A court in Yerevan approved on Wednesday an arrest warrant against Mikael Minasian, former President Serzh Sarkisian’s fugitive son-in-law prosecuted on corruption charges which he rejects as politically motivated.
Armenia’s State Revenue Committee (SRC) brought the accusations of illegal enrichment, false asset disclosure and money laundering in March and revealed them one month later. It also moved to arrest Minasian late last month.
One of Minasian’s lawyers, Mihran Poghosian, denounced the court for allowing investigators to hold him in detention for at least two months. Poghosian noted that the judge in the case is the one who issued last year an arrest warrant for his client’s father, Ara Minasian. The latter is facing corruption charges in a separate inquiry conducted by another law-enforcement body.
A bitter critic of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Mikael Minasian apparently left Armenia shortly after he was dismissed as the country’s ambassador to the Vatican in late 2018. He declined to reveal his current whereabouts in two video messages posted on Facebook in recent days.
In one of the messages circulated late on Tuesday, Minasian said that he is not returning to Armenia because he believes that investigators and judges dealing with his case are acting on illegal orders issued by Pashinian. The prime minister has repeatedly accused him of illegally making a huge fortune during Sarkisian’s rule.
Minasian also claimed late last week that Pashinian had offered to guarantee his and his father’s immunity from prosecution if he pledges to pay cash and stop challenging the Armenian government. He 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 he rejected the offer.
Pashinian has still not commented on Minasian’s allegations. Law-enforcement authorities have pledged to look into them.
“I would suggest that Mikael Minasian frequently release such videos,” said Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian. “I’m sure that we too get some information from those videos.”
Another senior official, deputy parliament speaker Alen Simonian, said Minasian thus effectively admitted having “liabilities towards the Republic of Armenia.”
Minasian, 42, enjoyed considerable political and economic influence in the country when it was ruled by his father-in-law from 2008-2018. He is also thought to have developed extensive business interests in various sectors of the Armenian economy.
Amram Makinian, another defense lawyer, said on April 22 that the money laundering charge brought against Minasian stems from large sums of cash which he transferred from one of his bank accounts to another in 2017-2018. “The investigating body has noted that documents at his disposal prove the legal origin of the money and that money resulted from the sale of his stake in a property,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Makinian also insisted that the other accusations are based on a “technical error” committed by the employee of a private firm which drew up and filed Minasian’s income declarations. He said that SRC investigators are refusing to summon that person for questioning.