Armenia charges former defense minister with embezzlement

YEREVAN (Reuters) - Armenian investigators have charged a former defense minister with the embezzlement of more than $2 million in state funds, the spokeswoman for the state investigation service said on Wednesday.

Seyran Ohanyan, who was the ex-Soviet republic’s defense minister from 2008 to 2016, was under investigation for alleged squandering of state property and has been banned from leaving the country while awaiting trial, Marina Ohanjanyan told Reuters.

Ohanyan is also being investigated on suspicion of acting unlawfully during the events of March 2008, when 10 people were killed in clashes between police and protesters following a disputed presidential election.

Ohanyan and his representatives were not reachable by Reuters for comment on the charges and the ongoing investigations.

Dozens of former Armenian officials, including former president Robert Kocharyan, have previously been arrested on different charges and are awaiting trial. Kocharyan denies wrongdoing.

Kocharyan’s successor, Serzh Sarksyan, is also under investigation on suspicion of exceeding his authority and embezzling of around $1 million in state funds.

Sarksyan stepped down in April 2018 following protests over him going back on a promise not to become prime minister of the South Caucasus country of around 3 million after two terms as the president.

Critics have accused Sarksyan and his former allies of cracking down on democracy, corruption and mismanagement during their time in power Armenia, a country that depends heavily on Russian aid and investment. They deny those allegations.

Reporting by Nvard Hovhannisyan; writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Toby Chopra