The National Security Service (NSS) said on Friday that it has indicted six more people in an ongoing criminal investigation into a senior Armenian government official arrested on corruption charges last week.
The NSS did not identify any of those suspects or specify the accusations leveled against them. It said only that three of them have been remanded in pre-trial custody.
Vahagn Vermishian, the head of the Armenian government’s Urban Development Committee, and two other individuals were arrested on February 5. One of them, a former senior law-enforcement, was released on bail at the weekend.
In a February 5 statement, the NSS said Vermishian has admitted receiving five bribes, worth between 1 million drams ($2,100) and 2.5 million drams each, from private construction firms that were given privileged treatment by various government bodies in return. It said that the kickbacks were channeled into an architectural firm which the official had set up and registered in a friend’s name.
Vermishian’s lawyer, Mushegh Arakelian, said on Monday, however, that his client denies taking the alleged bribes. The denial did not prevent a court in Yerevan from allowing investigators to hold him in detention.
Vermishian has headed the government agency since March 2019 and has not been formally relieved of his duties yet. He is the third senior member of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government prosecuted on corruption charges. The two other suspects worked as deputy ministers of education and health.
Vermishian, 55, served as the chief architect of Russia’s Oryol region from 2014-2017. He reportedly resigned amid protests sparked by his plans to renovate the regional capital’s historic center.