The US Justice Department wants to seize a multi-million dollar Los Angeles mansion, which the government alleges was bought with bribe money paid to an Armenian politician.
US authorities said on Thursday that the 33,652-square-foot (3,126-square-metre) address in Holmby Hills was purchased “with bribes paid by an Armenian businessman” to Armenia’s former finance minister Gagik Khachatryan in 2011.
The disgraced politician and his two sons, who are accused of taking bribes in Armenia, allegedly used money paid by Sedrak Arustamyan to Mr Khachatryan and his family for favourable tax treatment, the Justice Department alleges.
US authorities said in a court filing that Mr Arustamyan paid more than $20m (£16m) in bribes to Mr Khachatryan for the favourable tax treatment, which was in violation of Armenian law, while the former was a so called “Super Minister”.
Mr Khachatryan was known as Armenia’s “Super Minister” because of his many responsibilities as chairman of Armenia’s State Revenue Committee and as minister of finance, during which time he negotiated with Mr Arustamyan, it was alleged.
US authorities now want to seize the French Normandy-style mansion, which was put on the market last month for $63.5m (£51.5m), according to the federal complaint. A legal process is ongoing.
The address is not far from the famous Playboy Mansion, and has 11 bedrooms, more than two dozen bathrooms, a pool, wine cellar, home theater and maids’ quarters, according to real estate agency Hilton & Hyland.
The agency told The Los Angeles Times last week that viewings are still being carried-out while the US Justice Department seeks litigation against Mr Khachatryan and the businessman, and that “If we receive an offer and both the seller and the Justice Department agree on a sale price, we can still sell it.”
US authorities said the FBI’s Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force (EOCTF), the US Marshals Service, the Republic of Armenia’s Prosecutor General’s Office and National Security Service all cooperated in its investigation.
It was not clear who could speak on Mr Arustamyan or Mr Khachatryan and his family’s behalf.