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Sarkisian’s Ex-Bodyguard Cleared Of Extortion


Armenia - Vachagan Ghazarian empties his bag filled with cash after being arrested by the National Security Service in Yerevan, 25 June 2018.

An Armenian law-enforcement has decided not to bring additional criminal charges against Vachagan Ghazarian, the former chief bodyguard of ex-President Serzh Sarkisian.

The Special Investigative Service (SIS) had launched an inquiry after the former chief accountant of a Yerevan night club owned by Ghazarian’s wife had accused him of extorting 40 million drams ($84,000) from her.

An SIS spokeswoman told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Thursday that the criminal case has been closed due to a lack of evidence.

Ghazarian was charged with illegal enrichment and false asset disclosure shortly after the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” that toppled Sarkisian. They stem from his failure to declare to a state anti-corruption body more than $2.5 million in cash that was mostly held in his and his wife’s bank accounts.

Ghazarian, who headed Sarkisian’s security detail for over two decades, was obliged to do that in his capacity as deputy chief of a security agency providing bodyguards to Armenia’s leaders. He was first detained in June 2018 after police raided his apartment in Yerevan and found $1.1 million and 230,000 euros ($267,000) in cash there. The National Security Service (NSS) confiscated more cash from him in the following days.

A Yerevan court released Ghazarian on bail in December 2018 after he offered to transfer as much as $6 million to the state.

The SIS announced in October 2019 that the once powerful officer and his wife have completed the payment. It described the cash transfer as a recovery of financial “damage” inflicted on the state.

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