By Karine Kalantarian
Hakob Hakobian, a controversial businessman and parliament deputy, looks set to stand trial on charges partly stemming from his role in a recent mass brawl at a gas distribution station near Yerevan.
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said on Thursday that it has completed a criminal investigation into the incident and Hakobian’s economic activities and will soon forward the case to the court.
The 43-year-old, who joined the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) last year, was charged with “hooliganism,” tax evasion and other financial irregularities in October immediately after fellow lawmakers agreed to lift his legal immunity from prosecution. Addressing the Armenian parliament at the time, Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian accused him of organizing an armed assault on the gas facility in the village of Hayanist after security guards there refused to allow him to enter its premises.
Hakobian reportedly visited it to demand that the ARG national gas distributor resume supplies to nearby liquefied gas stations owned by him. He was arrested on the spot and kept in custody for three days. The National Assembly gave the green light for his prosecution despite his assurances that he arrived at the scene stop a “manly fight” between the security guards and local residents.
The pro-government businessman, who holds sway in the area south of Yerevan, continues to protest his innocence. “I am not guilty on any of the counts,” he told RFE/RL. “Only incidents taking place in public places are hooliganism. In my case, the fight happened in a field.”
Hakobian also denied the other charges relating to his business activities of the past 15 years. “I keep doing what I have done for years,” he said.
Hakobian implicitly alleged in parliament that he was not prosecuted earlier because he has for years bribed law-enforcement and tax officials inspecting his businesses. The claim was picked up by opposition parliamentarians. They also denounced as illegal the fact that Hakobian was arrested not by the Armenian police but President Robert Kocharian’s personal security service.