Armenian MP and ex-general who “stole food aid for private zoo” arrested

Armenian MP and ex-general who “stole food aid for private zoo” arrested
Boxes of food donated by schoolchildren for soldiers fighting in Nagorno Karabakh (pictured) were found at Manvel Grigorian's properties.
By bne IntelliNews June 19, 2018

Several hundred supporters of Armenian MP Manvel Grigorian clashed with police outside the National Security Service (NSS) in Yerevan on June 17, the day after the lawmaker was arrested. 

Grigorian, a member of the Republican Party which was ousted in May after Armenia’s “velvet revolution”, was detained on June 16 on charges of illegal possession of weapons after large amounts of illegal firearms and explosives were found during a search of Grigorian’s home and summer house, an NSS statement said.

Businessman Artur Asatryan, who is alleged by local media to be a top organised crime figure and known as "Don Pipo", was also detained in Grigorian’s hometown, Etchmiadzin. The politician's son Karen Grigoryan was the local mayor until he resigned on June 18. 

“There will be no compromise with corruption,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashninian wrote on his Facebook page after Grigorian’s arrest. 

The prime minister spoke of “solid suspicions” that Grigoryan had embezzled aid sent for the army and citizens of the disputed enclave of Nagorno Karabakh, as well as using food aid sent by schoolchildren for soldiers fighting in Nagorno Karabakh and to animals in his private zoo. 

Weaponry uncovered by the search of Grigorian’s properties included 18 anti-tank mortars, 20 F-1 grenades, 79 guns and more than 30,000 cartridges of various calibres, the NSS said. 

Not only that, but the security service revealed numerous boxes of military aid and supplies including food, toilet paper, socks, bandages and other medical supplies. 

“It was clear from the letters to the boxes addressed to the soldiers that the contents of the boxes were for the frontline soldiers during the four-day war in April 2016,” the NSS said, referring to the armed clashes along the frontline in Nagorno Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but broke away with Armenian help amid the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

“The MP also has a private zoo where a tiger, a bear, an ostrich and a horse-riding venue are kept. On the basis of the data obtained, it became clear that the food for the soldiers who participated in the four-day war in April was used by Manvel Grigoryan to feed the animals of his own zoo,” the security service continued. 

Further questions were raised by the discovery of a fleet of cars including modern cars, retro cars, motorcycles and snowmobiles, plus ambulances and several SUVs, at Grigoryan’s property. 

Grigorian’s supporters rallied outside the national security service headquarters in the capital on June 17, after demonstrating in his hometown the previous day. Clashes between his supporters and police were reported on June 17, according to local media. 

On June 18, a Yerevan court rejected a request from Grigorian’s lawyers for him to be released from custody. Meanwhile, the parliament plans to hold a special session to vote on stripping Grigorian of his parliamentary immunity. 

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