In a statement the office of Armenia’s prosecutor-general claimed on Monday that Vachagan Ghazarian, his wife Ruzanna Beglarian and another person who runs a restaurant complex owned by the couple committed a crime by extorting a large sum of money through threats of using violence.
All three have been prohibited from leaving the country pending investigation. They will face between six and 10 years in prison if convicted.
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.
Law-enforcement officers found $1.1 million and 230,000 euros in cash when they raided Ghazarian’s Yerevan apartment. The National Security Service said he carried a further $120,000 and 436 million drams ($1.1 million) in a bag when he was caught outside a commercial bank in Yerevan a few days later.
Ghazarian was subsequently also accused of tax evasion.
Later in 2018 a Yerevan court freed Ghazarian on bail after he and his wife agreed to pay taxes allegedly evaded by them and then in October 2019 prosecutors dropped the charges after the couple had completed the $6 million payment.
In August 2020 investigators also charged Ghazarian with abuse of powers, claiming that he forced an employee of the State Protection Service (SPS) to work as a driver for his wife between 2015 and 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 Special Investigation Service said then that Ghazarian was charged with abuse of power despite compensating the state for the damage.
Still two years ago Armenian media alleged that Ghazarian was also suspected of forcing six other SPS officers to work as security guards at a Yerevan music club owned by him and his wife. Investigators then said that a probe in that regard was ongoing.