dozen other former Soviet republics in 1993. It says that a signatory to the convention can reject extradition demands that could damage it sovereignty and national security or contradict its national legislation.
Davtian said that the Armenian side was not satisfied with that explanation. “We are continuing discussions with our [Russian] colleagues,” he told reporters. “Given that this criminal case is in a quite active phase, I don’t exclude in this regard that we will have [evidence of] new and more serious crimes.”
“We hope that our colleagues will display a legal and fair approach, so to speak,” he said.
Investigators have already brought fresh corruption charges against Poghosian. The Special Investigative Service (SIS) alleged in September that the 43-year-old laundered in 2015 $1.2 million in cash acquired through illegal entrepreneurship and tax evasion. It said the money was channeled into an Armenian company belonging to him in the form of interest-free loans.
According to an SIS statement, one of those “loans” worth $690,000 was transferred from the bank account of a firm registered in Panama.
Citing leaked documents known as the Panama Papers, an Armenian investigative website reported in April 2016 that Poghosian controls three shadowy firms registered in the Central American state. Poghosian dismissed the report at the time. Nevertheless, he resigned as head of Armenia’s Service for the Mandatory Execution of Judicial Acts (SMEJA) shortly afterwards.
In 2017, Poghosian was elected to the Armenian parliament on the ticket of then President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party.
Also hiding in Russia are at least two other former Armenian officials indicted after last year’s “Velvet Revolution.” One of them, Vahagn Harutiunian, is a former senior SIS official who led a long-running criminal investigation into the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan.
Harutiunian was charged with destroying evidence of former Armenian authorities’ responsibility for deadly clashes between security forces and opposition protesters. He strongly denied the accusations.
It emerged on Thursday that the former SIS investigator has informed Prosecutor-General Davtian that he will return to Armenia if the authorities annul an arrest warrant issued for him. The chief prosecutor said on Friday that his office is considering Harutiunian’s request.