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Former Culture Minister Wanted On Corruption Charges


Armenia -- Culture Minister Hasmik Poghosian at a press conference in Yerevan, July 29, 2015.

An Armenian law-enforcement agency has brought corruption charges against former Culture Minister Hasmik Poghosian and a prominent diplomat.

The Investigative Committee said on Thursday that Poghosian had abused her position to misappropriate a state-owned historic building in downtown Yerevan and land occupied by it.

The property, worth an estimated 201 million drams ($383,000) in the early 2000s, housed a non-governmental cultural organization of which Poghosian was the deputy chairperson.

The Investigative Committee claimed that shortly after being appointed as culture minister in 2006 she illegally privatized the property before selling it to an offshore-registered company owned by one of her relatives. The company paid only $550 for it, the committee added in a statement.

The statement also said that the complex fraud scheme was facilitated by Armen Smbatian, who headed the NGO in question and was Armenia’s ambassador to Russia at the time.

Poghosian, who served as culture minister from 2006-2016, has been charged with abuse of power and money laundering. According to the statement, law-enforcement bodies will try to track down and arrest her, suggesting that she may not be in Armenia at present.

Smbatian stands accused of assisting in the alleged abuse of power. The Investigative Committee said he posted bail and was not arrested. It was not clear if he will plead guilty to the accusation.

Smbatian most recently served as Armenia’s ambassador to Israel. The Armenian government recalled him shortly after the outbreak of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh on September 27 in protest against continuing Israeli arms supplies to Azerbaijan.

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