Mikael Minasian, former President Serzh Sarkisian’s fugitive son-in-law, has claimed that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian offered last year to guarantee his immunity from prosecution if he pays cash and stops challenging the Armenian government.
In a weekend video message posted on Facebook, Minasian said that the offer was personally communicated to him in February 2019 by Artur Vanetsian, the then director of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS), at a meeting held in Rome.
“He said that ‘we have an offer to your and that offer is as follows: you pay a symbolic amount [of money] and then you never come to Armenia, at least in the coming years; all those people who are linked to you in one way or another and listen to you stop fighting against Nikol Pashinian; you become an apolitical person … but as soon as we reach agreement all criminal proceedings will be immediately discontinued,” he alleged, referring to pending corruption cases against his fugitive father, prominent surgeon Ara Minasian, and friends.
Minasian said that he rejected the offer because he believes Pashinian is leading Armenia to a “great disaster.” “I can never make deals with people whom I considered and consider … irresponsible liars, traitors of the people and enemies of the state,” he charged.
Pashinian did not react to the allegations. His spokeswoman, Mane Gevorgian, told Factor.am that the prime minister’s office will comment “when necessary.”
The parliamentary leader of Pashinian’s My Step bloc, Lilit Makunts, also declined a comment, saying that it is up to law-enforcement authorities to “deal with” Minasian’s claims.
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Monday that it has assigned another law-enforcement agency to look into the claims and decide whether they warrant a criminal inquiry.
For his part, Vanetsian only said through a spokeswoman that he stands by comments on Minasian which he made shortly after resigning as NSS director in September 2019. He said at the time that Sarkisian’s son-in-law is someone who “must still answer many questions.”
Vanetsian, who is now a harsh critic of Pashinian, subsequently claimed that he met with Minasian once while in office and that the prime minister knew about their conversation beforehand. But he never gave any details.
Minasian enjoyed considerable political and economic influence throughout Sarkisian’s decade-long rule. The 42-year-old served as Armenia’s ambassador to the Vatican from 2013 to 2018. He was sacked in November 2018 six months after his father-in-law was toppled in the “Velvet Revolution” led by Pashinian.
Late last month, Armenian tax authorities charged Minasian with illegal enrichment, false asset disclosure and money laundering. The latter’s lawyers rejected the charges as baseless and politically motivated.
Minasian apparently left Armenia shortly after his sacking. He did not disclose his current place of residence in his video statement.
Over the past year Minasian has increasingly attacked Pashinian with articles posted on his Facebook page and disseminated by Armenian media outlets believed to be controlled by him.
For his part, Pashinian has repeatedly accused Minasian of illegally making a huge fortune during Sarkisian’s rule.
Also, the prime minister’s spokeswoman claimed last week that “according to the government’s information” Vanetsian abused his NSS position to buy Minasian’s minority stake in Armenia’s largest mining company. Vanetsian strongly denied that.