Armenia’s Special Investigation Service has launched a criminal investigation into over 15 trips by former President Serzh Sargsyan to the German spa town of Baden-Baden.
The investigation was initiated on October 11 and concerns alleged ‘abuse of official authority’. The basis for the investigation was a recent report published by the Fact Investigation Platform (FIP), a Yerevan-based investigative and fact-checking organisation, that documented over 15 trips Sargsyan made to the German spa town while he was president.
FIP documented instances in which Sargsyan not only visited Baden-Baden for vacations but as a brief stop-over during official visits to foreign countries. The information about Sargsyan’s flights, FIP stated, was obtained from data provided by Armenia’s Civil Aviation Committee.
During Sargsyan’s tenure, questions had swirled about Sargsyan’s trips to Baden-Baden — questions which resurfaced in the lead up to the 2021 snap parliamentary elections in June, with the added claim that he had gone there to visit casinos.
On 8 June, during an election campaign event, the former Armenian President acknowledged his trips to the German town, but denied he had gone there to gamble. ‘Baden is a resort town, a cultural city, where you have the opportunity to get acquainted with cultural gems’, he said.
In late August, Khachatur Sukiasyan (popularly known by his nickname ‘Grzo’), an MP from the ruling Civil Contract party and one of the wealthiest men in Armenia, accused Sargsyan of ‘losing more than $100 million in the casinos in Baden-Baden’.
Sargsyan, who was deposed by Armenia’s current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in the 2018 Armenian Revolution, currently faces a litany of charges for other alleged crimes committed during his rule.
One of the most prominent charges concerns Sargsyan’s alleged involvement with the embezzlement of around ֏490 million ($1 million) from the Armenian government in 2013.