Wednesday, 24 July

New Developments in the Arzoumanian Case

As reported earlier, a court decision has extended the pre-trial detention of former Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian until September 7.

On June 20 th the Criminal Court of Appeals was to consider Arzumanian's attorney Hovik Arsenyan's appeal against the decision of the Court of First Instance. Arsenyan intended to petition for a withdrawel of the charges and the release of Arzumanyan from custody. However due to the absence of National Security Service (NSS) agents, the hearing was postponed until July 24th.

On July 24 th the court denied Arsenyan's petition. Thus Arzumanian will remain under arrest until at least September 7.

“This is another act of injustice,” Arsenyan stated. He explained that he had requested that the preliminary investigating body offer even one factual piece of evidence that the money Arzumanian received was of “suspicious origin.” However the court ignored the request of the former foreign minister's attorney.

Arsenyan claims that the charges of “money laundering” against Arzumanian are unsubstantiated. This, according to the attorney, is evidenced by the fact that after his petition the NSS sent investigators to Moscow to interrogate Arzumanian's friend Sashik Aghazaryan. Aghazaryan has declared that he was the one that sent the sum to Arzumanyan and that the money is “clean,” In other words, if the NSS had actual evidence that the money had been sent by Levon Markos and had been of “suspicious origin” then there would have been no point to their questioning Aghazaryan. Essentially the NSS made an accusation without any sufficient substance and then became desperate to substantiate this accusation.

The two investigators sent to Moscow have already returned.

The press secretary the General Prosecutor's Office, S. Truzyan told the newspaper Hayots Ashkarh the following: “Our joint investigative work with Russian law enforcement agents has resulted in the interrogation of eight of the nine individuals in whose names a sum of 178,200 US dollars was sent on April 27-28 of 2007 from Moscow to Yerevan (the other one was interrogated in Yerevan). These people claimed that they did not know anything about money transferred to Yerevan under their names, that they have no association with such sums, have not transferred such sums of money and do not know those individuals to whom the sums were sent.

“Arzumanian's attorney informed the preliminary investigative body that Sashik Aghazaryan was also questioned in Moscow. Aghazaryan asserted that he was the one who sent the sum to Arzumanian at the latter's request and that the information on the nine individuals was provided to him by Arzumanian. Aghazaryan did not in any way elaborate on why these transfers were made without the knowledge of those individuals. He also made clear that he does not recognize Vahan Shirkhanyan and has not sent money to him.”

The former foreign minister's attorney explained the fact that Aghazaryan sent the money to Arzumanyan using the names of nine individuals: “Each sum larger than 20,000 dollars is subject to additional percentage fees by the bank, therefore the entire sum was split into parts to avoid these additional expenses, which is certainly not a violation of the law.”

Although the facts may seem complicated, Arsenyan noted that the main issue is that the accuser must show that the money received by Arzumanian was obtained through questionable means by the sender and that the defendant knew that.

If neither of these conditions is proven, the NSS must immediately drop all charges. The failure of the NSS to find criminal evidence to this day shows testifies to the fact that the security forces' work outside the law is bound to be unsuccessful.

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