Popularly known as Chorni (Black) Gago. He is Armenia's Minister of Transportation.
Arrest Warrant Issued For Former Armenian Minister
Մարտ 24, 2020
Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) moved on Tuesday to arrest Gagik Beglarian, a controversial former government minister and Yerevan mayor, after bringing corruption charges against him.
In a statement, the NSS claimed that Beglarian illegally privatized a kindergarten building in central Yerevan when he ran the Armenian capital from 2009-2011. Beglarian paid only 24 million drams ($51,000) to buy the kindergarten, the statement said, adding that the market value of the 200-square-meter property was almost ten times higher.
The statement also said that although a Yerevan court has allowed investigators to arrest Beglarian, the latter is not in Armenia at the moment. The NSS will try to track him down and seek his extradition, it said.
The security service did not shed more light on the once influential ex-minister’s whereabouts.
A former senior member of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), the 56-year-old Beglarian is no stranger to controversy. He was forced to resign as Yerevan mayor in December 2010 after reportedly assaulting an official from the presidential administration’s protocol unit. The official, Aram Kandayan, incurred Beglarian’s ire after asking the latter’s wife not to sit next to Sarkisian during an opera concert in Yerevan.
Beglarian and his bodyguards reportedly kidnapped and beat up Kandayan afterwards. Beglarian was never prosecuted for what a presidential spokesman condemned as an “unacceptable and intolerable” behavior.
He was on the contrary appointed as transport minister in June 2012. He held that post for four years.
Beglarian, who is better known as “Black Gago,” used to hold sway in a central Yerevan neighborhood notorious for election-related violence against opposition activists. Opposition groups for years accused him of leading a local clan that rigged elections and bullied the government’s political opponents. Beglarian and the former ruling HHK always denied those allegations.
Critics of Armenia’s former leadership also claimed that individuals like Beglarian enjoy de facto impunity because Sarkisian heavily relies on them to stay in power.
Sarkisian, his two brothers as well as some of his current and former political allies have been prosecuted for alleged corruption since the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” in Armenia. The ex-president rejects embezzlement charges leveled against him as politically motivated.
Armenian Minister’s Bodyguards Prosecuted For Violence
Several bodyguards of Armenia’s controversial Transport Minister Gagik Beglarian have been arrested on charges of severely beating up other men, it was confirmed on Tuesday.
Law-enforcement authorities said the arrests stemmed from a violent dispute that occurred outside the Transport and Communication Ministry building in Yerevan on May 16.
“There are arrested and detained individuals, among them Minister Gagik Beglarian’s bodyguards. We cannot give other details yet,” the Office of the Prosecutor-General told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
According to Armenia’ Investigative Committee, which is dealing with the high-profile case, five men have been placed under arrest and charged with grave assault. The spokeswoman for the committee, Sona Truzian, said they attacked and seriously injured other men during the incident. One of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries, she said.
“The reasons why this brawl occurred are already clear but in the interests of the investigation I can’t give other details at this point,” Truzian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). She said investigators have so far found no evidence of Beglarian’s involvement in the violence.
Citing unnamed law-enforcement sources, the Yerevan daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” reported that four of the arrested men work as bodyguards for Beglarian. Truzian declined to confirm or deny this. She said only that one of the suspects is officially employed as a Transport and Communication Ministry driver.
Neither Beglarian nor his spokesperson could be reached for comment throughout the day.
The minister nicknamed “Black Gago” is a senior member of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) who served as Yerevan’s mayor from 2009-2010. He has been no stranger to controversy.
Beglarian was forced to resign as mayor in December 2010 after assaulting an official at the presidential administration’s protocol unit. According to media reports, the official, Aram Kandayan, incurred Beglarian’s ire after asking the latter’s wife not to sit next to Sarkisian during an opera concert in Yerevan. Such seats have traditionally been reserved for Armenia’s prime minister, parliament speaker and the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Beglarian and his bodyguards reportedly kidnapped and beat up Kandayan afterwards. Beglarian was never prosecuted for what a presidential spokesman condemned as an “unacceptable and intolerable” behavior. He was on the contrary appointed as transport minister in June 2012.
Beglarian, 52, holds sway in a largely blue-collar part of central Yerevan notorious for election-related violence against opposition activists. Armenian opposition groups have long accused him of leading a local clan that rigs elections and bullies the government’s political opponents. Beglarian and the ruling HHK have denied these allegations.
Critics of the Armenian government also claim that individuals like Beglarian enjoy de facto impunity because President Sarkisian heavily relies on them to stay in power.
“Services provided by a group of individuals to the authorities during elections are so serious that they earn them a right to impunity,” said Vartan Harutiunian, a prominent human rights campaigner. “Beglarian is one of these men. He and his entourage feel that they are above the law.”