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Serzh Sarkisian’s Former Bodyguard Again Prosecuted


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

Law-enforcement authorities have brought corruption charges against the former chief bodyguard of ex-President Serzh Sarkisian almost one year after he transferred 2.9 billion drams ($6 million) to the state.

In a statement, the Special Investigation Service (SIS) claimed on Friday that Vachagan Ghazarian abused his powers when he served as first deputy head of a security agency providing bodyguards to Armenia’s leaders.

The statement said Ghazarian forced an employee of the State Protection Service (SPS) to work as a driver for his wife from 2015-2018. It said the SPS kept paying the driver’s wages, which totaled 9.3 million drams ($19,000) during that period, even though he never reported for work.

The law-enforcement agency added that Ghazarian was charged with abuse of power despite compensating the state for the damage. He will face between two and six years in prison if convicted.

An Armenian media outlet reported late last month that Ghazarian is also suspected of forcing six other SPS officers to work as security guards at a Yerevan music club owned by him and his wife. The SIS statement said nothing about that. It noted only that the “investigation is continuing.”

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

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

Law-enforcement officers found $1.1 million and 230,000 euros in cash when they raided Ghazarian’s Yerevan apartment in June 2018. The National Security Service (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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