Armenia’s Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a lower court’s decision to extend the pre-trial detention of former Finance Minister Gagik Khachatrian who is accused abuse of power and misuse of public funds.
Khachatrian, who was a member of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s cabinet from 2014-2016, was arrested in late August after a law-enforcement agency claimed to have recovered 800 million drams ($1.7 million) in “damage inflicted on the state” by him.
Khachatrian’s nephew Karen was also arrested and charged at the time. The latter used to run an internal security division of the State Revenue Committee (SRC). The government agency comprising Armenia’s tax and customs services was headed by Gagik Khachatrian from 2008-2014.
Both men deny a large-scale “waste” of government funds alleged by the National Security Service (NSS). The NSS claims, in particular, that as head of the SRC Gagik Khachatrian also hired and registered employees who never reported for work.
While continuing to deny any wrongdoing, the once powerful ex-minister indicated through his lawyer, Yerem Sargsian, earlier this week that he is ready to compensate the state for the entire damage allegedly caused by his actions.
Sargsian voiced the offer as he appealed against the latest decision by a district court in Yerevan allowing investigators to hold Khachatrian in detention. He also petitioned the Court of Appeals to free his client on bail. The court rejected both appeals.
Sargsian insisted on Thursday that Khachatrian is in poor health and is not receiving adequate medical aid in prison. He accused law-enforcement bodies of ignoring medical documents certifying Khachatrian’s serious health problems. The ex-minister has not attended the latest court hearings on the criminal case.
Throughout his tenure Khachatrian was dogged by corruption allegations, with some Armenian media outlets and opposition figures accusing him of using his position to become one of the country’s richest men. They cited his family’s extensive business interests, which include one of Armenia’s three mobile phone networks, a shopping mall, a car dealership and a luxury watch store in Yerevan.
Khachatrian repeatedly denied ownership of these and other businesses, saying that they belong to his two sons and other relatives.