By Emil Danielyan
Law-enforcement authorities claim to have solved a high-profile murder of three men outside Yerevan last June despite their failure so far to arrest most suspected perpetrators of the ambush attack widely attributed to a feud between two wealthy individuals.
In a rare joint statement on Thursday, the Armenian police and prosecutor-general’s office announced the arrest of the alleged mastermind of the shootings which left a nephew of former parliament deputy Ruben Gevorgian, his friend and a driver dead. Another Gevorgian nephew was critically wounded.
A taxi carrying the two brothers and their companion, a deputy head of the Armenian Defense Ministry’s medical service, came under automatic gunfire near the city’s Nubarashen suburb. The law-enforcement agencies say the ambush was commissioned for $100,000 by a certain Artur Sargsian nicknamed “Far” who is currently in custody pending investigation.
The attack was allegedly carried out by three individuals hired by a friend of Sargsian’s, Kamsar Hakobian. His nickname “Kayts,” suggesting an underworld connection, was also mentioned in the statement. Both “Kayts” and the alleged assailants are now on the run. The authorities say that “Far” hired last May a second “criminal group” to kill the Gevorgian brothers and that they have arrested two of its three members.
Very little is known about the alleged mastermind of the crime. It is not clear if he has any connection with Samvel Aleksanian, a government-connected millionaire businessman recently elected to parliament. Better known to most Armenians with his “Lfik Samo” nickname, Aleksanian has been accused by Ruben Gevorgian of waging a mafia-style vendetta against his extended family. He has denied the charge.
Reports of a bitter feud between the two men first surfaced last November after unknown assailants opened fire on another nephew of Gevorgian and his friends, killing one of them. The incident occurred in front of the ex-lawmaker’s imposing villa in Yerevan’s western Davitashen district. Davitashen was run by Gevorgian until his election to parliament in 1999 and was considered his exclusive area of economic activity until a close relative of Aleksanian set up shop there last year. The retail business has since been expanded.
Suspicion about Aleksanian’s role in the deadly shootings was given fresh currency last month after the tax authorities launched a large-scale audit of his highly lucrative businesses that have enjoyed a de facto monopoly on imports of grain, alcohol and sugar, making him one of Armenia’s richest men. Rumors have since been circulating about an imminent collapse of Aleksanian’s business empire.
The media-shy tycoon has reportedly been absent from the country since July. He did not attend the opening debates of the Armenian parliament’s autumn session which got underway on Monday.
Gevorgian, meanwhile, is accusing the law-enforcement bodies of harassing his family instead of hunting down his relative’s killers. In an interview with the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily this week, he said a special police unit responsible for fighting organized crime is currently inspecting the Davitashen administration’s documents dating back to the time of his rule. He also revealed that his third, oldest nephew fled to the United States last week to avoid prosecution in connection with another criminal case.
“There is a ridiculous phenomenon in our country when they fail to arrest the thief and shut down the place which he robbed,” he told the paper.
Nicknamed “Tsaghik Rubo,” Gevorgian had served a lengthy prison term for murder in Soviet times before joining the Yerkrapah Union of Nagorno-Karabakh war veterans in the 1990s. A member of the Writers Union of Armenia, he has combined business with writing poems and fiction. Literary critics largely ignored his writing, though. Instead, Gevorgian earned notoriety for his hard-line nationalist rhetoric.
Gevorgian’s defeat in the May parliamentary elections at the hands of another wealthy businessman close to President Robert Kocharian underlined his waning political and economic influence.
(Photolur photo: Aleksanian, left, and Gevorgian.)