Armenia’s Court of Appeals overturned on Thursday a lower court’s decision to allow investigators to arrest Mikael Minasian, former President Serzh Sarkisian’s fugitive son-in-law prosecuted on corruption charges denied by him.
Armenia’s State Revenue Committee (SRC) moved to arrest Minasian in late April one month after charging him with illegal enrichment, false asset disclosure and money laundering. A district court in Yerevan agreed to issue an arrest warrant for him on May 6.
A bitter critic of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Minasian left Armenia shortly after he was dismissed as the country’s ambassador to the Vatican in late 2018. He has declined to reveal his current whereabouts in a series of video messages posted on Facebook in recent weeks.
Minasian has said that he is not returning to Armenia because he believes that investigators and judges dealing with his case are acting on Pashinian’s orders. He has also accused Pashinian of corruption and misrule.
Pashinian has dismissed most of those accusations. The premier has repeatedly accused Minasian of illegally making a huge fortune during Sarkisian’s rule.
A close Pashinian associate, deputy parliament speaker Alen Simonian, condemned the Court of Appeals judge who revoked the arrest warrant.
“I believe this [decision] is vivid proof of the fact that the existing problem within Armenia’s judicial system needs to be resolved as soon as possible,” Simonian told reporters, according to the Armenpress news agency.
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.
One of Minasian’s lawyers, Amram Makinian, said on April 22 that the money laundering charge brought against his client stems from large sums of cash which he transferred from one of his bank accounts to another in 2017-2018. Makinian also claimed 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.