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Serzh Sarkisian’s Former Bodyguard Again Under Investigation


Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (R) and his chief bodyguard Vachagan Ghazarian (L), Yerevan, April 14, 2012.

Law-enforcement authorities confirmed on Monday that they have launched a fresh criminal investigation into the former chief bodyguard of ex-President Serzh Sarkisian almost one year after he transferred 2.9 billion drams ($6 million) to the state.

A spokeswoman for the Special Investigative Service (SIS) told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Vachagan Ghazarian is suspected of having misused large amounts of public funds in his past capacity as deputy chief of a security agency providing bodyguards to Armenia’s leaders. She did not give any other details, saying only that Ghazarian has not been formally charged with any crime so far.

In a report not refuted by the authorities, 1in.am said Ghazarian could be prosecuted for illegally ordering an employee of the State Protection Service (SPS) to work as a driver for his wife and forcing six other SPS officers to work as security guards at a Yerevan music club owned by him and his wife.

The officers allegedly guarded the club at taxpayers’ expense from 2013-2017. They have already been interrogated by investigators, according to the media outlet.

Armenia - Vachagan Ghazarian empties his bag filled with cash after being arrested by the National Security Service in Yerevan, 25 June 2018.
Armenia - Vachagan Ghazarian empties his bag filled with cash after being arrested by the National Security Service in Yerevan, 25 June 2018.

Ghazarian headed Sarkisian’s security detail for over two decades. He was arrested in June 2018 on charges of “illegal enrichment” and false asset disclosure shortly after the “Velvet Revolution” that toppled Armenia’s former leader. He was subsequently also charged with tax evasion.

A Yerevan court freed Ghazarian on bail a few months later, after he and his wife, Ruzanna Beglarian, agreed to “compensate” the state for taxes evaded by them. The SIS announced in October 2019 that the couple has completed the $6 million payment. In return, the law-enforcement agency dropped the criminal charges.

Officers of Armenia’s police and National Security Service (NSS) found $1.1 million and 230,000 euros in cash when they raided Ghazarian’s Yerevan apartment in June 2018. The NSS said he carried a further $120,000 and 436 million drams ($900,000) in a bag when he was caught outside a commercial bank in Yerevan a few days later.

In early 2019, the NSS secured an even heftier payout, worth $30 million, from Serzh Sarkisian’s indicted brother Aleksandr. The money was held in Aleksandr Sarkisian’s Armenian bank account frozen by the security service following the 2018 revolution.

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