A government official, previously sentenced to 12 years, has been released in Armenia
Vazgen Khachikyan, ex-chief of the Armenian State Social Security Service, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for embezzling state funds in the amount of AMD 300 million (about USD 630,000), has been released.
Government officials who had been charged with abusing their official powers, fraud and the embezzlement of state funds, has been pardoned as per President Sargsyan’s decree.
Under the indictment, between 2006-2010 Vazgen Khachikyan and his associates, through abuse of their official powers, issued fraudulent petitions for restoring annulled retirement benefits on behalf of pensioners who had either passed away or migrated from the country. Having forged the pensioners’ signatures, they misappropriated particularly large amounts of pension funds.
Khachikyan was arrested in 2012. In 2014, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. However, he has been released ahead of the assigned term of punishment. According to a penitentiary facility spokesperson, Khacikyan has been released after serving his full sentence. However, the spokesperson could not explain how a 12-year term could already have ended.
The President’s spokesperson also refused to comment on the reasons why President Sargsyan amnestied the convicted official. As he pointed out, the content of the presidential decree was classified. Meanwhile, the Armenian Justice Minister, David Harutyunyan, noted that the pardoning process was regulated by the Constitution, and each citizen was entitled to petition for a pardon. According to Harutyunyan, various factors and circumstances are taken into account when making a decision on granting early release.
According to human rights advocates, Vazgen Khachikyan was a very corrupt official who was facing fraud charges and whose criminal offences couldn’t be concealed from the public. Therefore he was sentenced to prison.
Zhanna Alexanyan, a human rights activist, claims that by signing the pardon, President Sargsyan demonstrated that Vazgen Khachikyan is a member of his team and that he has been ‘forgiven of everything’: “In other words, there is a system of selectivity: people from his entourage may spend only three years in prison, while other convicts aren’t eligible either for amnesty or early release.”