Motion to arrest Armenia ex-Economy Minister submitted to court

Motion to arrest Armenia ex-Economy Minister submitted to court

PanARMENIAN.Net - One day after being relieved of his duties, former Economy Minister Vahan Kerobyan was indicted and detained on Thursday in an ongoing corruption investigation criticized by him, RFE/RL’s Armenian Service reports.

According to his lawyer Tigran Yegoryan, a petition for Kerobyan’s arrest has been filed in court.

Armenia’s Investigative Committee implicated him in the alleged rigging of a procurement tender which was organized by the Ministry of Economy and invalidated by a court last June.

Kerobyan entered the committee headquarters in Yerevan early in the afternoon and remained there as of 9 p.m. local time. His lawyer, Tigran Yegoryan, said later in the evening that the law-enforcement agency has asked a court to remand his client in pre-trial custody on charges of abuse of power. Kerobyan denies the accusations, Yegoryan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

A U.S.-registered software company, Synergy International Systems, initially won the tender despite submitting a much higher bid, worth 392 million drams (about $1 million), than the other bidder, Harmonia. In a statement issued on Thursday evening, the Investigative Committee said a group of ministry officials colluded with senior Synergy executives to illegally disqualify Harmonia and ensure Synergy’s victory “at any cost.”

The statement said that the unnamed officials planned on granting the procurement contract to Synergy even after the Ministry of Economy reluctantly declared Harmonia the winner of the tender in August. It did not accuse them of bribery or give any reasons for the preferential treatment allegedly enjoyed by Synergy.

The committee spokesman, Gor Abrahamyan, confirmed that Kerobyan is among five ministry officials indicted in the case. But he did not elaborate on the charges brought against the ex-minister.

The investigators rounded up the four other officials, including Kerobyan’s deputy Ani Ispiryan, on January 31. They all were set free or moved to house arrest in the following days.

Also arrested two weeks ago were Synergy’s founder Ashot Hovanesyan and two current and former employees. The latter were set free on Monday. Hovanesyan’s lawyers on Tuesday condemned his continuing detention as “illegal and discriminatory.”

Another ministry official was arrested in a separate corruption inquiry jointly conducted by the Investigative Committee and the National Security Service. It stems from the alleged misuse of government aid meant for private entrepreneurs setting up intensive fruit orchards.

Kerobyan repeatedly criticized both criminal cases before losing his job, arguing that the investigators did not charge his subordinates with bribery or embezzlement of public funds. He complained last week that the inquiries have “paralyzed the work of the entire state system” as many government officials are now not sure that “their honest work will not be punished in the end.”

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