Prosecutors Freeze Case Against Ex Minister

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–State prosecutors investigating alleged abuses in Armenia’s energy sector were told not to press criminal charges against Sebouh Tashjian–a US citizen of Armenian descent and a key minister in the administration of ex-president Levon Ter-Petrossian–RFE/RL has learned from reliable sources.

The prosecutor-general’s office would have formally accused Tashjian with taking arbitrary decisions that led to "particularly large (financial) abuses" this week. But sources said that high-ranking officials instructed the investigators to refrain from launching criminal proceedings against him for the time being. He will instead be regarded as a "witness" in the case–they said.

Reasons for the unexpected move are not clear.

Tashjian worked as a senior "state minister" responsible for power generation and distribution from 1993-95–at the height of a severe energy crisis that crippled the country for several consecutive years. He stayed in Armenia until 1998–advising successive governmen’s on energy matters.

Sources had told RFE/RL that the charges against Tashjian would stem from a loan agreement he had negotiated with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 1995.

Under that agreement–the EBRD allocated $57.4 million for the construction of a new fifth unit of the Hrazdan power plant. The Armenian government–for its part–pledged to contribute $25.5 million to the project–a decision which prosecutors claim was unilaterally taken by Tashjian and amounted to "abuse of power."

Former prime minister Hrant Bagratian–in whose government Tashjian had served–has dismissed the case. "We are used to the fact that the prosecutor-general’s office can formulate whatever it wants," he said last week. "But it is obvious that they are not going to prove anything."

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