YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Vachagan Ghazaryan, a high-ranking officer who served as former President Serzh Sarkisian’s bodyguard for over two decades, was remanded Thursday while in custody. He was arrested on corruption charges three days prior.
A court in Yerevan allowed Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) to keep Ghazaryan in detention while an investigation stemming from the over $2 million worth of cash confiscated from him is pending.
The SIS on Wednesday formally charged him with illegally enriching himself and failing to disclose the bulk of his massive assets to a state anti-corruption body.
Ghazaryan was detained on Monday, five days after police raided his apartment in Yerevan and found $1.1 million and 230,000 euros ($267,000) in cash there.
The National Security Service (NSS), which made the arrest, said Ghazaryan carried $120,000 and 436 million drams ($900,000) in a bag when he was caught outside a commercial bank in Yerevan. It said Ghazaryan claimed that he was going to give the money to its “real owner” but refused to identify that person.
According to an NSS statement, Ghazaryan was also planning to withdraw 1.5 billion drams ($3.1 million) kept by him and his wife at another Armenian bank. He claimed that he “forgot” to add these sums to his official income declarations.
Such declarations are mandatory for Armenia’s high-ranking state officials and their close relatives. Ghazaryan, who has the rank of NSS general, was among them until Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan dismissed him last month as first deputy head of a security agency providing bodyguards to the country’s leaders.
Detailing the accusations against Ghazaryan, the SIS argued that the cash seized from him “substantially exceeds his legal revenues.” It portrayed this as clear proof that he “illegally enriched himself.”
It is not clear whether or not Ghazaryan will plead guilty to the accusations carrying between two and six years in prison. His lawyers made no statements and did not publicize their names as of Thursday afternoon. Ghazaryan is the first person in Armenia prosecuted on such charges.
The ex-president has not yet commented on the corruption case against his longtime bodyguard.
Armenia’s new government has been instrumental in a series of high-profile corruption inquiries launched against former officials. Pashinyan has repeatedly pledged to “root out” endemic corruption in the country since he swept to power about two months ago.