Artur Vanetsian, the former head of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS), on Monday declined to confirm or deny claims that he had offered former President Serzh Sarkisian’s fugitive son-in-law a far-reaching deal on behalf of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Mikael Minasian, who had enjoyed considerable clout during Sarkisian’s decade-long rule, claimed on May 2 that Pashinian 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 Vanetsian personally communicated Pashinian’s proposal to him during a February 2019 meeting held in Rome.
Pashinian has refused to comment on Minasian’s allegations, saying that they are investigated by the Special Investigative Service (SIS). The law-enforcement agency summoned Vanetsian for questioning on May 7. The latter reportedly refused to give any testimony.
The SIS tried to question Vanetsian again on Monday. The former NSS chief, who is now a bitter critic of Pashinian, gave no details of the interrogation when he spoke to journalists after emerging from the SIS headquarters.
Asked whether what Minasian said is true, he said: “I neither refute it nor refuse to refute it. I don’t comment.” He argued that he is not allowed to breach “the secrecy of the investigation.”
Vanetsian claimed late last year that he met with Minasian on the prime minister’s orders when he ran Armenia’s most powerful security service. He stood by that statement on Monday but again did not elaborate.
“I can only say one thing: I acted solely within the bounds of my legal powers,” Vanetsian told RFE/RL’s Armenian as he made his way into the SIS building.
Minasian, who now lives abroad, made the allegations one week after it emerged that he was charged with illegal enrichment, false asset disclosure and money laundering earlier this year. He rejected the accusations as politically motivated.
Pashinian has repeatedly accused Minasian of illegally making a huge fortune during Sarkisian’s rule.
A newspaper controlled by the prime minister alleged in January that Minasian and Vanetsian have joined forces in a bid to topple him. Also, a spokeswoman for Pashinian claimed late last month 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.
Vanetsian resigned as NSS director last September after falling out with Pashinian for still unclear reasons. He officially announced his entry into politics in February, saying that he is setting up an opposition party for that purpose.
In recent months, the former security chief has repeatedly accused Pashinian of incompetence and misrule and called for his resignation.