A fugitive nephew of former President Serzh Sarkisian accused of illegal arms possession and drug trafficking was arrested in Armenia immediately after being extradited from Czech Republic on Saturday.
A short video released by the Armenian police showed masked officers escorting Narek Sarkisian out of Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport. He was taken to a prison in the city center, according to the police.
It is not clear whether Sarkisian will plead guilty to the grave accusations leveled against him.
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.
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. He reportedly produced during the arrest a fake Guatemalan passport identifying him as Franklin Gonzalez.
According to Armenian prosecutors, the Czech Justice Ministry made a final decision to hand over Narek Sarkisian to Armenian law-enforcement authorities in early December several months after a court in Prague allowed his extradition.
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 as. The 65-year-old ex-president was charged with embezzlement on December 4. He rejected the accusation as baseless and politically motivated.