Citing the statute of limitations, investigators have dropped a corruption case against a former mayor of Yerevan accused of illegally privatizing municipal land at a knockdown price.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) said in September that it has evidence that in 2008 then Mayor Yervand Zakharian made a “baseless and illegal” decision to sell a 10,000-square-meter green area to an obscure private firm that subsequently built a luxury hotel there.
The area was then part of Yerevan’s largest and most popular public park. It was “not subject to privatization,” according to the SIS.
The SIS said that the company bought the plot from the municipal administration for only 165 million drams ($346,000), far less than its market value which the law-enforcement body estimated at almost 3 billion drams. It launched a criminal investigation into an apparent abuse of power committed by Zakharian and another former municipality official.
The SIS announced on Wednesday that it has decided to close the criminal case due to the statute of limitations. It said both suspects have accepted the decision and will not insist on being formally cleared of any wrongdoing.
The SIS said it also asked Armenian prosecutors to consider demanding that a Yerevan court annul the 2008 deal and confiscate the property built in the park.
Zakharian was Yerevan’s government-appointed mayor from 2003-2009. He went on to run the Armenian government’s Real Estate Cadaster Committee before being appointed as energy minister in 2014 by then President Serzh Sarkisian. He held that post until 2016.