Armenia investigates former president Sarksyan over embezzlement

YEREVAN (Reuters) - Armenia is investigating former president Serzh Sarksyan on suspicion of exceeding his authority and embezzling of around $1 million in state funds, the special investigation service said on Wednesday.

Sarksyan stepped down in April last year following protests over him going back on his promise not to become prime minister of the ex-Soviet country 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 have denied those allegations.

Dozens of former officials, including Sarkysan’s predecessor, ex-president Robert Kocharyan, have previously been arrested on different charges and are awaiting trial. Kocharyan denies wrongdoing.

Investigators said on Wednesday that Sarksyan was abusing his power as the president to influence results of the state tenders in 2013.

“As a result, the damage to the state funds was estimated at 489 million drams ($1 million),” the special investigation service said in a statement. Sarksyan could not immediately be reached for comment on the specific allegation.

Separately, a court in the capital Yerevan on Wednesday ordered the arrest of former prosecutor general Gevorg Kostanyan in absentia.

Kostanyan, who, according to local media, is currently in Russia, was charged with acting unlawfully during March 2008 events, when 10 people were killed in clashes between police and protesters following a disputed presidential election.

Reporting by Nvard Hovhannisyan; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Alison Williams