Ex-Governor Prosecuted For ‘Corruption’

A former regional governor affiliated with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) is facing prosecution on corruption charges, law-enforcement authorities announced on Wednesday.

The Special Investigative Service (SIS) told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Sergei Bagratian, who governed the southeastern Vayots Dzor province from 2010-2012, stands accused of abuse of power and large-scale embezzlement along with several other local government officials. Among them is Babken Mkrtchian, the head of the agriculture department at the provincial administration.

An SIS official said prosecutors formally opened a criminal case on May 2 and assigned the SIS to investigate the matter further the following day. The official gave no details of the corruption accusations.

According to Edgar Ghazarian, the current Vayots Dzor government, local police demanded ten days ago that his office provide detailed information about the use of subsidized fuel that was provided by the central government to local farmers in early 2012. The fuel was distributed to farmers through the provincial and village administrations.

Ghazarian, who was appointed governor in June 2012, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that only law-enforcement authorities can determine whether any of that fuel was embezzled.

The BHK, of which Bagratian is a senior member, insisted that the ex-governor is innocent. “I trust my colleague’s assurances that he has nothing to do with those abuses and is ready to publicly prove that,” said Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK representative.

Zohrabian stopped short of calling the accusations politically motivated, saying that her party is now “assessing” all relevant facts. “I will refrain from making such evaluations right now,” she said.

Bagratian’s name was high on the list of BHK candidates in Sunday’s municipal elections in Yerevan. He was elected to the city’s Council of Elders along with 16 other candidates.

Zohrabian said Bagratian will take up his seat if the party decides not to boycott the council in protest against alleged fraud in the May 5 elections.