By Hrach Melkumian
Three people were killed and another one seriously wounded near the northern city of Vanadzor on Tuesday in an apparent settling of scores among criminal groups, the Armenian police confirmed on Wednesday.
The most well-known of the dead, former parliament deputy Edik Martirosian, is a second reputed representative of the local underworld to be gunned down in broad daylight in less than three weeks. The two other victims were his son and friend.
Martirosian is better known to the public with his “Chachoi Edo” nickname -- a fact stressed by the first deputy chief of the national Police Service, General Ararat Mahtesian, as he officially confirmed the information. He said an SUV car carrying the four men came under automatic gunfire shortly after they left a roadside restaurant just outside Armenia’s third-largest city.
“The person who we believe was the target of this crime had some contacts and authority in the criminal world where he is known as Chachoi Edo,” Mahtesian told reporters. “In the past we have had cases involving certain crimes against him,” he added, alluding to previous unsuccessful attempts on Martirosian’s life.
Martirosian, who allegedly headed a mobster clan, earned notoriety in 1992 when he was arrested on charges of illegal arms possession and other criminal activity. A police raid on his Vanadzor house was videotaped and widely publicized by then powerful Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian. The latter portrayed it as an example of his declared crusade against crime, widespread at the time.
However, Martirosian never stood trial and faced imprisonment in connection with that case. Furthermore, he was elected to Armenia’s parliament from a local constituency in 1996 and was a member of the National Assembly until 1999. Little is known about his subsequent activities.
The former lawmaker’s death came on the heels of another high-profile murder. Goga Arakelian, an individual with a similar reputation and also a Vanadzor resident, was shot dead outside a commercial bank in Yerevan last month. A newspaper report referred to Arakelian as an experienced “killer.”
Mahtesian said the two killings might be connected with each other. “I can not confirm or rule this out,” he said. “There are numerous theories of the crime, including those going beyond the territory of the Republic of Armenia,” he added, referring to Tuesday’s ambush shooting.
According to Mahtesian, the law-enforcement agencies have launched an inquiry led by another police general, Hovannes Hunanian. But he said the police have not yet made arrests or identified any suspects in the case.