Raid on Properties reveals weapons arsenal, private zoo, car collection and stockpile of donated food earmarked for soldiers
YEREVAN—Manvel Grigoryan, an influential retired general of the Armenian Armed Forces and a lawmaker from former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia was arrested Saturday and his property raided by officers of the National Security Service of Armenia.
The NSS agents raided Grigoryan’s compound in the Arshaluys village in the Armavir region as well as his villa in Etchmiadzin and released a video detailing the discoveries at the properties.
At the compound in Arshaluys, the NSS agents discovered an arsenal of weapons, dozens of both vintage and new vehicles and a stockpile of donated canned and preserved food accompanied by letters from addressed to servicemen, earmarked for soldiers during the 2016 April War.
The food discovered in the compound was labeled “For Soldier,” indicating that it was a special production specifically for the defense ministry that is not sold at stores. Other donated foods was accompanied by letters from kindergarten and school children, specifically earmarked for soldiers during the 2016 April War.
The NSS officers said that the food was horded and used to feed the animals being kept in the Grigoryan’s Etchmiadzin villa in a makeshift zoo. Among animals that were rescued from the compound were bears and tigers, which Grigoryan reportedly, at times, allowed to roam in the streets of Etchmiadzin. The Etchmiadzin property also housed a horse track.
In the raid of the two properties, NSS officers discovered a large cache of weapons and ammunition found in Grigoryan’s Arshaluys compound that included more than a dozen anti-tank grenade launchers, 20 hand grenades, more than 20,000 rounds of ammunition of various calibers, explosives and other weapons. At Grigoryan’s Etchmiadzin villa, investigators recovered 79 rifles, 39 handguns and more than 12,000 rounds of ammunition, according to the NSS.
The raid also unearthed SUVs and an ambulance which were designated to be used by the military during the 2016 April War. The vehicles were donated to the Artsakh Defense Army by representatives of the Armenian community of Russia, the NSS said, alleging that Grigoryan misappropriated them.
Also discovered at the two properties were dozens of deeds to various properties, as well as motorcycles and snowmobiles.
Grigoryan’s attorney, Hrant Ananyan, said Monday that after the release of the NSS video, he would cease to represent his client.
In the past week, when street protests demanding the resignation of His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, Grigoryan’s name was often used to illustrate what demonstrators called criminal elements that have infiltrated the Holy See.
Etchmiadzin Mayor Resigns, Arrest Cause Political Turmoil
Grigoryan’s son, Karen, who is the mayor of Etchmiadzin (Vagharshapat) resigned after a week-long protest demanding his resignation. His father’s arrest seems to have accelerated the process after he spend the night conducting a sit-in protest and penning an open letter to Prime Minister Pashinyan warning him of the escalating situation in Etchmiadzin as a result of the protests.
On Monday, Armenia’s Prosecutor General filed a request to strip Grigoryan of his parliamentary immunity.
Immediately following Grigoryan’s arrest on Saturday, the leadership of the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia sounded the alarm about the arrest, calling Grigoryan’s arrest “politically motivated” and citing his parliamentary immunity to call on the authorities for his immediate release. As the NSS made more revelations about the details of the discovery at Grigoryan’s properties and released an embarrassing video, the tenor of Republican Party of Armenia members changed.
After footage of the discovery at Grigoryan’s properties was released by the NSS, the Republican Party of Armenia issued a statement Monday calling Grigoryan’s alleged corruption “unacceptable and outrageous.”
“We are shocked and outraged that such things could have possibly been done by anyone, especially a general who had actively participated in the Artsakh war,” read the Republican Party of Armenia’s statement on Monday.
“While respecting the presumption of innocence, we are declaring that if the accusations leveled against Manvel Grigorian are proved in a manner defined by the law he must be legally and strictly held accountable,” added the statement.
The Republican Party of Armenia spokesperson, deputy parliament speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, who immediately following Grigoryan’s arrest said that the Armenian government was providing fodder for the Turks, changes his tune and said that his party no longer viewed the Grigoryan case as politically motivated.
“I must declare that the matter lies in a purely legal domain and we must allow investigators to carry out further actions in a manner defined by the law,” said Sharmazanov. “If it turns out that all this is true, there can be no justification for it,” he added.
Deputy Parliament Speaker and member of the Republican Party of Armenia Arpine Hovannisyan announced that she would vote to strip Grigoryan of his immunity.
Per a decision of the government, the National Assembly will convene a special session to debate the immunity issue, without which Grigoryan can be kept in custody for three days.
At Monday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Pashinyan said all of Grigoryan’s accomplices must be brought to justice and called for a swift investigation in accordance with the rule of law.
“Without violating any presumption of innocence, I want to say, for the record, that we are dealing with, perhaps, the most large-scale corruption discovery in the history of the third Republic of Armenia and this stands out with the fact that the discoveries are literally shocking—are shocking for the Armenian society,” said Pashinyan during Monday’s cabinet meeting.
“Nobody denies that Manvel Grigorian is an Artsakh hero,” said Pashinyan in a Facebook Live video posted on Sunday defending the arrest. “But even the heroes have no right to steal aid sent by schoolchildren in Gyumri, Echmiadzin and Yerevan to soldiers fighting on the frontlines and to feed his wild animals with it.”