YEREVAN–Armenia’s former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian on Monday was formally charged by Armenia’s National Security Service with money laundering following months of investigation, which he says is politically motivated.
On Saturday Oskanian received a summons to appear at the NSS on Monday. After spending an hour at the NSS, he was charged with one count of money laundering and one count of misappropriation of funds, stemming from a 2010 $1.4 million donation to his Civilitas Foundation by American businessman Jon Huntsman Sr.
According to Oskanian’s attorney Tigran Atanesian, the former foreign minister was charged with one count each of “embezzlement or waste of funds” and “legalization of incomes received in a criminal way” of the Armenian Criminal Code. If convicted he can face high fines and up to 12 years imprisonment.
“I’ve been invited to the National Security Service to be charged with money laundering and funds misuse. At this point, both the public and those involved in the probe believe the funds appropriation charge to be absurd. I’ll face the NSS only because that’s what the law demands; however, I won’t be testifying,” Oskanian said before entering the NSS building. He also expressed gratitude to his supporters who have launched a petition drive.
Oskanian was asked to present testimony as a “defendant” in the case but refused to answer any questions.
Oskanian was elected to Parliament in May representing the Prosperous Armenia Party. Last week parliament voted to allow his prosecution by lifting his parliamentary immunity. He has insisted that the investigation has been politically motivated and is an effort by President Serzh Sarkisian’s regime to “step up pressure” on him for his criticism of the administration’s policies.
The NSS did not restrict Oskanian’s movement.
Last week former President Robert Kocharian, under whose administration Oskanian served as foreign minister, criticized the investigation and defended Oskanian.
The US Embassy in Yerevan also issued a warning last week saying: “We hope that this case does not represent a politically motivated and selective enforcement of Armenian law, as this would detract from efforts to promote greater transparency and reform in the legal, justice and legislative sectors in Armenia.”