Four days after Armenia’s Court of Appeals revoked an arrest warrant issued for Mikael Minasian, investigators said on Monday that they have broadened corruption charges brought against former President Serzh Sarkisian’s fugitive son-in-law.
The State Revenue Committee (SRC) said Minasian has been charged with more counts of “illegal enrichment,” false asset disclosure and money laundering. It claimed to have collected an “unprecedented” amount of information about his dubious financial activities.
Minasian, who rejects the accusations as politically motivated, was first indicted in March one month before the SRC moved to arrest him. A district court in Yerevan agreed to issue an arrest warrant for him on May 6. However, the Court of Appeals overturned that decision on Thursday.
One of Minasian’s lawyers, Amram Makinian, scoffed at the investigators’ decision to bring more and “equally baseless” charges against Armenia’s former ambassador to the Vatican. He said that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian could not come to terms with the Court of Appeals ruling.
Makinian said earlier that the money laundering charge stems from large sums of cash which Minasian transferred from one of his bank accounts to another in 2017-2018. The lawyer 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 his client’s income declarations.
In a statement released on Monday, the SRC charged that Minasian had also failed to declare his “de facto” ownership of a 49 percent stake in Armenia’s largest food-exporting company, Spayka. The stake formally belonged to another person, Roza Stepanian. She too has been indicted as part of the same criminal case, according to the statement.
In a related development, Hrachya Hakobian, a pro-government lawmaker and Pashinian’s brother-in-law, said that investigators have recovered thousands of deleted files from a computer that belonged to Minasian. He claimed that the files contain detailed information about Minasian’s financial transactions and illegally acquired assets.
Hakobian refused to say how he gained access to the supposedly classified SRC data when he was contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Minasian, 42, enjoyed considerable political and economic influence in Armenia 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.
A bitter critic of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Minasian left Armenia shortly after he was dismissed as 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 the investigators are acting on Pashinian’s orders. He has also accused the prime minister of corruption and misrule.
For his part, Pashinian has repeatedly accused Minasian of illegally making a huge fortune during Sarkisian’s rule.