The Investigative Committee said on Wednesday that the properties located on the northern shore of Lake Sevan may have been built and officially registered in violation of Armenian laws strictly regulating construction in the environmentally sensitive area.
In a statement, the law-enforcement body said a government agency registered the entire compound in January 2018 despite suspicions that some of its 14 houses and other structures had been built illegally. It said the registration was controversially recommended by the leadership of the state-run Sevan National Park (SNP).
Vahe Gulanian, who ran the SNP at the time, categorically denied breaking any laws or government regulations when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service. He described the Investigative Committee statement as “flawed.”
The statement said that the Investigative Committee is conducting a criminal investigation into forgery and failure to prevent illegal construction and seizure of public land. It has not charged anyone so far.
A spokeswoman for the committee said investigators have not questioned Gasparian as part of the inquiry.
A lawyer for Gasparian, Tigran Atanesian, scoffed at the probe in a short Facebook post. “Don’t you know other heroes?” wrote Atanesian.
According to the Investigative Committee statement, the criminal case was opened as a result of an ongoing separate investigation into Gasparian’s threats voiced against RFE/RL reporters last month. The former police chief accosted and threatened them with violence as they filmed his compound while collecting material about illegally built villas along the Sevan coastline.
Obstruction of news reporting and other journalistic work is a criminal offense in Armenia.
Gasparian headed the national police service from 2011 to 2018. He was sacked immediately after the “Velvet Revolution” of April-May 2018 that toppled the country previous government.
In September 2018, Gasparian was charged with abusing his powers to benefit people working for former President Serzh Sarkisian’s brothers. He denies the accusations.