By Ruzanna Khachatrian
A wealthy member of Armenia’s parliament returned home on Wednesday almost two weeks after being arrested in the United Arab Emirates on reported suspicion of shoplifting.
Hakob Hakobian, who is affiliated with the pro-establishment People’s Deputy parliamentary group, came back on a Dubai-Yerevan flight with his son and could not be reached to comment on conflicting reports about circumstances of the highly embarrassing case.
“As a human being, he feels offended because he was accused unfairly,” said Vladimir Badalian, a fellow member of the People’s Deputy and also a businessman.
Badalian claimed that the Armenian media are also to blame for tarnishing Hakobian’s reputation. “The media should have waited until he returns home and provides full and accurate information,” he said.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry and its diplomatic mission in the UAE have declined to officially specify reasons for Hakobian’s arrest to refute or confirm media reports that the lawmaker, who holds sway in the southern town of Echmiadzin, was detained along with his son Armen and the latter’s friend after allegedly stealing expensive clothing in a Dubai shop. The Hakobians were reportedly set free on bail after the friend, identified as Hrant Davtian, pleaded guilty to the charges. Davtian continues to be kept in a local prison.
Meanwhile, Armenia’s ambassador to the UAE, Arshak Poladian, claimed that the parliamentarian was taken into custody on an arrest warrant issued by Interpol in the name of Hakob Hakobian. An ensued investigation found that the two are different persons, Poladian told RFE/RL from Abu Dhabi.
Asked whether Hakobian, better known to Armenians with his “Choyt” nickname, was actually suspected of shoplifting, the envoy replied: “You had better talk to him.”