YEREVAN—Armenian law-enforcement authorities continue to refuse to release any details of the investigation into secretly recorded audio suggesting that employees of a pro-government businessman were warned to help him get re-elected to Parliament or lose their jobs, reported RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Armenia’s Prosecutor General announced on April 14 that it is examining a troubling report published by Yerevan-based news outlet Hayastan24 on April 13, including a 40-minute recording of what is believed to be a staff meeting held by businessman Artak Sargsyan’s senior aides in the days leading up to the April 2 parliamentary elections.
In the recording, an unidentified man can be heard threatening to fire employees of Sargsyan’s SAS supermarket chain who fail to guarantee in writing that their friends and families will vote for Sargsyan—a Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) candidate.
“For example, Anush Adamyan has brought 14 votes, let’s applaud Anush Adamyan,” the man says in Armenian, as reported by RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “How come Anush can bring [so many votes] but Ashot Aghakhanyan can’t?”
At another point in the recording, the man can be heard threatening employees: “Why haven’t you brought votes? You don’t want to? If you treat us like that, then we’ll treat you five times as badly.”
The United States embassy in Yerevan welcomed an announcement made by Prosecutor General’s office to investigate the report. “A credible and transparent investigation of this kind would be in line with the Prime Minister’s Feb. 9 warning against the use of administrative resources. We trust that the government will ensure there is no retaliatory action against any individual or organization that comes forward with credible information for investigation,” read a part of the statement released by the embassy.
Sargsyan has held a seat in Armenia’s Parliament since 2004 and has not made public statements on the Parliament floor for at least five years.
Armenia’s Special Investigative Service declined to shed light on the probe in a written response to an RFE/RL’s Armenian service query sent on July 31. “The investigation is continuing, and due to the secrecy of the investigation it is not possible to provide additional information on this criminal case,” read the short letter.
According to the Armenian investigative publication Hetq.am, the man who threatened to fire the SAS is Aram Sargsyan, Artak Sargsyan’s older brother.