Authorities in the Czech Republic have agreed to extradite to Armenia a fugitive nephew of former President Serzh Sarkisian accused of illegal arms possession and drug trafficking, Armenian prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Narek Sarkisian fled Armenia shortly before his family’s expensive mansion in Yerevan was searched by the National Security Service (NSS) in July 2018. The NSS claimed that he asked one of his friends to hide his illegally owned guns, cocaine and other drugs in a safer place. It released video showing two suitcases purportedly filled with those items.
Investigators found in the villa large amounts of cash, jewelry items as well as over a dozen drawings by the 20th century Armenian painter Martiros Saryan. They said Narek Sarkisian had fraudulently obtained the artworks from Saryan’s descendants.
The 38-year-old was detained by police in Prague in December 2018 and has since been facing extradition to Armenia. He reportedly produced during the arrest a fake Guatemalan passport identifying him as Franklin Gonzalez.
According to a spokesman for Armenia’s Prosecutor-General Artak Davtian, a Czech court allowed Narek Sarkisian’s extradition this summer while leaving it to the Czech Justice Ministry to make a final decision on his fate.
“We have now been officially notified that the [extradition] request has been finally granted,” the official, Gor Abrahamian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. He said the prosecutors have already instructed the Armenian police to organize the suspect’s transfer to Armenia.
The confiscated artworks also led to fraud charges leveled against Narek’s controversial father and the former Armenian president’s brother, Aleksandr Sarkisian. The latter avoided imprisonment after donating $30 million to the state early this year. The sum was held in his bank account frozen in a separate criminal investigation.
Serzh Sarkisian’s second brother, Levon, also fled the country shortly after a popular uprising that toppled the ex-president in April 2018. Levon Sarkisian was initially accused of “illegal enrichment.” Law-enforcement authorities brought new and more serious corruption accusations against him in September. He denied any wrongdoing through a lawyer.
The authorities went on to prosecute Serzh Sarkisian as well. The 65-year-old ex-president was charged with embezzlement last week. He rejected the accusation as baseless and politically motivated.