A wealthy businessman prosecuted along with Serzh Sarkisian on Friday strongly denied corruption charges brought against the former Armenian president.
“I am convinced that it’s a false accusation,” said Barsegh Beglarian, the owner of the Flash company, one of Armenia’s leading fuel importers.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) alleged on Wednesday that Sarkisian “organized the embezzlement by a group of officials” of 489 million drams (just over $1 million) in government funds allocated in 2013 for the provision of subsidized diesel fuel to farmers.
The SIS said Sarkisian interfered in a government tender for the fuel supplier to ensure that it is won by Flash, rather than another private company which offered to supply the same quantity of diesel fuel at a lower price. The ex-president rejected the accusation as politically motivated.
“Such a thing is impossible. What is Serzh Sarkisian to do with Flash?” Beglarian told reported.
The tycoon downplayed his long friendship with the man who ruled Armenia from 2008-2018. He declined to comment on the 2013 tender won by his company.
The SIS announced on Thursday that it has indicted Beglarian as well. The latter claimed to have not been notified about that.
Beglarian also revealed that he and Sergo Karapetian, Armenia’s agriculture minister from 2010-2016, have been brought face to face and interrogated by SIS investigators.
The high-profile case is reportedly based on Karapetian’s incriminating testimony against Sarkisian, who continues to lead the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Armen Ashotian, the HHK’s deputy chairman, mentioned the “false testimony” on Friday as he again described the accusation brought against Sarkisian as baseless and politically motivated.
Ashotian also insisted that the Armenian constitution gives the ex-president immunity from prosecution. “Claiming immunity does not mean saying that Serzh Sarkisian did something wrong,” he told a news conference. “But he is immune.”
Ashotian further claimed that Sarkisian’s prosecution will accelerate the “consolidation” of political forces opposed to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the HHK leadership accused the current authorities of seeking to “silence” their political opponents. It linked the case against Sarkisian to a recent speech in which he strongly criticized Pashinian. Pashinian’s political team dismissed the HHK claims.