Citing information provided by Armenia’s Civil Aviation Committee, the Yerevan-based Union of Informed Citizens (UIC), said last month that Sarkisian used a government plane to travel to the German resort town of Baden-Baden on at least 16 occasions from 2008 through 2017.
In a written complaint submitted to state prosecutors, the non-governmental organization claimed that the flights were financed by taxpayers’ money illegally and without any justification. The Office of the Prosecutor-General ordered the Special Investigative Service (SIS) to look into the claims.
The SIS announced on Tuesday that it has opened a criminal case in connection with what it called a possible abuse of power. It said at least some of Sarkisian’s flights to Germany appear to have been carried out in breach of official rules and procedures for the use of the government jet.
A spokesperson for the law-enforcement body told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that investigators have not yet identified any suspects in the case.
A lawyer for Sarkisian, Amram Makinian, dismissed the inquiry as a publicity stunt organized by the current Armenian government. “This is the most baseless criminal case I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Makinian insisted Sarkisian did not violate any laws or regulations. He said the ex-president had simply taken advantage of “social security guarantees” given to high-ranking government officials by Armenian law.
Sarkisian, who co-heads one of the opposition groups represented in Armenia’s current parliament, admitted earlier this year spending vacations in Baden-Baden. But he flatly denied allegations that he visited the world-famous German resort for gambling purposes.
Sarkisian’s political allies have repeatedly accused law-enforcement authorities of targeting him and his relatives on government orders.