Oskanian Says NSS Dropped Case for No Evidence

Vartan Oskanian

YEREVAN—Armenia’s Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian announced Wednesday that the National Security Service dropped charges of alleged money laundering against him due to lack of evidence and not because he confessed to any charges, as asserted by the NSS.

Last fall the NSS charged Oskanian with alleged tax evasion and misappropriations of funds and money laundering stemming from a donation he received from the US-based philanthropist Jon Hunstman for Oskanian’s non-governmental organization Civilitas Foundation.

The NSS issued an announcement Wednesday saying that it had dropped all charges against Oskanian, who is also a member of parliament representing the Prosperous Armenia Party. The NSS claimed that Oskanian admitted to wrongdoing and cleared his tax obligations.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Oskanian denied that he had confessed to any crime and said the NSS was forced to drop all charges, which he had said were politically motivated at the time of the indictment, because there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

“The most important thing here is that they could not prove two heavy charges brought against me over ‘money laundering’ and ‘misappropriation of money’, charges that led to the lifting of my parliamentary immunity, because of the absence of the instance of crime and now they have to dismiss the case by other ways,” Oskanian said on his Facebook page.

The case was first brought against Oskanian shortly after the parliamentary elections of May 2012 in which the former foreign minister participated as a candidate with the ‘alternative’ Prosperous Armenia Party. In autumn, while the investigation was in progress, Oskanian was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in a move that fueled more speculation about the political nature of the prosecution.

All along Oskanian and his aides denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the case was politically motivated.

“From the very inception of the criminal case against me I have said that not a single penny of the sum of money entrusted to me by Jon Huntsman for the use for the Civilitas Foundation was misused, but, furthermore, as a result of my management the sum was increased by more than $100,000,” Oskanian emphasized in his statement.

On October 2, Oskanian was stripped of his parliamentary immunity by the National Assembly. He was later summoned to the NSS and was formally charged with one count of particularly large-scale theft and one count of money laundering. Oskanian was also asked to testify as a defendant in the high-profile case, but he refused to do so invoking his constitutional right.

Oskanian was charged by the National Security Service with misappropriating a $1.4-million donation that was made by U.S. philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. to his Yerevan-based Civilitas Foundation in late 2010.

In October, one day after his indictment by the NSS, Oskanian sat down with Asbarez Editor Ara Khachatourian for an exclusive interview on the charges. Watch the interview.

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