The top manager of companies belonging to Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian was remanded in custody on Saturday after law-enforcement authorities brought fresh criminal charges against him.
A court in Yerevan allowed them to hold Sedrak Arustamian, the chief executive of Tsarukian’s Multi Group holding company, in detention for at least two months one day after his arrest.
Arustamian was charged with bribery and money laundering. Investigators gave no details of the accusations denied by him.
Arustamian’s lawyer, Hovik Sukiasian, said the accusations stem from about $20 million which his client had lent to two other persons a decade ago.
“They [investigators] are telling him, ‘Since you did not earn interest [on the loans] it means that you paid bribes,” Sukiasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. He insisted that Arustamian had lent the hefty sums for purely commercial purposes and simply agreed afterwards to delay their repayment.
The lawyer did not deny or confirm media reports that the charges are connected with a criminal case against Gagik Khachatrian, a former finance minister who was arrested on corruption charges last August.
Arustamian was already indicted earlier in two separate criminal inquiries conducted by the Investigative Committee.
The law-enforcement agency claimed last September that Tsarukian’s right-hand man helped a Chinese construction company building a 56-kilometer highway in northwestern Armenia evade 240 million drams ($503,000) in taxes. It said the company also paid an Armenian firm owned by Arustamian 117 million drams in fictitious consulting frees as part of the scam.
The Investigative Committee announced on April 8 that Arustamian is also prosecuted for his refusal to stop the “illegal” construction by Multi Group of a luxury hotel in downtown Yerevan launched in early 2018.
Arustamian rejects all accusations leveled against him.
Tsarukian is one of Armenia’s richest men. His BHK opposition party controls the second largest number of seats in the Armenian parliament.
BHK representatives have so far reacted cautiously to the criminal cases against Tsarukian’s close associate. The tycoon himself has not commented on them.