YEREVAN — Law-enforcement authorities have brought new and more serious corruption accusations against a brother of former President Serzh Sarkisian who apparently fled Armenia before being first indicted last year, it emerged on Tuesday.
The Investigative Committee said Levon Sarkisian illegally intervened in a $250 million project to rebuild major Armenian highways in order to enrich himself and two businessmen linked to him. It said he has been charged with bribery and money laundering.
The charges carrying between six and twelve years in prison were leveled as part of the Investigative Committee’s ongoing criminal inquiry into financial abuses allegedly committed during the implementation of the so-called North-South road project.
Last month, the law-enforcement agency filed fraud and embezzlement charges against a top executive of a Spanish company that had been contracted by the former Armenian government in 2012 to upgrade more than 90 kilometers of roads.
The first two reconstructed highways connecting Yerevan to the towns of Ararat and Ashtarak were inaugurated in late 2015. The company, Corsan Corviam Construccion, never rebuilt the remaining 40-kilometer-long road, however.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Investigative Committee claimed that Corsan’s Armenian subcontractors were chosen not by the Spanish firm but Levon Sarkisian. It said the latter awarded those contracts in return for kickbacks promised by the subcontractors.
The director of one of those firms paid Sarkisian as much as half of its anticipated profits, according to the statement. The committee did not name names or specify the total amount of cash allegedly paid to Sarkisian.
It said that it has issued international arrest warrants for Sarkisian and the two owners of another Armenian firm who it said colluded with the ex-president’s brother in the “criminal scheme.”
Levon Sarkisian was already charged with “illegal enrichment” after tax inspectors discovered in June 2018 that he and his two children hold almost $7 million in undeclared deposits in an Armenian bank.
Under Armenian law, such asset declarations are mandatory for high-ranking state officials and their family members. This legal requirement applied to Sarkisian because he worked as ambassador-at-large at the Armenian Foreign Ministry until his elder brother was overthrown in the “Velvet Revolution” of April-May 2018.
Sarkisian is thought to have left Armenia shortly before being indicted. He has made no public statements since then. The head of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS), Artur Vanetsian, stated earlier this year that he now lives in Lebanon.
Also prosecuted is Serzh Sarkisian’s second, more controversial brother, Aleksandr. He was charged with fraud in February several months after the NSS had his $30 million bank account frozen as part of a separate criminal inquiry.
Sarkisian, who is better known as “Sashik,” avoided arrest and was even allowed to temporarily leave the country after agreeing to transfer the entire sum to the state budget.
The former president has still not publicly commented on the criminal cases against his brothers.