YEREVAN, October 10. / ARKA /. Gagik Tsarukyan, leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party, said today he will be watching closely the investigation into the money laundering charges brought against a senior member of his party, former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian as he met with U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern, saying also that the investigation must be unbiased and transparent.
On Monday, Oskanian was summoned to the National Security Service (NSS) and was formally charged with one count of particularly large-scale theft and one count of money laundering. Oskanian was also asked to testify as a ‘defendant’ in the high-profile case, but he refused to do so invoking his constitutional right.
Iveta Tonoyan, press secretary for Gagik Tsarukyan, told ARKA that Mr. Tsarukyan hired the best lawyers to scrutinize the charges against Oskanian, who confirmed that they are ungrounded. Tsarukyan told the ambassador that he instructed the lawmakers from the party to make strong statements in support of Oskanian.
The U.S. ambassador said the charges brought against Armenia’s former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian ‘are bad for justice and democracy in Armenia’. He stressed that the timing of these events in relation to the election schedule is troubling.
Oskanian was stripped of his immunity last week by the National Assembly after a majority of his fellow lawmakers allowed his prosecution in a secret ballot boycotted by the parliamentary minority factions, including his Prosperous Armenia Party.
Oskanian argues that his prosecution had “political implications” saying the government’s goal is to “step up pressure” on him and his party.
Oskanian is charged by the National Security Service with misappropriating a $1.4-million donation that was made by U.S. philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. to his Yerevan-based Civilitas Foundation in late 2010. -0-