Sergo Karapetian died early in the morning as a result of what the director of a Yerevan hospital described as “complications” caused by the coronavirus. The 72-year-old had served as Armenia’s agriculture minister from 2010-2016 during Sarkisian’s rule.
Karapetian’s former deputy and another trial defendant, Samvel Galstian, died from COVID-19 one month ago.
Sarkisian, Karapetian, Galstian and two other men went on trial on corruption charges one year ago.
Sarkisian stands accused of giving privileged treatment in 2013 to his longtime friend and businessman Barsegh Barseghian which allegedly cost the state over $1 million in losses. According to prosecutors, he made sure that a government tender for supplies of subsidized diesel fuel to farmers is won by Barseghian’s Flash company, rather than another fuel importer that offered a lower price.
The ex-president rejects the accusations as politically motivated. They are reportedly based on Karapetian’s incriminating pre-trial testimony against him.
The former minister was jeered by Sarkisian supporters who gathered outside the court building at the start of the trial in February 2020. He repeatedly refused to talk to reporters about the high-profile case.
The judge presiding over the trial has held few hearings on the case over the past year due to the frequent absence of defendants and their lawyers.
Sarkisian, who ruled the country from 2008-2018, remains the chairman of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). HHK representatives have said he was indicted in December 2019 in retaliation for his public criticism of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. Law-enforcement officials and Pashinian’s political allies have denied that.
Pashinian has repeatedly implicated Sarkisian, his family and political entourage in corruption both before and after coming to power in 2018.