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Armenian Police To Probe 'Blackmail' Allegation Against Premier

Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian

Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian

YEREVAN -- Armenian police have pledged to investigate corruption allegations against Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian that he rejects as "blackmail," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

In an open letter to Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian publicized on November 21, pro-establishment politician Harutiun Arakelian alleged that Sarkisian and a dozen other individuals are responsible for what he called the misappropriation of $31 million from Armenia's largest chemical company, Nairit.

Arakelian said the money was siphoned off from a $70 million loan allocated by a Moscow-based bank to the struggling Nairit plant in 2006.

Sarkisian was the governor of the central bank at the time. His brother, Ashot, is currently Nairit's deputy executive director.

The corruption allegations were circulated through the media three days after the prime minister's office accused Arakelian of "attempting to blackmail and threaten" Sarkisian and Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian. The office released a copy of what it described as a letter faxed by Arakelian to Tovmasian on November 17.

In that letter, Arakelian purportedly warned Tovmasian that he will go public with the allegations unless the government helps to reinstate him as chairman of the Liberal Democratic party, a small political group that has supported Armenia's incumbent presidents. The party has been in turmoil of late.

Sarkisian on November 21 formally asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate the corruption claims. The law-enforcement body responded by ordering police to launch a criminal case.

"The Office of the Prosecutor-General has forwarded the prime minister's petition as well as Harutiun Arakelian's open letter, which we received this morning, to the [police] Inspectorate General of Criminal Investigations so that it...verifies the mentioned facts," Sona Truzian, a spokeswoman for Hovsepian, told RFE/RL.

"They will look into the case, prepare materials, and, on the basis of acquired evidence the investigating body will make an appropriate decision," said Truzian. "Once there is sufficient information we will publicize it."

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