Prosecutors asked a Yerevan court on Wednesday to issue an arrest warrant for Sargsian after accusing him of illegal interference in the distribution of government-funded housing to military officers and their families.
The Office of the Prosecutor-General said that in early 2018 Sargsian ordered a Defense Ministry commission to allocate 29 apartments to military personnel and ministry officials who were not on an official waiting list for those homes. It said that the order breached rules set by Armenia’s former government.
Sargsian strongly denied that, saying that the apartments were given in accordance with those rules and based on their recipients’ “combat background and merits.”
“Instead of spreading long-winded nonsense, they should publish a list of those who received the apartments, specifying everyone’s combat path and merits, and a list of those whose rights were violated, according to the overseeing prosecutor,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “I'm sure that will be enough to consider the issue closed.”
Sargsian, who has lived in the United States since 2019, also complained that investigators have never tried to contact and question him despite knowing his phone number and e-mail address.
However, Arman Nshanian, the prosecutor overseeing the criminal case, claimed on Friday that they do not have his contact information. He also insisted that dozens of officers and their families lacking decent housing missed out on the free apartments because of a violation of the government rules.
Another law-enforcement agency, the Investigative Committee, already alleged such a violation in October 2019. But Sargsian was not formally charged at the time.
The former minister claimed that the Armenian authorities ordered his “political persecution” to underline the “undesirability of my return to Armenia” ahead of “very dangerous developments.” He branded the authorities as “criminals who have botched the country’s defense.”
The prosecutors indicted Sargsian on Wednesday just as the Armenian parliament allowed them to bring separate corruption charges against Seyran Ohanian, another former defense minister who now leads the parliamentary group of the main opposition Hayastan alliance.
Prosecutor-General Anna Vardapetian formally asked the National Assembly to lift Ohanian’s immunity from prosecution on January 20 one day after 15 Armenian soldiers died at their makeshift barracks destroyed by a major fire. Hayastan says that the case is aimed at defusing public anger over the deaths.
Both Ohanian and Sargsian had served in the administration of former President Serzh Sarkisian. The latter was forced to resign in April 2018 amid nationwide protests led by Nikol Pashinian.