Armenian prosecutors have paved the way for a trial of former President Serzh Sarkisian, formally endorsing corruption charges brought against him.
A spokeswoman for the Office of the Prosecutor-General, Arevik Khachatrian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the indictment was sent to a court in Yerevan on Wednesday.
Armenia’s Judicial Department said, though, that it has not yet received materials of the criminal case.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) charged Sarkisian in early December with organizing 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 claimed that Sarkisian interfered in a government tender for the fuel supplier to ensure that it is won by a company belonging to his longtime friend, businessman Barsegh Beglarian, rather than another fuel importer that offered a lower price. It also indicted Barseghian and three former government officials. All five suspects deny the accusations.
In a statement released last week, Sarkisian’s lawyers insisted that the accusations are baseless and are part of his “political persecution” by the current Armenian authorities.
Artashes Mayilian, a senior SIS official who led the probe, dismissed those claims when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service on January 24.
The high-profile case is reportedly based on former Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian’s incriminating testimony against the ex-president. Karapetian and his former deputy Samvel Galstian are among the five suspects.
Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) has also described the charges as politically motivated. It says that the ex-president is prosecuted in retaliation for his public criticism of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Sarkisian, who ruled Armenia from 2008-2018, accused Pashinian’s government of jeopardizing democracy and stifling dissent in a November speech at a congress of the European People’s Party held in Croatia. He had kept a low profile since resigning in April 2018 amid Pashinian-led mass protests against his continued rule.
Pashinian has repeatedly implicated Sarkisian, his family and political entourage in corruption both before and after coming to power in the “Velvet Revolution.”