YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)— Former Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s controversial brother, Aleksandr Sarkisian, and chief bodyguard, Vachagan Ghazaryan, were detained by the National Security Service (NSS) on Monday. It is not yet clear whether law-enforcement authorities will press criminal charges against them.
A spokesman for the Armenian police told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Aleksandr Sarkisian was detained on suspicion of illegal arms possession. A short amateur video posted on Facebook showed masked policemen hauling him out of his car in downtown Yerevan.
Sarkisian, who is better known to the public as “Sashik,” has repeatedly caused controversy in the past with his flamboyant behavior and insults addressed to critics of Armenia’s former governments.
The 62-year-old is thought to have made a big fortune during the past two decades. Unconfirmed reports in the Armenian press have said that he spent millions of dollars buying real estate in Europe and the United States.
Tax inspectors raided on Saturday the offices of a real estate company in Yerevan at least partly controlled by Serzh Sarkisian’s second, youngest brother, Levon, and his family. The State Revenue Committee (SRC) accused the company of failing to pay 300 million drams ($625,000) in taxes. Nobody has been arrested yet as part of that criminal case.
An NSS spokesman declined to say whether the arrest of Serzh Sarkisian’s longtime bodyguard, Ghazaryan, is connected with more than $1.1 million and 230,000 euros ($267,000) in cash confiscated from Ghazaryan’s Yerevan apartment late last week.
The money was found during a joint operation conducted by the police and another law-enforcement body, the Investigative Committee. The committee said Ghazaryan and his wife failed to disclose it in their income and asset declarations submitted to an anti-corruption state commission.
Such declarations are mandatory for Armenia’s high-ranking state officials and their close relatives. Ghazaryan was such an official until Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan dismissed him last month as first deputy head of a security agency providing bodyguards to the country’s leaders.