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Armenian Lawmakers Strip Retired General Of Immunity After Security Raid

Guns, Cars, And A Tiger: Raid Rocks Armenia
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WATCH: Guns, Cars, And A Tiger: Raid Rocks Armenia

YEREVAN -- Lawmakers have stripped a prominent retired general of his parliamentary immunity, after security agents raided his homes and found vast quantities of weapons, food, and other supplies meant for Armenia's soldiers.

The June 19 vote came amid mounting questions -- and outrage -- about Manvel Grigorian's motivation for storing the cache of goods at his properties in and around Echmiadzin, in western Armenia.

A former deputy defense minister and veteran of the Nagorno-Karabakh war in the early 1990s, Grigorian is a prominent voice for military affairs and a member of the Republican Party of former President Serzh Sarkisian.

But he has long been dogged by corruption allegations.

Republican Party officials and others were initially outraged after security agents raided his properties on June 16, alleging arms possession and embezzlement.

But video of the raids, taken by the National Security Service and broadcast widely, prompted his allies in parliament to vote to strip him of his parliamentary immunity.

Retired General Manvel Grigorian speaks at a congress in February 2017.
Retired General Manvel Grigorian speaks at a congress in February 2017.

The footage showed weapons, stockpiles of food, large amounts of underwear, medication, and field rations provided by the Defense Ministry for soldiers.

Also found, according to the security agency, were care packages intended for soldiers serving in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, where Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers have faced since the conflict ended in 1994. Some of the packages contained letters written by children to soldiers on the front lines.

The National Security Service said he used canned food to feed tigers, bears and other wild animals at a private zoo inside one compound.

Grigorian's son was forced to resign as mayor of Echmiadzin on June 18.

Vahram Baghdasarian, the Republican Party faction leader in parliament, said the National Security Service video "totally changed the situation."

Ahead of the vote, Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian told lawmakers there was sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges.

In a letter released on June 18, Grigorian urged his allies to give the green light to his prosecution, saying he would prove his innocence.

Grigorian, 61, served as deputy defense minister from 2000 to 2008. He is also the chairman of an influential veterans organization.

The scandal comes with public impatience growing about widespread corruption in the country. The current prime minister, Nikol Pashinian, rose to prominence after street protests about corruption helped force Sarkisian to step aside.

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