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Former Government Official Denies Taking Bribe


Armenia -- Former Deputy Minister of Health Arsen Davtian, Febuary 3, 2020.

A former Armenian deputy minister of health standing trial on corruption charges insisted on Monday he did not take a bribe moments before being caught by law-enforcement officers one year ago.

Arsen Davtian was arrested last March and subsequently sacked for allegedly accepting $3,000 in cash from Razmik Abrahamian, the director of Armenia’s largest maternity clinic. The National Security Service (NSS) claimed that Abrahamian paid the bribe in order to secure more government funding for his hospital.

Both men pleaded not guilty to corresponding accusations leveled against them when they went on trial recently.

Davtian, who was released from custody later in 2019, refused to comment further after the latest court hearing. “I want to say once again that I’m not commenting on anything,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

During the hearing prosecutors demonstrated an NSS video that was secretly filmed in Davtian’s office. It shows Abrahamian putting an envelope on the vice-minister’s desk. Davtian claimed that he did not know that there was money in the envelope.

Davtian had been appointed as vice-minister in May 2018 following the “Velvet Revolution” that toppled the country’s former leadership widely accused of corruption. Health Minister Arsen Torosian has repeatedly pledged to eliminate corrupt practices in state-run and private medical institutions.

Abrahamian is also the main suspect in another investigation launched by the NSS last year. He and four other individuals were charged with having forced over a dozen pregnant women to abandon their babies adopted by foreign nationals in 2016-2018 in return for bribes. They all deny the accusations.

Abrahamian was arrested in December. A district court in Yerevan ordered him freed a few days later, however. Prosecutors appealed against his release. Armenia’s Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision at the weekend.

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